The Chase (1946); High Tide (1947)

The Chase (1946)
March 10, 2013 - 7:00 pm
In-person: 
Harold Nebenzal, son of producer Seymour Nebenzal.

Preservation funded by The Film Foundation and the Franco-American Cultural Fund, a unique partnership between Directors Guild of America (DGA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique (SACEM), Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).

The Chase (1946)

The Chase (1946)

“Through a series of adroit directorial strokes, in the Hitchcock tradition, the pic’s momentum is made to mount in a steady, ascending line.” -- Variety

Directed by Arthur D. Ripley

Combining an original setting and timely story elements, Arthur D. Ripley here crafts a highly original film noir. Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings) is a down-on-his-luck, ex-serviceman, badly in need of a meal in post-war Miami. Stumbling upon a lost wallet, he traces the owner of the billfold to a palatial home. Owner Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran), a suave businessman, is pleased by “Scotty’s” honesty, and offers him a job as chauffeur. From the side, taciturn Peter Lorre as “Gino,” Roman’s sidekick, grimaces and bemoans these displays of honor and goodwill.

Scotty quickly catches on that Roman is bad news, probably involved in the death of a business competitor, but he keeps his mouth shut for the sake of his meal ticket. His resolve is tested, however, when Roman’s trophy wife Lorna (Michèle Morgan) appeals to him for help in secretly spiriting her from Miami to Havana as an escape from her soulless existence. Once off American shores, the couple find common ground—and love. But they discover it’s not so easy to escape Roman’s octopus-like reach and influence. And soon, Scotty finds himself at the center of his own murder mystery.

Scotty’s moral lapse and corruptibility are somewhat more surprising than in many noir titles, owing to the film’s intersection with the “returning soldier” subgenre, which often treated such characters more earnestly. (William Wyler’s reverent The Best Years of Our Lives was released to great fanfare in the same year). Scotty’s status also becomes a driver of the plot when the possibility is introduced that many of the horrible things he witnesses may be symptoms of an ex-soldier’s overheated imagination, not to be taken too seriously.

Director Arthur D. Ripley had begun as a gag writer for Mack Sennett. A prolific screenwriter who went on to produce and direct, upon retirement Ripley was sought out to become the first Professor of Cinema Arts in the Motion Picture Division of the Department of Theater Arts, the foundation of today’s UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

This restoration was the last to be completed by UCLA Film & Television Archive preservationist Nancy Mysel, who passed away in 2012. It caps a magnificent career in film preservation, and is a tribute to Nancy’s inspiring passion for the moving image.

Shannon Kelley 

Nero Films, Inc./United Artists Corp. Producer: Seymour Nebenzal. Screenwriter: Philip Yordan. Based on the novel "The Black Path of Fear" by Cornell Woolrich. Cinematographer: Frank F. Planer. Editor: Edward Mann. With: Robert Cummings, Michèle Morgan, Steve Cochran, Lloyd Corrigan, Peter Lorre.

35mm, b/w, 86 min.

Preserved from the incomplete 35mm nitrate original picture and track negatives, an incomplete 35mm nitrate dupe picture negative, an incomplete 35mm nitrate composite dupe negative, an incomplete 35mm nitrate French composite dupe negative, and 16mm acetate picture and track negatives. Laboratory services by Cinetech, Deluxe Media Services, Fotokem Film and Video, Audio Mechanics, Chace Audio by Deluxe, DJ Audio. 

Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute and The Film Noir Foundation

High Tide (1947)

High Tide (1947)

Directed by John Reinhardt

"I can smell death when it's close. I can smell it now."

Dusk at Malibu. A sedan, flung from the Pacific Coast Highway, sits wrecked at the waterline. The man in the front seat has a broken back. His companion is wedged under the vehicle. The evening tide is rolling in, fast. "I never did want to die alone. Glad you're with me, pal."

No film noir curtain raiser telegraphs its fatalism with such concision. As the story unfolds in flashback we learn that Fresney (Lee Tracy) is a cynical newspaper editor. Slade (Don Castle) is an ex- reporter turned private dick. Both are caught in a maze of corruption and graft. 

High Tide is anchored by Lee Tracy as Fresney. It's as if Tracy's rancid reporters from Blessed Event (1932) and The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) were bodily lifted from 1932 and plunked down in post-World War II Los Angeles. He's worked up to the city desk, but middle age has conferred not wisdom but a thicker skin of callous indifference. He's still buying headlines with the coin of human suffering. "Let's have a picture of the widow!", he cries, as flashbulbs singe the bereaved woman whose husband has been wrongly executed to satisfy his paper's thirst for circulation.

High Tide was the second of two independent crime thrillers produced in 1947 by Texas oil tycoon Jack Wrather. It carries over from The Guilty the same cameraman and screenwriter, the same protagonist in actor Don Castle (later Wrather's line producer for the Lassie TV series), and the same director, Austrian-born John Reinhardt. Reinhardt learned his trade directing Spanish-language features in the thirites and would make a half-dozen post-War crime thrillers.

Like a drug store dime novel, High Tide features the standard attributes of its genre: the naive PI soiled by his job, the confluence of high and low society, the Los Angeles milieu of dirty alleys and Malibu beach houses, the sexually frustrated and drunken femme fatale, and, above all, the genre's signature whimsical fatalism. As he and Slade wait for the Pacific Ocean to engulf them, Fresney muses: "Think of all the trouble you'd have saved yourself if you hadn't answered that telegram. 

Scott MacQueen 

Wrather Productions Inc./Monogram Pictures Corporation. Producer: Jack Wrather. Screenwriter: Robert Presnell, Sr. Based on a story by: Raoul Whitfield. Cinematographer: Henry Sharp. Editor: William Ziegler. With: Lee Tracy, Don Castle, Julie Bishop, Anabel Shaw, Douglas Walton.

35mm, b/w, 72 min.

Preserved from a 35mm nitrate dupe picture negative and a 35mm nitrate dupe track negative. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to The British Film Institute, Nigel Algar, Katrina Stokes.