Noir City 2012 at the Egyptian 

The people rise up against the powerful, pre-Code noir style

Thursday, May 3 2012

There exists a body of Hollywood films made in 1932-33 — a narrow window just before and after Franklin Roosevelt's election — that reflected the deep despair of the American people confronted with corruption at all political levels, and their temptation to take matters into their own hands. This type of populist vigilante film never happened again.

In MGM's wonderful The Beast of the City (directed by Charles Brabin, from a W.R. Burnett script), Irish police captain Walter Huston had to shoot it out with the mob in a speakeasy kamikaze finale worthy of The Wild Bunch. Gregory La Cava's political fable Gabriel Over the White House showed a corrupt Washington being swept out by the big broom of the same Huston, a suddenly awakened president, but the film had fascist overtones betraying the fascination Mussolini exercised over Hollywood's weaker minds. Even an indie programmer like Charles E. Roberts' Corruption (with Preston Foster as a district attorney) reflected the same public sentiments: that no matter what the police or the press did, judges, mayors or DA's were in the pocket of the racketeers, and that something had to be done about it, even if that something was against the law.

Tonight's rare double bill at the Egyptian shows two sides of the same coin. Tay Garnett's entertaining pre-Code Okay, America! starts as comedy and abruptly pulls the rug out from under us. Lew Ayres plays ace newspaperman Larry Wayne, clearly based on Walter Winchell, notorious for exposing high society's extramarital peccadilloes in his columns. Shown at first as nothing but a smart-ass scandal monger, Wayne slowly surprises us when he is able to use his contacts with the mob to intervene in a kidnapping case. Edward Arnold is delightful as the supine, Dickens-addled head mobster, and the ending of the film is quite shocking. Playwright William Anthony McGuire wrote the cracking dialogue of this Universal gem.

Location Info

Related Stories

  • Repeal Day Specials: Where to Celebrate the End of Prohibition

    What do FDR, Utah and booze have in common? If you guessed Repeal Day you'd be correct. On Dec. 5, 1933, Prohibition, or the 18th Amendment -- that dark swathe of government-mandated alcoholic abstinence which lasted 14 years -- was officially repealed with the deciding vote coming from the state...
  • Henry Rollins: Hemp Is Back 3

    I am in the back of an SUV, the seat in front of me almost against my knees. The great wide open of southeastern Colorado rolls by the window. Except for Kerri, who’s driving, everyone has a laptop open. Phone calls are coming in, logistics are being hammered out, something about...
  • Cali Lives Strong

    Californians spend more in federal taxes than they receive back in services. And the same can be said for healthcare. According to an analysis by personal finance site WalletHub, California barely makes the top 20 (number 19) among states when it comes to "return on investment" (ROI) for healthcare costs...
  • Creative Town

    Forbes magazine this month put its stamp of approval on on L.A.'s role as one of the world's foremost providers of popular culture. The problem is that the publication didn't give us nearly enough credit.  Forbes ranked the 50 largest American metropolitan areas based on how well locals did with...
  • Better Weather

    This news is not going to knock anyone off their seat. But, yeah, L.A. County is home to the best warm weather places in the nation. At least that's the conclusion of personal finance site WalletHub, which this week named Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank as "cities with the best ... year-round...

Produced, like Okay, America!, by the unjustly reviled Carl Laemmle Jr. at Universal, Edward Cahn's Afraid to Talk is based on an early play by Albert Maltz and George Sklar. The film does not quite walk the talk of its original material, copping out with a happy ending. But as a political La Ronde (Merry-Go-Round was the original title), this is as hard-hitting as anything by early W.R. Burnett. When a bellhop witnesses a mob killing that could embarrass local politicos, smarmy assistant DA Louis Calhern has him railroaded for the murder. Eric Linden (the bellhop) may be a liability to any movie, but the rogue's gallery is impressive and effective: Besides Calhern, Arnold, Robert Warwick and Berton Churchill (as the mayor), all writhe in a craven, unholy alliance one rarely sees on-screen, even in Capra movies.

NOIR CITY: OKAY, AMERICA! AND AFRAID TO TALK | Thurs., May 3, 7:30 p.m. | American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre | americancinematheque.com

Related Content

Related Locations

Now Showing

  1. Sat 2
  2. Sun 3
  3. Mon 4
  4. Tue 5
  5. Wed 6
  6. Thu 7
  7. Fri 8

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!


  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.
  • Are Westerns For The Weak? Not According to "Sensei" Martin Kove
    Decades ago, the western film was king, with nearly 100 produced every year at their peak in the 1940s, and their popularity extending years beyond. But today, other than rare successes like Django Unchained or True Grit, the genre is not in great shape. Films such as Cowboys and Aliens and The Lone Ranger failed to spark new interests in the western. It's a tough nut to crack, but veteran movie bad guy Martin Kove -- most well known for his role as Sensei John Kreese in The Karate Kid -- is passionate about the classic American film genre and is trying to revive it. We spent an afternoon at his home talking about westerns and how to make the genre interesting again. All photos by Jared Cowan.

Now Trending