Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bogie, Bacall, David Goodis & a Return to ‘Dark Passage’

277 copyDark Passage (1947) with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, screened on Los Angeles station KCET over Labor Day weekend and on Turner Classics on Wednesday of this week. The screenplay, by Delmer Daves (who also directed), is based on a novel by David Goodis. This is a movie that I like to see at least once a year, both for the story and the terrific San Francisco locations, some of which you can still see today.
Vincent Parry, an innocent man, is thrown into San Quentin for the murder of his wife. For a Goodis story it has what might be considered a happy ending. And I think, in this case, the movie improves on the book. It takes what's good about the novel and fleshes it out in ways that68741_n (1) copy work.
Historian and critic Geoffrey O'Brien said "[Goodis] wrote of winos and  barroom piano players and smalltime thieves in a vein of tortured lyricism all his own, whose very excesses seemed uniquely appropriate to the subject matter. As his titles announce—Street of the Lost, Street of No Return, The Wounded and the Slain, Down There—he was the poet of the losers…" *  
It is through the movie version of Dark Passage that I discovered Goodis many years ago. And he is now one of my favorite writers – truly the King of Noir. His stories often deal with people who were once riding high and who've fallen on hard times, to say the least.
Goodis did a stint as a Hollywood screenwriter, eventually leaving Hollywood to return to his native Philadelphia, where he led an "interesting" life to say the least.
dark_passage_1947 (1) If I had to pick a favorite Goodis novel it would be Down There, upon which Truffaut's movie Shoot the Piano Player is based. And I know what I'm going to say is heretical to some, but I like the book a lot more than the movie in a lot of ways and, in fact, I don't like the movie much at all, though it's still worth watching. That said, Dark Passage, both the book and the movie are definitely worth checking out.
*Hardboiled America, Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir; Geoffrey O'Brien; Da Capo Press