A desiccated rose

Turning my head slightly to the side, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. In the car next to me, would she have smiled too?

Funny. The metaphor wasn’t lost.

The autobiography? Hasn’t been finished. You have no idea.

An outstretched hand leads the way. Following the flashlight’s beam and heading down the stairs, it’s time to go back.

Seascape ’82. That’s what the cover says; was what I saw. What a strange secret I’ve kept. All these years, I thought someone was watching. Instead, I’m the lead.

Far away, I kid myself that she’s peeked too. And me? Left rummaging in the basement, looking in a book. It’s usually kept just safely out of reach. Except for tonight.

In between the pages, the wax paper cocoon is a silent tomb. It’s a thirty-something haunting.

I put it there; then.

Now I look in the mirror. Same person, different shell. No longer of the sea, the change in seasons has parched the skin. In my hands tonight though, the rose I hold has dried out too.

Walking to Hollywood: Podcasts for Noir Heads

Walking alone off the beaten path, I get to travel to Hollywood. In spirit at least. Along the way, I’ve found it beneficial to take with me a collection of go-to podcasts. Time and attention, the commodities most of us have too little of, can be impediments to the podcasting world. But because walking is a pretty regular retreat for me, I’ve found a way to circumvent these two thieves.

Here’s a look at one film noir podcast that helps me get there:

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Out of the Past: produced by academic colleagues Richard Edwards and Shannon Clute, this podcast is the standard bearer of, in their words, the “canon of film noir” podcasts.

The series debuted in 2005 and ran until 2011. There were a few random episodes after 2011, but for all intents and purposes, the series ended with Episode 53: Out of the Past Act II.

Clute and Edwards cover most of the films from the noir Golden Age, in addition to discussing many “neo-noirs.” Each episode runs approximately 30-45 minutes in length and they don’t rely on the over-production audio gags too often heard in many podcasts today. These are two colleagues who know and respect their material and never speak down to their audience.

Listening to this podcast became my baptism into the world of film noir. I had always been interested in the films of this, dare I say “genre,” but the hosts helped me come to terms with what I found so intriguing about these classics. Their podcast takes a somewhat scholarly approach to the material without in any way coming off as pedantic. The episodes are easy to listen to and very approachable for all fans of these groundbreaking films.

As a side note for the many podcasters out there, both men were able to parlay the success of their efforts into new career directions. Richard Edwards is currently the Executive Director of iLearn Research at Ball State University and Shannon Clute is Director, Business Development & Strategy at Turner Classic Movies. So keep following your passions.

Here are links to some of my favorite episodes:

  1. Episode 1: Out of the Past
  2. Episode 2: Double Indemnity
  3. Episode 19: The Killing
  4. Episode 30: The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Man Who Wasn’t There
  5. Episode 39: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

 

Behind Green Lights: Looking for Carol Landis

She appeared in more than fifty films, was married four times, and toured extensively during World War Two bringing to the troops who pinned her up along the way a bit of American pulchritude rarely matched before or after. And Carol Landis did all of this before she turned 30.

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She’d have to because she would be dead at the age of 29, taking her own life, heartbroken over her unrequited love for Rex Harrison.

If I could drive alone along a winding road somewhere near Topanga, could I find her? And if I did, what would I say? Could I help her find it if I didn’t even know what I was in search of? What was struck within me when I bumbled upon her in “Behind Green Lights.” I don’t remember much about the film. But I do remember her. Strangely (or not), I was unaware of her story. Yet she was the one I had discovered. And then it dawned on me; perhaps she had found me.

That’s one of the things that happens whenever I go back and watch a film from that era. These lives are introduced to me and I look into them. Who were they? Who was she? What did they do off screen? With the lights off and no cameras around. I have trouble shaking these thoughts off. Maybe that’s what was intended.

There’s always been an attraction for me to the underbelly of celebrity, i.e., the noir of Hollywood. And as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about it. Again. Does all of this get a little too close to my own underbelly? What dark side of my own private Hollywood do stories and thoughts such as these touch?

I once saw the cover of Circus by Alistar MacLean. It stayed with me. Of all the seconds of moments I’ve had over fifty plus years, what is it about something so seemingly indistinct about one cover of one book? Like “Behind Green Lights,” I don’t remember MacLean’s story, but I do remember the cover. And like Carol Landis, those memories troubled me. There seemed to be something sinister going on.

My guess is that we aren’t supposed to see those things too clearly nor too often because they are not the stuff of dreams. They are instead, shadows.

A final random thought goes something like this: David Lynch‘s film Mulholland Drive had a devastatingly powerful impact on me. In a film about the dark side of Hollywood, I’m left to wonder how much of an inspiration for his film was a real life Carol Landis.

I’ve got to look behind more green lights.

Why Noir, Part 2

Black film?

“No, film noir,” I was told. Not being much of a Francophile, I had to take their word for it.

But to me, it’s been more like gris.

And like so much of my own life (our lives?), I know now why.

“It’s grown-man’s music,” said Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones in an interview I’d heard awhile back. At the time, I was much younger and didn’t quite get his take on the blues. And neither could I make the connection between his words and my future journey into the cinematic gris.

That too I know now why.

A visual and audio punctuation mark answer to the question posed in the title might look and sound like this:

And it would make the point better than these words could ever do.