Friday through Sunday

Clash by Night (1952)

The mature Stanwyck caught in a fork of attraction and repulsion for a macho weakling.

In Clash by Night,  Fritz Lang gets down to business after some Rossellini-style images of Monterey stirring and awakening as the fishing boats dock at Cannery Row—in fact, co-writer Alfred Hayes had worked with the Italian film industry after the war and had a story credit on Paisan

A weary local lady, Mae (Stanwyck), returns on the morning train, having been chewed up and spit out by the outside world. (“Big ideas, small results,” she says). She gets involved with two men: Jerry (Paul Douglas), an egoless dullard of a fisherman, and his antsy but studly buddy Earl (Robert Ryan).   Earl is a movie projectionist: an intelligent symbolic occupation for a man who watches others go through life and treats them as if they were no more important than shadows on a screen. Who else besides Ryan made surliness so interesting? Together Ryan and Stanwyck have explosive physical chemistry.

It’s a hard-nosed, urgent movie, firmly on the side of the usual sacrificial victim of this kind of picture, namely the straying wife. Marilyn Monroe has a small but attention-getting part as a cannery girl. Co-scripter Clifford Odets’ title swipe from Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” foretells a verbal banquet meant to please the divorced and the alcoholic alike. (Earl waving off a rescuer: “Why didn’t you let me sleep it off in the gutter? I drank that shellac to get unborn.”) 

—Richard Von Busack

Friday through Monday (April 18-20) at 7:30; weekend matinee at 4:00.

Crime of Passion (1957)

The plot doesn’t add up—it’s not even really about a crime of passion. A man ought to be very careful before throwing around the word feminist … but with Stanwyck in it, there’s undertones of a woman’s justifiable frustration after doing what everyone told her she was supposed to do.

In her last film noir—a “last saunter down Hate Street,” as noir aficionado Eddie Muller puts it—Stanwyck is a San Francisco advice columnist for the newspapers. Bored with her routine, she makes a sudden and inadvisable choice to become the hausfrau to a sizable but otherwise ordinary LAPD plainclothesman (Sterling Hayden).  In Dr. Strangelove, Hayden was parodying Gen. Curtis Lemay’s Bell’s Palsy, but he developed that curare-struck look earlier in his career: he was the angriest beef on two feet.  Driven to the verge by beautifully-captured domestic dullness (and driven loco by the clown paintings her husband has on the wall) Stanwyck becomes the Lady Macbeth of LA’s Westchester, attempting to use a cold-as-a-cod Raymond Burr as her patsy.

—Richard Von Busack

Friday through Sunday (April 18-20) at 5:55 and 9:25.


Wednesday and Thursday

Annie Oakley (1935)

Stanwyck's first western. Biographers argue that the casting was a perfect match in background, physique and spirit between subject and actor. When she rode in this picture, Stanwyck was using a borrowed saddle than had once belonged to Ms. Oakley.  

George Stevens’ fresh, charming biopic of the shooting star follows Annie from her days selling game birds to Ohio restaurants to her world-wide fame in the arena; the romance is derived from the rivalry between the unbeatable shootist and a handsome fellow performer, Toby Walker (Preston Foster).

Witty nostalgia—like the harrowing side of frontier photography—matches early and subtle commentary on the difference between the Wild West and the Wild West Show. (Robert Altman hammered this material like a blacksmith in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, some 40 years later.) 

—Richard Von Busack

Wednesday and Thursday (April 23-24) at 7:30.

This Is My Affair (1937)

Stanwyck as a turn-of-the-century café warbler who stumbles into a drastic plot. Robert Taylor, her husband at the time,  is an undercover agent left out in the cold when his control—President William McKinley—is assassinated.  

—Richard Von Busack

Wednesday and Thursday (April 23-24) at 5:35 and 9:10.