Fritz Lang, the monocle wearing “Master of Darkness” and director of the Steampunk masterpiece * “Metropolis” could also churn out some melodramatic clunkers.
After “fleeing” Berlin with all his moola intact, Fritzy decamped in Paris, then Hollywood in 1936. His first American film “Fury”, instantly cemented his auteur status.
In the years that followed, Lang, more than any other director, influenced the development of film noir style in America. Lang’s dour, depressing, dark depiction of life combined with the sheer volume of flickage set the mode. What set Lang apart from a lot of other dour, dark and depressing German directors was his ability to make his films suspenseful and watchable.
Beginning in 1944 with Ministry of Fear, Lang cranked out an astounding list of notable noirs including: Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, Secret Behind the Door, Rancho Notorious, Clash by Night, The Big Heat, Human Desire, and While the City Sleeps.
The Blue Gardenia was shot the same year as The Big Heat, 1953. But it’s almost a parlor game to try to figure out how Lang’s film noir masterpiece has in common with The Blue Gardenia. Was Lang really so hog-tied by 20-day shooting schedule for Gardenia and the cheap-ass budget provided by Alex “Abbott & Costello” Gottlieb that his prep was off? Was he saddled with the wrong cast?
Raymond Burr is delicious as the slimy playboy. But Anne Baxter just isn’t a “working girl”. Baxter, like Katherine Hepburn, oozes society spawn* out of her pores. Later, she would be able exploit her background to her advantage. As the saccharine, scheming, affected Eve Harrington she is divine in All About Eve. And, in The Ten Commandments who else could regally compete in the ham-off between Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston? Moses..Moses..MMMMoses…
Lang lovers extoll the virtues of this rag trade trilogy flick and it’s “savage” commentary” on the modern age. His last great noir. Shot in newspaper grey. Blah. Blah Blah. I don’t know. Fritzy’s films with the nasty devil dames and amoral cops are just so much fun!
Mint/Near Mint. The Blue Gardenia, 1953. Original vintage Half Sheet. Expert restoration. Paper backed. A few fine wrinkles have been almost invisibly repaired. Colors like new.
*German expressionist to the criterati.
*Actually, Baxter is the grand-daughter of Frank Lloyd Wright and attended an extremely exclusive all-girls private school in New York City, The Brearley School.