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Nobody Lives Forever

I watched the movie “Nobody Lives Forever” on a movie channel I have which unfortunately has commercials, but makes up for it by showing noir movies all Thursday, and in the evening on Sunday. I have a number of noir film compilations, but there were many I not seen, as I learned from watching this channel.

This is really a superb movie, I think. It is based on a novel by W.R. Burnett. It was directed by Jean Negulesco, who did a brilliant job. It stars John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald, who are first-rate; and the supporting cast, including Walter Brennan, George Coulouris, Faye Emerson, and George Tobias, are all very good, particularly the rather amazing Coulouris, who was in Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater, and played in many classic British stage dramas, which background one would never guess from his role as Doc Ganson in this movie.

Garfield plays Nick Blake, a successful, nonviolent con man who fleeces rich women, among other people. He was a soldier in WWII, and performed admirably, to his credit. He comes back; and joining up with his long-time friend played by Tobias, presumably to resume his prior career, he first takes a sumptuous vacation at a Southern Californian beach house, and says hello to an old friend, Pop Gruber, an amiable grifter who now does very small cons. But Doc Ganson, who has fallen in stature in this milieu, thinks he has a chance for a big score in a very wealthy young widow (Fitzgerald). He hates Blake, but needs his help

Blake finally agrees to take on the scheme, only if he can do it his own way. Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s character, who is both lovely and very nice, becomes very attracted to Garfield, and it seems as if he likes her very much, too, although he is a professional.

The tension between the growing mutual attraction and the con; and the pressure from the dangerous Ganson, helps to make this a movie which never falters, never is anything but involving. As I first watched it, the tension was increased by my thinking of the title, “Nobody Lives Forever.” As we know, many noirs have downbeat endings. Since you may either have already seen it, or might not watch films in the genre, I will presume to say that after some very tense moments, it has a mostly happy ending.

In my opinion, they just do not make films like this now, and that’s not just a matter of a different era, or black and white vs. color movies. This is very well written, not at all preachy; focused on character and milieu. The dialogue is never overwrought or pretentious. The film keeps one’s interest from the very first minutes; and it is never artificially amped up, nor does it have scenes which distract or are not coherent with the rest of it.

Everyone who made this film should have been very proud of it. Why it is not generally mentioned as a great noir film, is baffling, unless it is that it is more about character, nuance, and dialogue than action. If you like film noir, I highly recommend it!

John Garfield was a great talent, who died young, certainly to some extent due to his hounding by the Hoover and HUAC forces. He would have been one of the all-time greats; maybe he was, despite his relatively short career. Fitzgerald was a star, but never quite reached the heights of say, a Fontaine or de Havilland, but she was every bit as good.

Nobody lives forever. That takes on different meanings in different contexts. I don’t look for stories like this, but yesterday I saw this terrible story about a man who was killed by shots from a motorist who may have been enraged because the victim had inadvertently sprayed some wiper fluid onto his car.

This was in Oregon. The victim of this horrific killing seemed like a very nice man. He had met his long-time female partner online, then came out to see her, but she was unable to deal with it, and told him he should go; but then immediately thought better of it, and called him, and he came back and never left They were together 18 years. He had an adult son, and the couple had two younger children.

They were driving, and suddenly this young man, identified as around 25, started following them. The victim’s partner told him to drive off the highway, which he did, but then they soon saw him alongside, and he apparently seemed to be trying to force their car off the road, by stopping and starting, and driving very close to them. Then suddenly the other car went right alongside, and the driver shot and killed him, then drove away.

There were expressions of shock and horror. A friend started a Go Fund Me page, with a goal of $10,000; and $30,000 was received in one day. Of course, this cannot undo the tragedy, or the thoughts I have, undoubtedly shared by many people, that the two young boys would never again see their father, shown affectionately playing with one of them in a photo. And of course neither would his partner and his older son.

Some twisted person, one of an increasing number of them, went out driving, carrying his handgun, and maybe more guns, since the police have not apprehended him. He was angry at something, generally or specifically. He shot the other man several times and killed him. Just like that. Guns, proliferating everywhere. Everyone wants to buy several of them. Concealed carry. Assault rifles.

No one wants to do anything about this. The recent gun bill will not stop such things. For Republicans, this is what they think is the price of living in America. It is obscene.

A sick and evil person had to have his gun. He had to take out his anger and hate at someone in a car who was just driving along. The killer drove away. Maybe they will catch him, or maybe not. It does not seem to matter much.

Nobody lives forever. But everyone deserves the opportunity to live free of the killing impulses of people who should be locked away in mental institutions, much less allowed to drive around and shoot anyone who has triggered their mechanisms of hate and deadly violence.

We cannot spend each moment with such awful stories, but they cannot be passed over. The stylish and engaging world of noir movies is a welcome diversion, but one cannot avoid thinking that this country has become so much more violent, hate-filled, and dangerous than film noir’s enhanced version of reality.

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2 Responses

  1. Another good Jean Negulesco / Geraldine Fitzgerald noir is “Three Strangers” (1946). It costars Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. I own it on DVD. Written by John Huston, it is dark and philosophical with supernatural undertones. Fitzgerald is definitely not a nice girl in this one.

    An aside: Apparently, John Huston wanted Geraldine Fitzgerald to star in “The Maltese Falcon” but she and Jack Warner did not get along. Fitzgerald refused to be a docile Hollywood leading lady. The role went to Mary Astor and the rest is history.

    • Yes, that is a fine movie, great acting from the three stars. Fitzgerald shows her range in this unsettling role. One does not forget the ending.

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