Screengrab: Get shorties

Richard Lutz trawls this week’s best movies beaming from that flashy flatscreen pinned to your wall.


For all you that rise early, let’s say before the 5 o’clock cocktail hour, this Thursday sees a great pair of old fashioned black and white films.

First, there”s The Blue Dahlia (12.45pm, Film Four). Veronica Lake (see above at only 4’ 11”) and Alan Ladd (a giant at 5’ 6”) star in this crime noir scripted by Raymond Chandler.

Don’t worry too much about the 1946 plot. It skirts around all levels of logic as Chandler was told to change the end and reacted by hitting a wrier’s block and eventually snapping off an ending that really doesn’t make much sense.

Anyway, suffice it to say, three Army buddies, fresh from the war, find themselves in a whodunnit that’s such a muddle director George Marshall had to keep asking RC just what the heck was going on. Chandler dawdled, the camerawork just about overtook the unfinished script and Ladd and Lake, this pair of mini-cuties, did their best with all the confusion.

Ladd himself, as a wartime Army vet, filled out the role with tough guy élan. He was so small that Hollywood had to re-design some of the sets and Chandler said she was such a void that he almost “threw his lunch over the fence” when he saw the rushes. As for La Lake, she quipped: “I wasn’t so much a sex symbol as a sex zombie.”

She worked in a New York bar after Hollywood jettisoned her. An ex-lover, Marlon Brando, sent her cash when he discovered she was floundering. 

Earlier, there’s His Girl Friday (9.10AM, TCM), one of the liveliest screwball comedies that still creates laughs. Cary Grant is a cagey newspaper editor and Rosalind Russell his ace reporter who is also his ex wife.

They quip, banter and trade barbs in this comic 1940 feast because….well, fans, they still love each other though Roz is about to marry dunderhead Ralph Bellamy. This is the re-boot of the 1931 comedy The Front Page and presages the brilliant 1974 successor, also The Front Page, with Matthau and Lemmon (a must see).

Director Howard Hawks was desperate to capture real life chitchat. He encouraged ad-lib quick witted repartee, tripled the speed of the dialogue and injected extra pace by allowing talk-over dialogue wired together by some neat editing.

The verbal sparring may be close to 80 years old but it still works a treat. It added weeks to the production but Hawks knew what he was doing, the world is a better place for it and Grant found himself immediately elevated to the pre-war A list. Plus he and Russell wore great outfits.