WEIRDLAND: Audrey Totter, Ann Savage (Detour), Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman (art of solitude)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Audrey Totter, Ann Savage (Detour), Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman (art of solitude)

Audrey Totter as Adrienne Fromsett in "Lady in the Lake" (1947) directed by Robert Montgomery, Writers: Raymond Chandler (novel) and Steve Fisher (screenplay)

"The camera shows Phillip Marlowe's view from the first-person in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler's book. The detective is hired to find a publisher's wife, who is supposed to have run off to Mexico. But the case soon becomes much more complicated as people are murdered."

'The Bad Girl' - Audrey Totter

"Undettered by her misfortune, Miss Totter landed a role in another classic film noir titled “The Unsuspected.” At her bad girl best, Audrey plays a money-hungry, unstable wife of an alcoholic who will do anything to inherit her uncle’s estate. But she finds that her wily uncle is just as unscrupulous as she and things don’t end well for Audrey. That same year, Miss Totter starred in another film noir titled “High Wall” where she portrayed a doctor". Source:

Robert Taylor and Audrey Totter in "The high wall" (1947)

One is certainly hard-pressed to think of another true "bad girl" representative so closely identifiable with film noir than hard-looking blonde actress Audrey Totter. While she remained a "B"-tier actress for most her career, she was a "A" quality actress and one of filmdom's most intriguing ladies. She always managed to set her self apart even in the most standard of programming. She played as the tired and vexed wife in "The Set-Up", the easy-pick up (The Postman Always Rings Twice) or the selfish gold-digging tramp (Tension and The Unsuspected), the "bad girl" in Main Street After Dark (1945) etc.

Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter in Women’s Prison (1955) directed by Lewis Seiler

"A list compiled by writers at Time magazine of the top ten movie villains EVER included Ann Savage in the film Detour. She was one of two females given that distinction. Her performance in the film is amazing because she is vicious, brutal, suicidal, and bullying, yet sexually fascinating in her trampiness and foxiness and also, at some level, she’s totally sympathetic.
Ann Savage, with careful coaching from director Ulmer, performed so convincingly and powerfully that she defined an archetype, the classic ambitious American female who dominates the male, pushing him relentlessly to strive for wealth. But that drive to achieve isn’t unique only to underdog females in a patriarchal society; one where they had to work through the male to achieve power and money. The near compulsion to make it is built into the American character". Source:

Ann Savage (19 February 1921, Columbia, South Carolina - 25 December 2008, Hollywood, California)

Ann Savage was born Bernice Maxine Lyon in Columbia, South Carolina, on February 19, 1921. For a tough cookie who achieved cult stardom with her hard-bitten blonde looks and "Perfect Vixen" tag, Ann Savage in real life was a lovely, spirited, gentle-looking lady. She may have peaked only briefly in 40s Hollywood lowbudgets, but she made the most of it during that fairly short tenure. Out of the dozens of movies under her belt, one film noir part that came her way in 1945 shot her to femme fatale infamy and, to this day, remains her claim to fame. It took only four to six days to shoot, but Detour (1945) stands out as one of the best examples of surreal film noir and the unforgettable dialogue and riveting teaming of Ann and sulky co-star Tom Neal are the primary reasons for its enduring fame.

"Her pinup photos and fashion portraits were shot by the top photographers and are now collector's items. It is a tremendous irony that she is known today for her most deglamorized role, Vera. She played down her own fame, saying she "was never really a star". Ann was a laugher herself. She loved to watch comedies and westerns.
She had a home full of movie and still cameras, and several generations of video. Her movie collection included 16mm, Super8mm, VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD formats. She repeatedly watched the films of Tati, Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the early funny ones of Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, and of course, Ulmer. She was mercurial and took personal exception to Alfred Hitchcock ("a bastard"), Orson Welles ("a blowhard") and Budd Boetticher ("a mean bastard"), and would not watch their work". -"Savage Detours The life and work of Ann Savage" (2010) by Lisa Morton and Kent Adamson

Ann Savage as Vera and Tom Neal as Al Roberts in "Detour" (1945) directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

"Detour" justifiably receives such extensive treatment in Rhodes’ volume because it is a truly inexhaustible work of cinema. The film seems to take up a response to its own meagerness: to the complaint advanced by one critic upon the release of the film that all Detour shows us of Los Angeles is a parking lot, the film seemingly replies, “all we ever see of Los Angeles is a parking lot.” The film is what Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis-clos (No Exit, 1944) wishes it could be.
Several of the authors mention that it took Ulmer only four days to shoot Detour. You look up from the page after reading this simple statement. It is a humbling fact to anyone who has ever agonised over a sentence. If the claim seems implicitly to draw comparison with a biblical act of creation (which took three days longer), it is only because Detour so effectively creates a world, one just as rickety, violent, and damned as the one we inhabit". Source:

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca (1942)

In Marc Augé’s Casablanca: Movies and Memory, Michael Curtiz’s 1942 film is apparent more as pretext than text, as an object instigating contemplation rather than analysis.

Even when Casablanca is the subject of discussion, Augé often leaves it in memory: “It’s because we need to believe in love, in heroism, and in self-denial that we instinctively adhere to the most romantic version of the story”, Augé reckons, “and, in the secrecy of our memory, give way to the intimate and personal montage of our film” (p. 30). Such an approach to criticism doesn’t demand endless reviewings of the work; more a return to the memory of the film, the reediting of the film in one’s mind.

Many a commentator has drawn the comparison between cinema and death, from Jean Cocteau to Bazin, while Bernardo Bertolucci, who worked with both Trintignant and Marlon Brando (whom Augé also mentions), believed that “when you show the face of an actor, the time can be ten seconds or three minutes – but time passes in his face. ‘Time is death at work.’ (2)

Even in the viewing experience, let alone the gap between Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951) and Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979), we know that death is working upon the actor on screen.

Solitude, Augé believes, is part of cinema, whether or not it is exacerbated by the feeling that there is no one around any more to share one’s love of Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman: “Cinema is an art of solitude, not because some of its major works have as their principal character a solitary individual, but because all its technical resources concur in ‘figuring solitude.’”(p. 46).

One of the ways in which film figures solitude is cinematic identification, and here Augé differentiates between identification in film and in the novel: In the movies the image precedes the stage of identification. And it is the image of a real body; it has none of the blur of a mental image that, however insistent or charged it may be, has gone through the double filter of writing and reading. (p. 47)

Casablanca: Movies and Memory, by Marc Augé, translated and with an Afterword by Tom Conley, The University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2009. Source:

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