It may seem weird to kick off the annual film noir series at the Egyptian (running through May 6) with the little-seen Elliott Nugent version of The Great Gatsby; but then, this 14th edition is clearly intent on expanding the field. Among the usual chestnuts and discoveries, there will be curios like Gatsby, and even, on May 3, a foray into early-'30s movies reeking of despair and corruption.
The 1949 version of The Great Gatsby is worth a look before we get to see the sure-to-be-delirious Baz Luhrmann treatment later this year. This is as noir as Gatsby is going to get, especially with Henry Hull's portrayal of young Gatz's mentor, Dan Cody, as a quasi-Wellesian, yacking old devil right out of The Lady From Shanghai. To be sure, any film lining up Macdonald Carey, Betty Field and Barry Sullivan has a long row to hoe, and there are yards of backstory to wade through, but with Ed Begley (here given the wonderful name of Myron Lupus, instead of Meyer Wolfsheim), Shelley Winters as a shrill Myrtle Wilson, and even Elisha Cook Jr. tinkling the ivories (lantern-jawed Jack Lambert has a walk-on, too!), the noir fans should feel at home. And Alan Ladd is still the best Gatsby there'll ever be.
Also not to be missed this weekend is a great print of Naked Alibi, screening Saturday. It's the poor man's Touch of Evil, with cop Sterling Hayden in a studio lot border town, and cantina singer Gloria Grahame with a hot coffee fixation. —Philippe Garnier
AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE'S 14TH ANNUAL NOIR CITY FILM FESTIVAL | April 20–May 6 | Egyptian Theatre | americancinemathequecalendar.com