A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

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A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby moira finnie » Mon Nov 15, 2010 4:43 pm

A little over 10 years ago, Turner Classic Movies aired an interview with four of the great ladies of film noir as part of an event when the network focused on film noir for an entire summer in 1999.

I am hoping that someday TCM may be able to make this archived interview available to their viewers again, but in the meantime, the following transcript is drawn from an archived web page that is no longer readily available online. Enjoy! This transcript is a discussion with Audrey Totter, Jane Greer, Marie Windsor, and Coleen Gray. The moderator was actor Scott Glenn.

Image
Left to right: Jane Greer, Audrey Totter, Coleen Gray, and Marie Windsor were the interviewees. Coleen Gray and Audrey Totter are the only actresses among them who are still living.

Scott Glenn: Each of you.. who are your favorite film noir actors?....Just in your opinion, who are the best? And what exactly were the qualities that made them the best?...Jane?

Jane: Humphrey Bogart, Bob Mitchum,and I don't think Bob Mitchum, for one, ever got the credit that he deserved.

Marie: Mitchum was sort of always himself wasn't he?

Jane: No

Marie: No? Then I take that back.

Jane: If you see Night of the Hunter, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Ryan's Daughter,--such a versified character he was. He's never been appreciated.

Marie: That's too bad.

Jane: When he didn't love a film, if he didn't love the director, if he didn't love something about the film, he'd walk through it, that's what you saw.. when he was ambling through it.. doing the work..saying the words... the lyrics that he called them, but just walking through it... he was marvelous...people loved him, but he didn't care.

Scott: You know, it's interesting because maybe they are probably my two probably favorite film actors in the world..And I think, for me, looking back on his work.. Humphrey Bogart is arguably the greatest film actor that ever lived, and I include Lawrence Olivier, Marlon Brando, and a lot of people in that mix--he's pulled off, to me, some just amazing things. I think of the work he did in "Maltese Falcon" --one film after another after another....he could go from moments that were huge--and were still always believable.

Scott: Audrey?

Audrey: Yes?... Well, I would have mentioned the two that Jane did, certainly, excellent, especially Humphrey Bogart... just wonderful. But I have to include Robert Ryan.. that I did "The Set-Up " with- marvelous actor... and such a lovely, lovely man.... I really do think he was one of the finest actors.

Scott: Coleen?

Coleen: Well, let's see here... Victor Mature, In Kiss Of Death, it was the best part he ever had. And of course, there's Richard Widmark in there, with that maniacal cackle.. in The Killing, there was Sterling Hayden.. who gave this wooden, this, this, autononon sort of performance.. but I mean it was very deliberate... but he was focused... boy was he focused.
I was very, very lucky to have had all these men with their glittering parts and their scintillating personalities and so forth...

Scott Glenn: What were they called at the time? Was there a word?

Audrey: B Pictures...Most were considered B pictures...later on they, you know,they turned out not to be..but they were...

Scott: So there was such a thing as a B picture, and an A picture? And everybody knew the difference.

Marie: Oh, I was called "Queen of the B's".

Scott: But, so they weren't called like "crime films", I mean...there were westerns, and there were musicals..was there a "basket" that, what we now call, "film noir", was put in there...

Audrey: Kind of maybe mysteries..I think..

Coleen: Suspense...Detective...that's a good word...detective.

Marie: I was so frustrated about not knowing exactly what it was. I called our dear friend, Eddie Muller, who wrote that beautiful book, "Dark City", and I said, "Who invented the name, film noir? and so he gave me this little story..In the forties, '46,'47, he said, we weren't sending movies during the war to Europe..and so the French were just studying in universities, and the critics were critiqing what they had..like "Double Indemnity", "A Force of Evil", etc., so the French decided they would call that "film noir"..so none of that came from us..it was all the Frenchmen.

Jane: These men said..they looked at these American pictures, and they said "they're not truly American..they are German and American gangsters...that's what they thought about this...this film noir..and I think they threw in detectives later...and then they added others in..it became...I had no idea I was doing film noir.

Coleen: Well, some of the films we did in those days were called semi-documentaries..like"Kiss of Death" was a semi-documentary..we knew what they were but...

Scott: You were told that before you started the film...

Coleen: Yes, a semi-documentary and...but film noir was never heard of..

Audrey: Never heard of..just in the last 10 years.

Scott: Now, these films are more highly thought of and more respected than any of the movies that were made then...I mean it's kind of paradoxical that a lot of things that were thought of as A films..now, people laugh at.. and the films that you guys made are really respected...but you're saying they weren't respected...at that time.

Audrey: Not then much....see...they were realistic films, really....and they weren't making realistic films...at least not at MGM, they made, you know, glamour...you know everybody was happy...and you got the girl in the end. These were a little "under" and they were sort, of you know...now, that's fine...that's what they do now...that's why they are as modern as they are.
Scott: Were these things about anything in general..I mean, if you were asked..what defines these films as a group.. What were they really about? What would you say?

Jane: They were about unconventional couples...they had an undercurrent of either evil or avarice...whatever.

Marie: I figure that a lot of movies that I did.. had a message... Force of Evil was informing the audiences the bad side of the numbers racket, and "The Killing"--it had another message...about how greedy people are. Everyone that I can think of that I worked on had a message.. if that's what you meant.

Coleen: I must say though, that in the film noirs, I think the plot.. there was always a lot of suspense. People like suspense.

Scott: Audrey, do you think these films are depressing.. or downers to audiences?

Audrey: I don't think..I think they enjoyed them.. I don't think we set out to make them as downers..really. they did have an undercurrent of tragedy..you might say.. they certainly weren't comedy.

Coleen: But everybody loves a good cry..they're not fluffly little balls....of...their serious drama...Yeah, I don't care what their thinking...the fact that these people are enjoying these pictures..and these pictures are being seen..that's fine with me.

Audrey: Just give us the job.
Laughter....... end...
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby CineMaven » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:43 pm

Some denizens of noir might get a smile out of AUDREY TOTTER when you watch this. I hope TCM considers trying to get Ms. Totter to the next festival:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KN5Q7NCsMVY[/youtube]

Any news on whether TCM will re-visit this Moira:

moirafinnie wrote:A little over 10 years ago, Turner Classic Movies aired an interview with four of the great ladies of film noir as part of an event when the network focused on film noir for an entire summer in 1999.

I am hoping that someday TCM may be able to make this archived interview available to their viewers again, but in the meantime, the following transcript is drawn from an archived web page that is no longer readily available online. Enjoy! This transcript is a discussion with Audrey Totter, Jane Greer, Marie Windsor, and Coleen Gray. The moderator was actor Scott Glenn.

Image
Left to right: Jane Greer, Audrey Totter, Coleen Gray, and Marie Windsor were the interviewees. Colleen Gray and Audrey Totter are the only actresses among them who are still living.

Scott Glenn: Each of you.. who are your favorite film noir actors?....Just in your opinion, who are the best? And what exactly were the qualities that made them the best?...Jane?

Jane: Humphrey Bogart, Bob Mitchum,and I don't think Bob Mitchum, for one, ever got the credit that he deserved.

Marie: Mitchum was sort of always himself wasn't he?

Jane: No

Marie: No? Then I take that back.

Jane: If you see Night of the Hunter, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Ryan's Daughter,--such a versified character he was. He's never been appreciated.

Marie: That's too bad.

Jane: When he didn't love a film, if he didn't love the director, if he didn't love something about the film, he'd walk through it, that's what you saw.. when he was ambling through it.. doing the work..saying the words... the lyrics that he called them, but just walking through it... he was marvelous...people loved him, but he didn't care.

Scott: You know, it's interesting because maybe they are probably my two probably favorite film actors in the world..And I think, for me, looking back on his work.. Humphrey Bogart is arguably the greatest film actor that ever lived, and I include Lawrence Olivier, Marlon Brando, and a lot of people in that mix--he's pulled off, to me, some just amazing things. I think of the work he did in "Maltese Falcon" --one film after another after another....he could go from moments that were huge--and were still always believable.

Scott: Audrey?

Audrey: Yes?... Well, I would have mentioned the two that Jane did, certainly, excellent, especially Humphrey Bogart... just wonderful. But I have to include Robert Ryan.. that I did "The Set-Up " with- marvelous actor... and such a lovely, lovely man.... I really do think he was one of the finest actors.

Scott: Coleen?

Coleen: Well, let's see here... Victor Mature, In Kiss Of Death, it was the best part he ever had. And of course, there's Richard Widmark in there, with that maniacal cackle.. in The Killing, there was Sterling Hayden.. who gave this wooden, this, this, autononon sort of performance.. but I mean it was very deliberate... but he was focused... boy was he focused.
I was very, very lucky to have had all these men with their glittering parts and their scintillating personalities and so forth...

Scott Glenn: What were they called at the time? Was there a word?

Audrey: B Pictures...Most were considered B pictures...later on they, you know,they turned out not to be..but they were...

Scott: So there was such a thing as a B picture, and an A picture? And everybody knew the difference.

Marie: Oh, I was called "Queen of the B's".

Scott: But, so they weren't called like "crime films", I mean...there were westerns, and there were musicals..was there a "basket" that, what we now call, "film noir", was put in there...

Audrey: Kind of maybe mysteries..I think..

Coleen: Suspense...Detective...that's a good word...detective.

Marie: I was so frustrated about not knowing exactly what it was. I called our dear friend, Eddie Muller, who wrote that beautiful book, "Dark City", and I said, "Who invented the name, film noir? and so he gave me this little story..In the forties, '46,'47, he said, we weren't sending movies during the war to Europe..and so the French were just studying in universities, and the critics were critiqing what they had..like "Double Indemnity", "A Force of Evil", etc., so the French decided they would call that "film noir"..so none of that came from us..it was all the Frenchmen.

Jane: These men said..they looked at these American pictures, and they said "they're not truly American..they are German and American gangsters...that's what they thought about this...this film noir..and I think they threw in detectives later...and then they added others in..it became...I had no idea I was doing film noir.

Coleen: Well, some of the films we did in those days were called semi-documentaries..like"Kiss of Death" was a semi-documentary..we knew what they were but...

Scott: You were told that before you started the film...

Coleen: Yes, a semi-documentary and...but film noir was never heard of..

Audrey: Never heard of..just in the last 10 years.

Scott: Now, these films are more highly thought of and more respected than any of the movies that were made then...I mean it's kind of paradoxical that a lot of things that were thought of as A films..now, people laugh at.. and the films that you guys made are really respected...but you're saying they weren't respected...at that time.

Audrey: Not then much....see...they were realistic films, really....and they weren't making realistic films...at least not at MGM, they made, you know, glamour...you know everybody was happy...and you got the girl in the end. These were a little "under" and they were sort, of you know...now, that's fine...that's what they do now...that's why they are as modern as they are.
Scott: Were these things about anything in general..I mean, if you were asked..what defines these films as a group.. What were they really about? What would you say?

Jane: They were about unconventional couples...they had an undercurrent of either evil or avarice...whatever.

Marie: I figure that a lot of movies that I did.. had a message... Force of Evil was informing the audiences the bad side of the numbers racket, and "The Killing"--it had another message...about how greedy people are. Everyone that I can think of that I worked on had a message.. if that's what you meant.

Coleen: I must say though, that in the film noirs, I think the plot.. there was always a lot of suspense. People like suspense.

Scott: Audrey, do you think these films are depressing.. or downers to audiences?

Audrey: I don't think..I think they enjoyed them.. I don't think we set out to make them as downers..really. they did have an undercurrent of tragedy..you might say.. they certainly weren't comedy.

Coleen: But everybody loves a good cry..they're not fluffly little balls....of...their serious drama...Yeah, I don't care what their thinking...the fact that these people are enjoying these pictures..and these pictures are being seen..that's fine with me.

Audrey: Just give us the job.
Laughter....... end...
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby feaito » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:43 am

Thanks Moira for bringing this up. I wish I could see the actual interview.
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby moira finnie » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:43 am

Any news on whether TCM will re-visit this Moira

CineM--
I know that the video of the women's discussion is in the TCM Archives and it would be a wonderful addition to one of their DVDs. I think that there is a much bigger market for film noir than almost any other aspect of classic film (maybe even more than musicals?), so perhaps this will occur. I know that snippets of the session have appeared in interstitials on TCM. Perhaps we should request that it be re-broadcast again via the "Suggest-a-Movie" link:
http://www.tcm.com/suggest-a-movie/index.html
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby CineMaven » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:43 am

Can't hurt...thanx Moira.
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby Vienna » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:43 pm

Love that YouTube video of Audrey Totter acting to the camera. Alongside Doris Day's song!
I'm so glad Audrey got this leading role even though the Robert Montgomery camera technique didn't really work in LADY IN THE LAKE.
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby dickson » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:43 pm

I have the interviews on tape. I watched a few months ago when I was organizing my collection. They all are so
wonderful.

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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby hbenthow » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:43 pm

That's a great interview. I agree with Jane Greer about Robert Mitchum. Despite all the talk about him being lazy and always just being himself, I've always seen him as a great actor. He's somewhat like Cary Grant, in that he was always had his own persona, yet was able to make that persona fit many different types of roles. I think that actors like Grant and Mitchum have a lot of versatility, but of a sort that people often don't notice, which causes them to become unfairly criticized as having none. Just because someone always has a certain recognizable persona does not mean that they have no versatility.
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby moira finnie » Fri May 03, 2013 4:43 pm

Hey, I just found that some kind soul posted part of this interview with the great ladies of noir that we have discussed here. I have a feeling that there is a lot more of this somewhere in the TCM Archives:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52cbe1mQCy8[/youtube]
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Re: A TCM Interview with the Ladies of Film Noir

Postby CineMaven » Sat May 04, 2013 4:43 am

Ooooh, bless that kind soul who uploaded that. It's a gem!
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