Film Noir Friday: The Petrified Forest [1936]

Poster - Petrified Forest, The_13

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE PETRIFIED FOREST [1936] starring Bette Davis, Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart.

Enjoy the film!

TCM Says:

Alan Squire, a disillusioned and destitute intellectual, is hitch-hiking across the Arizona desert. He arrives at the desolate Black Mesa Bar-B-Q, where he meets the naively idealistic Gabby Maple, whose internal struggle reflects her mixed heritage. Half romantic French, half practical American, Gabby dreams of escaping her dull life to live in France. She is immediately attracted to Alan’s lofty philosophies, but their short-lived, innocent romance is shattered by the sudden arrival of Duke Mantee and his gang. Mantee, a brutal killer heading for the Mexican border, uses the restaurant as his hide-out, holding a small group captive while he waits for his girl.

 

 

http://youtu.be/FpT0PdKvgpk

The Lawn Mower Made Me Do It

lawnmower

At 1:30 p.m. on April 28, 1932, Mrs. Pauline Pohl was pushing her hand mower back and forth across her lawn on when a shot rang out and a bullet whizzed past her head. She abandoned her yard work immediately and ran into her house.

She telephoned the police:

The woman next door is trying to kill me,” she gasped. “Send somebody, quick!”

While Pauline was hunkered down inside her house praying that no further shots would be fired at her, Ella May Thompson, the woman who was trying to kill her was standing in the bathroom of her small frame bungalow, pistol in hand, glaring at Mrs. Pohl’s house. She had shot through her bathroom at the neighbor.

If Ella was driven to a homicidal rage by the gentle whirring of the metal blades on Pauline’s hand mower, she’d never have been able to cope with the constant din of modern leaf blowers and power mowers. But she had nothing to compare the hand mower to–all she knew was that the sound it made was driving her mad and if she had to kill her neighbor to get some peace she’d do it.

Still gripping the pistol, Thompson whirled around to face Josie Norton the practical nurse who had been caring for her for the past few months.

“You get out of here…pack your clothes and get out and stay out.”

Norton swiftly complied.

Radio Officers Paul Donath and Percy Gunby were cruising nearby when they received the relayed distress call placed by Mrs. Pohl.  They sped to the address on Marsh Street and hurried to the front door of Miss Thompson’s home.

Officer Donath jumped out of the patrol car and rushed up to Thompson’s door and rang the bell.  Peering through the glass he saw Ella raise her pistol, but he couldn’t move out of the way in time to avoid the bullet that struck him in the chest.

Donath toppled backward from the porch as his partner ran to his side and tugged him across the lawn out of the range of fire.  Shooting the policeman didn’t snap Ella to her senses, far from it.  She shouted through the shattered glass in the door:

“That will teach you policemen a lesson not to come to my home without a search warrant.”

Gunby had no choice but to leave his mortally wounded partner sprawled on yard as he ran into Mrs. Pohl’s house to use her telephone to call for an ambulance and back-up. Within minutes an ambulance screamed up, grabbed Officer Donath and transported him to the hospital where he succumbed a short time later.  Right on the heels of the ambulance were dozens of cop cars which decanted about fifty police and detectives. Captain Rudolph and Inspector Davidson led a squad of men to the side of Thompson’s house.

For over twenty minutes Rudolph and Davidson tried to reason with Ella. They pleaded with her to throw her weapon out into the yard and surrender, but she refused. A crowd of nearly 500(!) gathered to witness the dramatic dénouement–they didn’t have long to wait. Police soon received a supply of tear gas bombs and, failing to convince Ella to come out with her hands up, they hurled one through a side window–then they pitched two more into the house.

Officers surrounded the house with their guns drawn, and as the gas made its way through the rooms of of her home Ella appeared at the rear door. Again the law pleaded with her to surrender, but without warning she suddenly fired three times and made a mad dash for freedom.  A bullet from her weapon passed near Officer Cliff Trainor’s head and lodged in the garage door behind him.  At least twenty officers, holding pistols and sawed-off shot guns, fired at once. Astonishingly not a single round hit its mark. Officer Trainor leveled his gun at the crazed woman and pulled the trigger–Ella finally went down. Clad in pink pajamas, one slipper on and one off, she fell backwards from the porch steps, shot through the eye.

Miss Norton was questioned by the police. She said that as far as she knew Ella was the former secretary of J.V. Baldwin, a local car dealer.  She thought that Baldwin had provided financial aid to the dead woman.

Investigators found Baldwin at his dealership and quizzed him about Thompson. He said that she’d been in his employ five years earlier and that when she had married a former hospital employee, Roy Alger, Baldwin offered the couple money for a honeymoon trip.

 He continued:

“Since then I have been made the target of an attempt to ‘shake me down’ for money.”

There must have been much more to the story because Baldwin had been sued by Alger for $125,000 in an alienation of affection suit that involved Ella.  According to some of her acquaintances Ella and Alger’s marriage had been short-lived and was annulled not long after they’d taken their vows.

Ella, who had been taking Veronal for her nerves, was a ticking time bomb.  She had been arrested on October 2, 1931 for carrying a concealed weapon when she created a disturbance at the hotel in which Baldwin was a guest.

Her trouble with her neighbor, Pauline Pohl, had stared just days after the hotel incident when she was arrested for attacking her in a backyard fight. Ella was accused of beating Pauline and fined $25 for battery.

According to Pauline she had built her house next to Ella’s a little over a year before the shooting and there had been no trouble between them until:

“…she accused me of throwing papers in her yard. She became hysterical and beat me and pulled my hair.”

Dr. Glen Bradford, Ella’s physician, told the cops that he had been treating Thompson for a nervous breakdown for quite some time.

“I visited her Wednesday, however, and she seemed to be getting along nicely.”

The deceased officer, 34 year old Paul Donath, had been on the job for ten years when he was gunned down. His body was identified by his sister-in-law, Mrs. Juanita Costoza, who burst into tears as she answered questions about him. Paul’s heartbroken wife, Virginia, fainted at the Coroner’s inquest.

The gun which Ella had used in the shoot out was the property of another LAPD officer, Palmer A. Pilcher. Pilcher had recently been suspended from duty for being intoxicated. Apparently the inebriated officer had attempted to park his car on the sidewalk in front of the Rosslyn Hotel, and to make matters worse his gun was missing.  There’s nothing that will get an officer in hot water faster than losing his weapon.

On the day of his suspension he called on Ella, whom he had been dating, and tried to get his gun back, but she refused to even let him into the house. Nurse Norton said:

“I tried to find the gun, but she must have hidden it.  She had been hard to handle for some time and my efforts to quiet her after she shot as Mrs. Pohl were useless.”

Film Noir Friday: Phantom Lady [1944]

  PHANTOMLADY2

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is PHANTOM LADY [1944] based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich and written under his pseudonym, William Irish. The film was directed by Robert Siodmak and starred Franchot Tone, Ella Raines and Alan Curtis.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

At Anselmo’s bar in New York, Scott Henderson sits dejectedly next to an equally despondent woman wearing a distinctive hat. Scott offers the woman tickets to a musical show that he cannot use, but she is not interested until Scott asks if she would like to accompany him to the show. Impulsively she agrees, on the condition that they do not exchange any personal information and just enjoy the evening together. At the show, Scott and the woman sit near the front, where the woman attracts the eye of the orchestra drummer and singer Estela Monteiro, who is furious that the woman’s hat matches her own. After the show, Scott escorts the woman back to the bar and they part amicably. Upon returning to his apartment, Scott is greeted by by police Inspector Burgess, who informs him that Scott’s wife Marcela has been strangled to death with one of Scott’s ties.

No Way Out [1950]

un rayo de luz mankiewicz

 

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is NO WAY OUT [1950].  Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, Linda Darnell and Stephen McNally.   

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

Dr. Luther Brooks, an intern who has just passed the state board examination to qualify for his license to practice, is the first African-American doctor at the urban county hospital at which he trained. Because he lacks self-confidence, Luther requests to work as a junior resident at the hospital for another year. Johnny and Ray Biddle, brothers who were both shot in the leg by a policeman as they attempted a robbery, are brought to the hospital’s prison ward. As Luther tends to the disoriented Johnny, he is bombarded with racist slurs by Ray, who grew up in Beaver Canal, the white working class section of the city…

 

The Purple Haze Slaying

Purple Haze was in my brain,
lately things don’t seem the same,
actin’ funny but I don’t know why…
–Jimi Hendrix

RearWindowIn the 1954 Hitchcock masterpiece, “Rear Window“, L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, a professional photographer, is wheelchair bound while he recuperates from an accident. His rear window looks out onto a small courtyard and he can see into the apartments of several of his neighbors.

One evening  he hears a woman scream “Don’t!” and then a glass breaks. He watches as Lars Thorvald, a traveling jewelry salesman with a bedridden wife, makes repeated late night trips carrying his sample case. What is he carrying, and where did Thorvald’s wife go? Jeff begins to suspect Thorvald of a grisly murder.

On March 6, 1952, two years before “Rear Window” hit theaters, Jordan Jones, a Sacramento based insurance salesman, was staying in a downtown Los Angeles hotel located at 230 West 7th Street.  Like Jeff Jeffries he was staring out of his window watching the guests in another wing of the hotel. But as just as Jeffries would discover in Rear Window, peeping isn’t always merely a spectator sport.

Most of the guests had the good sense to draw their shades against prying eyes, but suddenly Jones noticed a couple putting on an X-rated show–far racier than anything he’d find in a Main Street burlesque house. Their shades were up and the lights in their room were ablaze. He watched, riveted, as the couple hungrily pulled off their clothing and began to have sex. Jones continued to watch the impromptu show–it sure as hell beat whatever was on the radio that night.  But then their lovemaking turned ugly.

The man put his belt around the nude woman’s neck and started choking her and it didn’t appear to be a part of their sex play. Jones immediately reported the incident to the hotel desk, but he kept his front row seat and watched as a bellboy appeared at the door of the couple’s room. The man removed the belt from the woman’s neck, and the bellboy presumably returned to his duties.

Klink enjoys a post confession burger.

Klink enjoys a post confession burger.

Moments after the bellboy departed Jones watched in horror as the man turned to the woman and resumed choking her, then he dragged her nude body around the room by the belt that was still tight around her neck.  When she crumpled to the floor the strangler began going through the woman’s handbag and clothing.

This time Jones phoned the hotel manager who, with three bellboys, crashed into the couple’s room where they found the killer standing dazedly over the woman’s nude body. A Fire Department inhalator squad tried to revive the victim and Dr. Alfred Schaffel from Georgia Street Receiving Hospital administered adrenalin injections, but it was too late. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

haze headline

LAPD homicide Lt. Bob Reid said that the woman’s papers identified her as forty-eight year old Mae Ellen Mathis from Dragerton, Utah. She had been employed as a registered nurse at Queen of Angels Hospital for a short time, living in the nurses’ residence there.

The strangler gave his name as William Klink, a 27 year old refrigerator repairman, but he refused to give a home address. Klink said he had met Mae in a bar on Hill Street and that she agreed to accompany him to the hotel where they registered as husband and wife.

Murder_case_1952_2

LAPD Sgt. Jack Gotch (L), William Klink (C), D.A. Ernest Roll (R)

Andrew Faiss (47) the bellboy who had showed them to the room only two hours earlier said that they had carried no luggage.

Officer L.M. Vaughn shows Klink the murder weapon.

Officer L.M. Vaughn shows Klink the murder weapon.

KIlink, who was on parole out of Ohio for a forgery conviction in 1947, told a different story to detectives and District Attorney Roll than Jones had.

According to Klink he’d been drinking for hours before he had hooked up with Mae.  After he and Mae had made love he said that he had feigned sleep and then watched as his companion got up, put on her clothes, and began going through his pants pockets.

Klink offered no rational explanation for why he’d put his belt around her neck and strangled her to death.

“I was in a kind of purple haze,” he said.

A few months following Mae’s slaying Klink was found guilty of second degree murder. Superior Judge John J. Ford sentenced him to five years to life in the California Institution for Men at Chino.

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