Gary Cooper & Lilli Palmer + Carroll Baker & Alfred Hitchcock Movies

Gary Cooper Lilli Palmer Cloak and Dagger
Carroll Baker Baby Doll
Lilli Palmer and Gary Cooper in Fritz Lang's Cloak and Dagger (top); Carroll Baker in Elia Kazan's Baby Doll (bottom).

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's (website) 20th Anniversary Tribute to The Film Foundation ends this weekend, with a screening of Fritz Lang's Cloak and Dagger (1946), a spy thriller/film noir starring Gary Cooper and Lilli Palmer, and Alfred Hitchcock's personal favorite film, Shadow of a Doubt (1943), with Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, on Friday, Oct. 29.

Additionally, on Saturday, Oct. 30, the UCLA Film and Television Archive will present Elia Kazan's then outrageous Baby Doll (1956) at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood. Written by Tennessee Williams, Baby Doll stars Oscar nominee Carroll Baker as a sensual teenage wife that left censors and prudes apoplectic in her wake.

My favorite among those movies restored with the assistance of The Film Foundation is the least well-regarded of the three:

Written by future Hollywood Ten “members” Albert Maltz and Ring Lardner, Jr., Cloak and Dagger – despite the studio-altered last reel – remains atmospheric, gripping, well-acted, and still quite relevant. (As an aside: in her autobiography Lilli Palmer bitterly complained about Lang's nastiness to her on the set. Cooper opted not to interfere.)

Shadow of a Doubt, however subversive Hitchcock's intentions, felt a little too cozy for me, but Teresa Wright is quite good in it. Admittedly, I need to check out this one again. It's been a while since I last saw it.

Baby Doll, which certain Christian groups would surely label as “child porn,” offers two excellent performances: thumb-sucking Carroll Baker in the title role and Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Mildred Dunnock as a flighty older woman. Karl Malden and Eli Wallach, however, are both badly miscast, and the film is a good 20 minutes too long.

LACMA series programmed by Ian Birnie. Series text by Doug Cummings.

Shadow of a Doubt
October 29 | 7:30 pm

This is one of Hitchcock's most fully realized pictures; it was also the film he would cite in later years as being his favorite. A bored teenager (Teresa Wright) eagerly anticipates the visit of her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) whose name she shares; but when detectives inform her that he's suspected of being a serial killer of wealthy widows, a pervasive evil begins to seep through the veneer of small town respectability. Although Hitchcock vastly preferred filming in studios, exteriors and some interiors were shot on location in Santa Rosa, California. Always the moralist, Hitchcock cinematically suggests that individuals are a fusion of good and evil by emphasizing dualities, doubles and repeat events. Some critics have detected another comparison, among them Bill Krohn who writes: “The opening image of [Uncle Charlie] lying in bed fully dressed during the day, his miraculous escape from the detectives, his coffin-like Pullman berth on the train to Santa Rosa, and his refusal to be photographed” suggests a vampiric connotation. —Doug Cummings.

1943/b&w/108 min. | Scr: Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville; dir: Alfred Hitchcock; w/ Teresa Wright, Joseph Coten, Hume Cronyn, Henry Travers. Preserved by the Library of Congress in cooperation with Universal Studios with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation.

Cloak and Dagger
October 29 | 9:30 pm
The originator of the spy movie genre, Fritz Lang, offered up this suspenseful anti-Nazi thriller immediately after the war. Gary Cooper plays a nuclear physicist recruited by the American government to establish contact with a Hungarian colleague working with the Nazis; low-key and straight-laced, Cooper's stoicism serves as counterpoint to the film's exciting set pieces and anticipates today's taciturn action stars. Lang's masterful sense of visual logic and economy sharpens each sequence as incidental events and chance occurrences—a passing photographer, a stalled car, a stray cat—become pivotal events. The dark and frequently wet locations lend terrific atmosphere to the story, originally intended (according to Lang experts) as a critique of unchecked science in the atomic age.  But Warners ultimately replaced the final reel to soften the punch, and destroyed the original ending. The film has been issued on DVD numerous times, but it has always been plagued by technical problems due to poor print conditions; this is a rare opportunity to see it in pristine form.—Doug Cummings.

1946/b&w/104 min. | Scr: Albert Maltz, Ring Lardner, Jr.; dir: Fritz Lang; w/ Gary Cooper, Robert Alda, Lilli Palmer | Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Paramount Pictures with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

RELATED SCREENINGS:
Baby Doll
October 30 | 7:30 pm | At the Billy Wilder Theater
1956/b&w/114 min. | Dir: Elia Kazan; w/ Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach. | Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding from The Film Foundation
Presented by UCLA Film and Television Archive

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