Another classic film with solid credentials that I somehow had never heard of, directed by Fritz Lang! With Dana and a very glam Joan Fontaine! Thanks, TCM, for introducing me to more Dana Andrews films J Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a fairly gritty noir with more twists than I expect from a classic film. It might seem a little tame now, after movies like Primal Fear and TV shows that have us guessing about twists from the start, but I imagine the end of this movie was genuinely shocking when it first came out.
The film starts with an execution and spends a lot of time in slightly grimy nightclub environs with “dames” from a burlesque show. Throughout there’s unsubtle innuendo and conversation about sexual attraction and sex, both between Dana and Joan, and among the ladies of the nightclub. Initially you think Dana Andrews is a fairly sophisticated writer slumming it to chase a story, but turns out he’s actually a tough guy originally from the burlesque and dames milieu playing the part of a sophisticated gentleman. Twist!
And about that very glam Joan Fontaine – I love seeing actors in roles that are departures from the ones they’re best known for, so it’s a delight to see Joan, not mousy or diffident at all as in Rebecca or Suspicion, but stunningly attired, husky-voiced, extremely confident, unafraid to express her desire, and unwilling to put up with any nonsense.
I also watched Sealed Cargo, another unknown-to-me Dana starrer. At the moment I’m not sure it merits its own post, but it was enjoyable. It also stars Philip Dorn, who is lovely in chock-full of lovely Random Harvest, and the always-welcome Claude Rains. It’s set during WWII, and I think what I enjoyed most is that it’s a process movie, this time about the processes and protocols of a ship. I’m kind of a sucker for a well-made movie about the self-contained world of a boat (more Hunt for Red October than Das Boot) and all the rules that govern it.