Mord im Nachtclub (1937)

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Mord im Nachtclub: Directed by Lloyd Bacon, Michael Curtiz. With Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell. A crusading district attorney persuades a clip joint hostess to testify against her mobster boss after her innocent sister is accidentally murdered during one of his unsavory parties.

“u0026quot;Marked Womanu0026quot; was banned on itu0026#39;s original release here in Australia then abruptly withdrawn at the last moment from itu0026#39;s initial television screening here in 1966. Why all the fuss? Well itu0026#39;s because of those female leads playing u0026quot;hostessesu0026quot; in a u0026quot;clip jointu0026quot; are obviously playing prostitutes! Shock! And in a film from 1937! u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThis film followed hot on the heels of the sensational and newsbreaking 1936 trial of mobster Lucky Luciano who was convicted on the evidence of the prostitutes who worked for him. This was the sort of material (u0026quot;torn from the headlinesu0026quot;) that was the staple and was very much a part of the house style of 1930u0026#39;s Warners – gritty, hard boiled, tough stories concerning the working person facing the depression. At the end of the opening credits there is a title card disclaiming any resemblance to persons real or otherwise in the film. This was rarely if ever stated so strongly in films of this period. Warners were obviously very conscious about being seen to be not capitalizing on such a headline event so soon after – which they were! u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSimple sets abound reflecting the obsession that Warners had with economy – even the nightclub is rather plain with not too many long shots to expose too much. This nightclub over at RKO would have had a distinctly chic Art Deco look as per the trademark of that studios Art Director, and the whole production is also in stark contrast to the lavish Crawford and Shearer vehicles over at MGM.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThis film is late in Davisu0026#39; u0026quot;early periodu0026quot; – one which I find fascinating with itu0026#39;s odd mix of narrative concerning women and crime. It is also a very interesting vehicle of Humphrey Bogart still years off from the super-stardom he found from u0026quot;High Sierrau0026quot; in 1941. His role is very much the reflection of the censors requirement from 1934 that the law makers be glorified and not the law breakers as was very much the case and staple of pre-1934 Warners output. His speech as District Attorney in court has an abundance of force and conviction.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eOther players in the film to my mind fit like a glove. Eduardo Ciannelli is suitably creepy and sleazy as the crime boss. Lola Lane, Rosalind Marquis (both giving us two nice Warren and Dubin numbers in the nightclub), Mayo Methot (soon to be Mrs Bogart in real life in what was a very stormy union) and Isabel Jewell (the perfect little gold-digger) portray with the toughness required and as the other u0026quot;marked womenu0026quot; trapped in a life on the wrong side of the law. Costuming reflects perfectly their u0026quot;classu0026quot; in spite of their lucrative profession.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eu0026quot;Marked Womanu0026quot; also closely followed the landmark court case between a very unhappy Davis (trapped in what was very much a manu0026#39;s studio) and Warners over the crummy scripts she was repeatedly presented in spite of her landmark performances in u0026quot;Of Human Bondageu0026quot; (u0026#39;34) at RKO and u0026quot;The Petrified Forestu0026quot; (u0026#39;35). After being off the screen for almost a year she lost the case and came back humbly with the studio relieved to have their u0026quot;upcomingu0026quot; leading female star back in action (tempramental star Kay Francis career at Warners was winding down by this stage) and eventually giving her more meaty and suitable parts like u0026quot;Marked Womenu0026quot; with their really coming to the party in giving her u0026quot;Jezebelu0026quot; in 1938.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eu0026quot;Jezebelu0026quot; was the doorway for Davisu0026#39; u0026quot;matureu0026quot; phase for it was the director of u0026quot;Jezebelu0026quot; (and subsequent vehicles u0026quot;The Letteru0026quot; (40) and u0026quot;The Little Foxesu0026quot; (41)) William Wyler was able to tame her and provide much assistance in maturing her performances. Simultaneously Warners became a outfit turning out extremely polished vehicles and one of the champions of the u0026quot;Womens Pictureu0026quot; through the 1940u0026#39;s.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWe are very fortunate in the Australian National Film and Sound Archive having a good 16mm copy of the film which we will be screening at our film society this year. Thereu0026#39;s nothing like seeing a film like this in itu0026#39;s intended environment – the big screen!u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eEnter a suspended state of disbelief and enjoy this entertaining and gritty melodrama from Hollywoodu0026#39;s golden age!”


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