The last film in the Brattle's Noir 100 series was The Sleeping City (1950). My good friend Kevin and I got a chance to see this last night. I had come to the film only with the knowledge that it was a noir starring Richard Conte. I had no understanding of the plot. And by the time I got to Harvard Square to meet with Kevin for dinner, I had completely forgotten the name of the film. This may seem strange to some people but one of my favorite ways to watch new films is to come to them completely ignorant. Everything about the film-watching experience is a surprise. I come to it with no previous expectations or preconceived notions. My reception of the story starts off as a complete blank allowing the directors, producers, cinematographers, writers, costume designers, actors, actresses and everyone else involved in the creation of the movie an opportunity to take their paintbrushes and paint the story for me on a nice clean canvas.
The Sleeping City (1950) is directed by George Sherman and stars Richard Conte. Conte starts off the film with a documentary-style introduction telling the audience about the famous Bellevue Hospital in New York. This intro serves as a reality check to the audience (it's just a movie folks, it didn't really happen!). However, in one way the intro is misleading. You think the film will be a synecdoche in that this smaller story will in some way represent the bigger picture; the significance of a hospital and the lives of its doctors and nurses. But it doesn't. What it does do is focus on the story at hand. This film was evenly paced with the story sucking you in at the very beginning and spitting you out only at the very end. The plot goes along at a decent clip.
So what the heck is this movie about? Glad you asked...
An intern from Bellevue has just been shot at close range and murdered in broad daylight. No one knows who did it. The local police recruit a detective, Frank Rowan (Richard Conte), who has some medical experience to pose as an intern and work at the hospital in order to derive clues about the murder from the other doctors and nurses. He gets in deep, romancing pretty nurse Ann (Coleen Gray), befriending disturbed intern Steve (Alex Nicol) and gambling with hospital worker Pop (Richard Taber). But when another person is murdered, can he find the killer before he becomes the next target?
If you get a chance to see this film, please do. It's not available on DVD so lucky schmucks like myself, Kevin and the 20+ other people at the theater last night got a real treat.
Special thank you to Kevin for coming with me to this film. Watching movies with you is always a pleasure.