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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

The Man Who Cheated Himself (2018 UCLA restoration)

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The Man Who Cheated Himself. Jane Wyatt (Lois Frazer) and Lee J. Cobb (Ed Cullen). Mord i panik / L’uomo che ingannò se stesso.     Director: Felix E. Feist. Year: 1950. Country: USA     Sog.: Seton I. Miller. Scen.: Seton I. Miller, Philip MacDonald. F.: Russell Harlan. M.: David M. Weisbart. Scgf.: Van Nest Polglase. Mus.: Louis Forbes. Int.: Lee J. Cobb (Ed Cullen), Jane Wyatt (Lois Frazer), John Dall (Andy Cullen), Lisa Howard (Janet Cullen), Harlan Warde (Howard Frazer), Tito Vuolo (Pietro Capa), Charles E. Arnt (Ernest Quimby), Marjorie Bennett (Muriel Quimby). Prod.: Jack M. Warner per Phoenix Films, Inc. 35 mm. D.: 81’. Bn.     The film was not released in Finland. The distributor would have been Twentieth Century-Fox.     Copy from UCLA Film & Television Archive     Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Film Noir Foundation at Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound and DJ Audio, Inc. laboratories     Brutal, Nasty, and Short: The Noir of Felix E. Feist.     Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, 23 June 2019. Eddie Muller: "An adulterous socialite kills her husband and convinces her lover, a police detective, to cover up the crime. But his brother, a rookie cop eager to prove himself, won’t leave the case alone. The Man Who Cheated Himself fits snugly in the 1950s noir ‘dirty cop’ subgenre (Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Prowler, Shield for Murder, among others), but unlike those, which used corrupt policemen as symbols for authority run amuck, this film, scripted by Seton I. Miller and mystery specialist Philip MacDonald, leans on the James M. Cain model: respectable citizens surrendering to their base instincts. Working with a small budget, first-time producer Jack M. Warner (son of the legendary studio boss) hired Feist, who had earned a reputation for shooting movies quickly and cheaply, without showing the seams. Cast and crew drove overnight from Hollywood to San Francisco and immediately began filming at sun-up. The oddest aspect of this film, without question, is the casting. This is the only time Lee J. Cobb had a romantic leading role. He had just ended one of the most celebrated runs in Broadway history, as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, but here Cobb gets a rare chance to underplay like Robert Mitchum, smoking cigarettes ruefully while pondering his miserable fate. Just as unexpected is the casting of the homicidal socialite: Jane Wyatt is the most wholesome actress ever to wear the furs of the femme fatale. She’d become famous as the sensible matriarch of a mid-century American family on the popular 1950s TV show Father Knows Best. The film also includes perhaps the quietest climax ever – a desolate and suspenseful scene at Fort Point, where a few years later Kim Novak would make a memorable leap into the Bay in Vertigo." Eddie Muller AA: This screening was the introduction to me of Felix E. Feist as a film noir director. Previously I have known him mainly as the director of the fantasy films Deluge and Donovan's Brain. Eddie Muller's excellent introduction to the retrospective and his program notes to the individual films at the Il Cinema Ritrovato make me want to see all, but now I was happy to catch The Man Who Cheated Himself at least. The plot is ingenious, the dialogue is sparkling, the performances are compelling, and as often in these affairs, it adds up to a sense of vanitatum vanitas . Feist has an assured grip on the mise-en-scène. Whether studio-bound or shot on location, it all adds up seamlessly. There is an engaging documentary approach in the sequences shot on location in San Francisco. Probably many were reminded of Vertigo not only in the Fort Point sequence but also in the rooftop chase sequence, the presence of Coit Tower in the background, and a key scene involving a spiral staircase. Even Louis Forbes's score seemed to prefigure Vertigo themes at times. The most thrilling moment takes place at Fort Point. The scarf of Lois Frazer (Jane Wyatt) hovers slowly towards the yard, threatening to reveal the presence of Lois and her lover Ed Cullen (Lee J. Cobb) while they are hiding in the tower from Andy Cullen (John Dall), Ed's brother. Following Eddie Muller's remarks on the director, the material is often familiar, but Felix E. Feist rejuvenates it like a brilliant jazz musician interpreting a well-known standard. A perfect print from UCLA Film and Television Archive. SYNOPSIS FROM AFI CATALOG ONLINE: Bitter because his rich wife Lois is going to divorce him, Howard Frazer buys a revolver and concocts an elaborate scheme to murder her and make her death appear to be the work of a burglar. After Howard leaves home early for the airport for a trip to Seattle, Lois discovers his purchase and telephones her boyfriend, homicide lieutenant Ed Cullen. Instead of Ed, however, the phone is answered by his younger brother Andy, who has just joined the homicide bureau. When Andy tells Ed that a woman called for him and then hung up, Ed guesses that it was Lois and goes to her house. As they are discussing Howard, he sneaks back into the house, but Lois, who has already retrieved the revolver from its hiding place, panics upon recognizing him and shoots him. Blinded by his love for Lois, Ed decides to hide her crime, which could be prosecuted as murder, by making Howard's planned alibi work for them. To make it look as though Howard was robbed and killed at the airport while awaiting his flight, Ed dumps Howard's body at the airport parking lot, but is seen by an elderly couple, Ernest and Muriel Quimby. By the time Ed reaches the Golden Gate Bridge, Howard's body has been found and a road block has been set up to trap the green coupe described by the Quimbys. Ed is stopped by Patrolman Blair, but because his coupe is blue, he is allowed to pass. Ed stops on the bridge and throws the revolver into the water, and later, returns to the airport to help Andy, who has been put in charge of the case, his first. The Quimbys reveal that they did not get a good enough look at the driver to identify him, and the cool, collected Ed accompanies Andy to Lois' home, where she pretends not to know him. Lois feigns distress at the news of Howard's death, and Andy and Ed then return to their apartment, where Andy ponders why Howard arrived at the airport parking lot in the early evening, even though his flight was not until midnight. Ed dismisses Andy's qualms by asserting that the case is a botched robbery, but Andy continues to worry. Soon after, Andy marries his fiancée Janet, but delays their honeymoon to finish the case. Just after the wedding, Andy is stopped for a traffic violation by Blair, who mentions that he saw Ed on the bridge shortly after Howard's body was found. Later, the owner of a liquor store is robbed and shot, and ballistics expert Rushton informs Ed and Andy that the same gun that killed Howard was used in this incident. Ed is flabbergasted by the latest development, which he relates to Lois. She asks him to marry her and promises to support him, but Ed declines, commenting that she changes her mind too easily to love one man for long. The gun involved in the liquor store shooting is later pawned by Mrs. Capa, who, when questioned by Ed and Andy, asserts that her husband Pietro found it on his boat. While Ed realizes that the gun landed on Capa's boat when he threw it from the bridge, he and Andy apprehend the Capas' son Nito, who, although he committed the robbery before his mother pawned the gun, denies any involvement in Howard's death. Later, Ed is visiting Lois when Andy drives by and sees Lois in the window before Ed exits the house. Andy is puzzled by Ed's lie that Lois is sedated and in bed, but does not say anything. The next morning, Andy reads a newspaper story about the Golden Gate Bridge and realizes that Ed was on the bridge at the same time that the revolver was thrown into Capa's boat. Fearing that Ed is involved, Andy borrows his car to show it to Quimby and when Quimby identifies it as the car at the airport, realizes that Quimby is color-blind. Ed deduces that Andy is closing in on him and rushes home, but Andy is there waiting for him. Ed confesses that he covered up Howard's murder because of Lois, then knocks Andy out and ties him up before leaving to pick up Lois. When Janet calls Ed's apartment in search of Andy, Andy manages to alert her to his situation, and soon, an all-points bulletin is issued for Ed and Lois. Ed decides to hide in the deserted Fort Point, where he and Andy played as children. Andy deduces where Ed and Lois are hiding, however, and they are captured that evening. Soon after, Ed reacts stoically when he encounters Lois in the courthouse and overhears her flirting with her lawyer. − INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE: FILMING LOCATIONS Fort Point, Presidio, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, California, USA     (final scene) Lafayette Park, Pacific Heights, San Francisco, California, USA     (Ed and Lois' park bench meeting) 287 Union Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (Pietro, the fisherman's, house) Los Angeles, California, USA    (the Los Feliz district) 716 Kearny Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (Ed and Andy have lunch at the Yen Yen Cafe) 2370 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California, USA     (Lois and Howard Frazer's house) 15 Castle St., San Francisco, California, USA     (rooftop chase scene) Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA     (Ed stops at the toll plaza and then drives across to dump the gun) 638 Washington Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (Janet stops Ed as he pulls out of the old Hall of Justice garage) San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, USA     (Where Ed dumps the body) 999 Eddy Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (Andy gets pulled over near St. Paulus Lutheran Church - burned down in 1995) 303-311 Union Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (322 Club front entrance) 66 Wentworth Place, San Francisco, California, USA     (322 Club back entrance) 1235 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (part of rooftop chase scenes) 750 Kearny Street, San Francisco, California, USA     (Ed and Andy leave the old Hall of Justice front entrance to go to lunch) STUDIO General Service Studios - 1040 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA     (studio)

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