Henry Hathaway’s brilliant Kiss of Death (1947) –where instead of hearing the usual tough guy voice over telling us about his journey through NOIR hell, we are told about the hardships of Nick Bianco (brilliantly played by Victor Mature) by the lovely kind caring voice of Coleen Gray as the loyal Nettie standing behind her man! Similarly cast in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956) Colleen stands behind the great Sterling Hayden as ex con Johnny Clay asserting: “It is not that you were locked in. It was that I was locked out.” Was Coleen what I would dub as a “Femme Simpatico” specialist?
TCM perennial star Fred MacMurray-in director Mitchell Leisen’s Remember The Night (1940)- is a prosecutor that graciously celebrates Christmas with shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck…However in contrast the Billy Wilder masterpiece The Apartment (1960) casts Fred as cheat Jeff Sheldrake who goes Christmas shopping in his wallet to insult and break mistress Shirley MacLaine’s heart with a crisp $100 bill- and we later see Sheldrake’s children playing with their new store bought toys around the Christmas tree in the background as Sheldrake heartlessly hears the news of Shirley’s suicide attempt instigated by the demeaning Christmas gift. It is so much fun to watch Fred’s versatility!
In master director Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) – I cannot forget the warm funny Christmas Eve tavern sequence where Jack Lemmon meets a beautiful friendly lady played to perfection by the much underrated Hope Holiday-and the ice was broken here with a shooting straw!
In the great Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life (1956}—Modest income teacher/taxi dispatcher James Mason under the influence of too high of a dose of experimental prescription drugs and 1950’s suburban Ray style boredom==shops in a high end store and buys wife Barbara Rush an expensive Technicolor glowing orange dress he cannot afford. Mason’s son whispers to his mother: “Isn’t Daddy acting a little foolish?”
After directing such tragic masterpieces as Bicycle Thieves (1948), Umberto D. (1952), and Two Woman (1960), the great Vittorio De Sica lightened up his canvas with the Oscar winning comic Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (1963) composed of three tales each with screen greats Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni playing quite different couples in different Italian locales (Naples, Milan, and Rome) directed in three unique styles. Talk about artistic diversity