Friday, January 16, 2015

Woman on the Run (1950)

image supplied by Film Noir Foundation
WHO: Ann Sheridan (who was born 100 years ago this February 21st) stars in this, and was also an uncredited co-producer.

WHAT: As I wrote in a Keyframe Daily article previewing the Noir City film festival, published yesterday:
Ann Sheridan plays the hard-boiled spouse of a failed artist who has gone into hiding after witnessing a murder. She attempts to track him down using old sketchbooks of neighborhood inhabitants as clues to his whereabouts, while trying to evade detectives and newspapermen trying to get to him first. If her wanderings across city hills into various dives feel particularly authentic to San Francisco’s character, perhaps it’s because the cinematographer was a native son, Hal Mohr, who’d filmed extensively here. (His credits include the notorious The Last Night of the Barbary Coast for Sol Lesser in 1913.) Director Norman Foster, best known for his collaborations with Orson Welles, had also made his transition from actor to director in a 1936 San Francisco film called I Cover Chinatown. Woman on the Run is a completely unpretentious, excellent thriller and a genuine Noir City discovery making its long-awaited reappearance at the festival after the last copy was thought destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.
Here's a link to my piece on the Universal fire at the time it happened, and more importantly, a candid 2010 interview with Eddie Muller about his exchanges with the studio after that event. I also must link to Brian Hollins's terrific Reel SF page for this film, which guides us through the specific San Francisco (and Southern California) locations where it was filmed.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens 7:30 tonight only at the Castro Theatre as part of Noir City.

WHY: With yesterday's re-opening of the Pacific Film Archive for the Spring semester coinciding with a new Stanford Theatre Alfred Hitchcock retrospective, the new Frisco Bay repertory film year is now officially underway (although I've already seen some fine revival programs at the Exploratorium, the Castro, and Oddball Films, and regretfully missed some at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum)  I usually like to at least start my annual I Only Have Two Eyes survey of the prior year's repertory scene before the start of Noir City, but a combination of that festival starting early and my soliciting entries later than I'd hoped means that's not happening this year. But I'm hard at work compiling and you'll soon start seeing the results posted here. Just not before tonight's thrilling kick-off to ten days of 35mm noir heaven at the Castro.

As Noir City honcho Eddie Muller told G. Allen Johnson recently, tonight's festival opener Woman on the Run was the genesis of this year's "Unholy Matrimony" theme. I tried to avoid hinting at spoilers in my Keyframe article on the festival, so I didn't talk much about the marriage angle of the film in the above-quoted paragraph, but suffice to say (still eschewing revealing anything specific to those who might not have seen the film) Woman on the Run presents a really interesting portrayal of wedlock circa 1950. It's an ideal opener for so many reasons, and of the films in the festival I've seen before, it's the one I'm most excited to see again (followed closely by the Tuesday night Robert Ryan double bill and the Wednesday night Barbara Stanwyck bill, which is an exact duplicate of one I saw at the Stanford last April). Partly I'm so excited to see Woman on the Run on the big screen because in 2014 I moved into an apartment overlooking one of the locations where it was shot. To think Ann Sheridan was captured on film walking below my kitchen window sixty-five years ago! I can't wait to see that particular scene, and in fact the whole film again in what I expect will be a gorgeous 35mm print a zillion times more clear than the available DVD and youtube versions.

HOW: Woman on the Run screens from a newly-struck, never publicly projected, 35mm print on a double-bill with an archival 35mm print of what I'm pretty certain was Nicholas Ray's only film set in San Francisco: Born to be Bad.

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