Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Slightly Scarlet

Why would anybody make a film noir in Technicolor? Let me put it this way: If you were going to make a film noir starring Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming, you'd be crazy not to. Dahl and Fleming are a couple of Hollywood's most gorgeous redheads, and they play the bad sister and the good sister in Slightly Scarlet. The only way this movie could have been improved would have been to have Maureen O'Hara in the cast as the in-between sister. But the movie is wonderful enough as it is.

It opens with Arlene, the bad sister, a man-crazy klepto, getting out of prison. Her hair and make-up are perfect, and her outfit is a knock-out. Rhonda, the good sister, is there to pick her up in a beautiful 1955 Plymouth convertible with a Pompano Peach paint job. (I couldn't find a photo of that color, but here's a nice one of the car.) John Payne, wearing a suave propeller bow tie is across the street taking photos with a long lens.

It just gets better from there. Rhonda and Arlene arrive at Rhonda's house. The house number is 1313, so you just know things aren't going to go well. And they don't, except for the person watching the movie, which is a visual treat. You wouldn't think the film noir techinques that work so well in b&w would work in color, but they do. John Alton, who apparently shot a lot of the b&w kind, does a great job here. Check out the lighting, the shadows, the composition. It's all there.

The interiors are almost as gorgeous as Rhonda and Arlene, and the swinging bachelor pad that is the bad guy's beach house is impossible to top. You have to see it to believe it. It's '50s kitsch to the max.


The outfits that Rhonda and Arlene wear are perfection, and of course perfectly color-coordinateded for redheads. I can't decide which is my favorite, but Arlene's green dress with matching hat, shoes, gloves, and scarf has to be a front-runner. Arlene is also quite fetching in a leopard-skin bathing suit. How John Payne resists her advances is beyond me. But I think I'd have to vote for Rhonda's short-shorts. Hubba-hubba!

And did I mention how great Arlene and Rhonda look? I mean, all the time. For example, there's a late-night phone call, and when Rhonda rouses herself to answer, her lipstick, hair, and make-up look as if she just stepped out of the dressing room.

The use of Technicolor in the movie is amazing. It's as vivid as anything you can imagine, and to people who say it's not "realistic," I say, "And you're going to tell me that b&w is realistic?"

Some people might wonder about the plot. Does it really matter? John Payne is a good/bad guy who'd taking photos one minute and in charge of the mob the next. Kent Taylor (without his pencil-thin moustache, the Boston Blackie kind) is the reform mayor. Ted de Corsica is the crime boss who leaves town but who you can bet will be back for the big shoot-out at the end. Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton!) is Rhonda's maid, who tries to carry on as if she were working in a slightly normal household. It's all good.

The DVD I have has a commentary track by Max Allan Collins (when does that guy ever have time to write?), which I haven't listened to. Maybe I will, one of these days.

I found out about this DVD from Vince Keenan's blog. You might want to pay a visit and see what he had to say about it.

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly endorse everything you said, Bill. Particularly when it comes to Rhonda's short-shorts. I believe the clinical term is: Yowza!

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