Every time I tell someone I live in Austin, Texas the conversation shifts to three things: food, “hippies,” and the Texas Longhorns but my favorite element about living in Austin is the city’s commitment and appreciation to film.
I have seen more films here at an actual movie theater more than any other city I’ve lived in and I’ve only been living here for about 7 months. Whether it’s a quote-a-long at the Alamo Drafthouse or a drive-in movie, Austin makes attending the cinema a unique event.
The city recently played host to the Film Noir Foundation, a group I admire and believe in. They hosted the second installment of “Noir City: Austin”, a three-day film noir festival. I wasn’t able to attend many screenings due to work but I did squeeze in a few.
I fell in love with film noir in 1997 when AMC hosted its Film Preservation Festival with the film noir theme. I was only 11 then but I was enamored with the dark cinematography, the strong female characters and the tough guy leading men. Laura, Out of the Past, Fallen Angel, This Gun for Hire, and Double Indemnity left their mark on me and I dove head first into film noir literature learning its influences and impact on cinema history.
The theme for this year’s Noir City festival was the work of writer Cornell Woolrich. I was able to catch Deadline at Dawn on Saturday afternoon. To my delight, many fans in the audience were dressed up in 40’s inspired outfits which added to the atmosphere at the historic Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location. The girl next to me was wearing a fascinator in her hair, fur and long gloves; she looked like a femme fatale who could rival Gene Tierney or Lauren Bacall. That’s something I love about seeing movies at any Alamo Drafthouse location, you make connections with the strangers sitting next to you. It’s not just a trip to the movies, it’s an experience of people sharing their love of film.
Eddie Muller, the founder of the Film Noir Foundation, introduced the film. I’ll admit, I was silently freaking out in my seat. I own many of his books, I am appreciative of his commitment to film preservation, and I’m in awe of his vast knowledge of film noir (he’s the “Film Noir Czar” after all!). It was a real treat to have him share his love for these films during the introduction. Eddie may have been speaking to a packed house but you felt as if he was speaking directly to you, he’s a powerful speaker in that regard to create an intimate setting within a large crowd.
Deadline at Dawn was a film I had heard very little about but with Susan Hayward in it, I had to check it out. It’s the story of a soon-to-be drafted sailor who meets a woman in New York. He meets a woman who is then murdered and he has until dawn to find her killer. Hayward is a dance hall girl who helps him. The movie is set in a hot, summer night in New York. While its set in darkness, Paul Lukas brings a delicate naïveté to the leading role of the sailor, a departure from the machismo associated with the leading men in noir films. As Muller said in his introduction, this is a film that’s kind of hard to describe and it’s easy to get lost in its plot holes that sometimes don’t make sense but it’s a fun ride. The screenplay by Clifford Odetes in unintentionally hilarious but I found myself loving it. It’s clever and bizarrely philosophical when it comes to the character of a cabby. While the plot is convoluted at times, it goes to places you wouldn’t have imagined and that’s what a good noir does. Despite some of the “out there” dialogue, I was completely engaged wondering where this story was going to go next. Overall, I enjoyed Deadline at Dawn. It wasn’t the greatest film noir I’ve seen but it was a gem of a film I was happy to discover.
During the breaks in between the films it was nice to connect with others who love these movies as much as I do. Everyone was genuinely excited to be there and excited about what the Film Noir Foundation is doing to continue preserving these films and educating the masses about this genre. It was a real treat and I’m so happy I was able to have this experience.
To learn more about the Film Noir Foundation and give back to this incredible organization, click here.
Deadline at Dawn is scheduled to air next month on Turner Classic Movies as part of its Summer of Darkness Film Noir Festival. It will be hosted by none other than Eddie Muller and I can not wait! Learn more here.