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Try and Get Me (a.k.a. The Sound of Fury)  /  Repeat Performance

Try and Get Me (1950)
March 4, 2013 - 7:30 pm
Eddie Muller, Film Noir Foundation.

Preservation funded by the Film Noir Foundation

Try and Get Me (a.k.a. The Sound of Fury) (1950)

Try and Get Me (a.k.a. The Sound of Fury) (1950)

" of the most emotionally devastating film noirs you will have ever seen" - Eddie Muller

Directed by Cyril Endfield

In 1947, novelist and B-movie screenwriter Jo Pagano published his third novel titled The Condemned. The novel was based upon the 1933 kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart in San Jose, California, and the subsequent lynching of two suspects by a hysterical mob fueled by a frenzied media. Considered the only public lynching covered with such media scrutiny, The New York Times stated the event “was an outburst characterized by hysteria and ribaldry.” Pagano would adapt his novel into the screenplay The Sound of Fury (Fritz Lang’s film Fury (1936) is based on the same shocking event).

Director Cyril “Cy” Endfield delivered a career-defining one-two punch in 1950 with a pair of atmospheric and unflinching films indicting the sociopolitical decline of post-war American society. Endfield’s The Underworld Story (1950) is a gritty crime drama that addresses sensationalistic journalism and racism, while his interpretation of Pagano’s The Sound of Fury resulted in a startlingly dark meditation on the psychology of class-warfare and mob violence. Although these two underappreciated noir treasures still offer a fascinating relevance to 21st century audiences, they were viewed as blatantly anti-American at the time and became fodder for the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Blacklisted in 1951, Endfield fled to England to continue his career in film.

In The Sound of Fury, Frank Lovejoy delivers a solid performance as Howard Tyler; a down-on-his-luck family man caught in a downward spiral of crime-induced misfortune. The standout performance in the film belongs to UCLA alumnus Lloyd Bridges. With a sociopathic nuance that goes from charm to harm at the drop of a hat, Bridges' textured performance as criminal Jerry Slocum is a refreshing change from his many 1940s B-western roles.

Unfortunately, the film did not connect with audiences. The New York Times negatively stated that audiences had “to expend pity and resentment towards society in the cause of a common thief.” Producer Robert Stillman pulled the film from national release and changed the title to Try and Get Me in all areas except Los Angeles and San Francisco (these two regions already had extensive ad campaigns utilizing the original title). Repackaging the film as a genre potboiler still was unsuccessful and the film sank into obscurity. Thankfully, modern noir audiences have come to respect the exceptional artisanship and dark irony of one of the finest crime dramas of the 1950s.

Todd Wiener

Robert Stillman Productions Inc./United Artists Corp. Producer: Robert Stillman. Screenwriter: Jo Pagano, based on his novel The Condemned. Cinematographer: Guy Roe. Music: Hugo Friedhofer. Editor: George Amy. With: Frank Lovejoy, Kathleen Ryan, Richard Carlson, Katherine Locke, Lloyd Bridges.

35mm, b/w, 85 min.

Funding provided by Film Noir Foundation. Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Paramount Pictures and the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation from the 35mm nitrate original picture and track negatives and a 35mm acetate composite print. Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to Andrea Kalas, Laura Thornburg, Harvard Film Archive, George Eastman House, Martin Scorsese, The Film Foundation.

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

Repeat Performance (1947)

Repeat Performance (1947)

Directed by Alfred Werker

Following in the footsteps of her studio colleagues (Bette Davis, James Cagney, etc.), Warner Bros.’ girl-next-door Joan Leslie sued the studio in court because of the undesirable roles she was being assigned. Leslie won the court battle in 1946, but Jack Warner made certain she was persona non grata at the other major studios. Worried that she may never work again, Leslie signed a two-picture deal with Eagle-Lion Films in 1947. Her first film for the poverty row studio was a noir drama with a time-travel twist titled Repeat Performance; it would be the studio’s biggest budgeted feature to date.

Leslie plays glamorous Broadway actress Sheila Page, who at the very start of the film, rings in the New Year by killing her alcoholic husband (Louis Hayward). Our heroine immediately confesses the crime to her producer and friend John Friday, and wishes she had the entire year to live over again in order to correct the chain of events. In a twist worthy of The Twilight Zone, her wish comes true—although the screenplay adaptation by Walter Bullock of the William O’Farrell novel does not spend any time defending this outrageous turn of events. The audience gets to enjoy the now very adult Leslie utilize all of her alluring feminine machinations to keep history from turning into another “repeat performance.”

The film’s cast includes a wide variety of highly talented yet atypical supporting players. A dashing and earnest Richard Basehart turns his film debut as poet William Williams into one of the film’s most memorable performances. Vivacious Broadway musical star Benay Venuta makes her feature debut in this noir drama as wise-cracking Bess Michaels (Venuta was the popular replacement for Ethel Merman in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes). Tom Conway delivers a crisp performance as John Friday (Conway is best remembered today for successfully replacing his brother George Sanders in the “Falcon”  mystery series). Virginia Field and Natalie Schafer round off the terrific supporting cast with sophisticated cattiness appropriate to Bullock’s crackling dialogue.

Film Noir Foundation Founder and President Eddie Muller has stated that “this fantasy-noir hybrid, with all of its back-stabbing backstage melodrama, is basically the film noir version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Although The New York Times dismissed the film as “dramatic hocus-pocus” that would “drive a small segment of the public completely and irrevocably mad,” Variety praised the handsome production as being “well-paced and well-acted.”

Todd Wiener

Eagle-Lion Films, Inc. – A Bryan Foy Production. Producer: Aubrey Schenck. Based on the novel by William O'Farrell. Screenwriter: Walter Bullock. Cinematographer: Lew W. O’Connell. Editor: Louis H. Sackin. With: Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, Virginia Field, Tom Conway, Richard Basehart.

35mm, b/w, 91 min.

Preserved from a 35mm nitrate composite fine grain master. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to Alexander Kogan.

Preceded by

Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute

Trailer for Johnny Come Lately (1943)

35mm, b/w, approx. 2 min. 

Preserved by The Packard Humanities Institute and UCLA Film & Television Archive from a 35mm nitrate composite print. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to David W. Packard.