Noir 100 at the Brattle ~ The Sleeping City (1950)


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.

7 comments:

  1. Looks good! I'll have to keep an eye out for it and check it out when I get a chance.

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  2. If you keep writing about the Brattle, I might have to move to Massachusetts. At least buy a summer home there. LOL. The Sleeping City is one of my favourites. I always thought Richard Conte was perfect as the detective. He just has this world weary air about him!

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  3. Sounds good! I'll keep my eyes open for it, I've never heard of it. Nice leads.

    I'm hoping to get back to the Egyptian in Hollywood for an "old" movie this month...fingers crossed!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  4. i saw this film one time about 20 years ago on AMC i think. i recall it being solid but nothing to get exited about. i do like Richard Conte though but would prefer to see him in House of Strangers or I'll Cry Tomorrow. must be great to see these flicks on the big screen!!! when i lived in CT i would go to Trinity college to see old films, saw a bunch there including my first time seeing The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider and Faster Pussycat...Kill Kill!

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  5. Your blog frustrates me, because you have seen so much that I haven't seen - and in fact, wouldn't even know how to find!

    Keep up the great work!

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  6. Kid - that is the oddest compliment I've ever received. Thank you.

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  7. Nice write-up of a solid overlooked film, Raquelle. It has a creepy atmosphere and I liked Conte and Gray in it. It's good to see her play darker characters. I saw The Sleeping City at the Film Forum in New York a few years ago. Conte has always been one of my faves and I seek his films out.

    It would have been interesting if Conte had played Don Corleone in The Godfather. I know he was one of many actors considered. It would have seemed like his tough guy filmography would have been a kind of visual "backstory" for his interpretation. At least in his few scenes as Don Barzini, he was able to pack a considerable punch, just from the way he smoked a cigarette or tore up the photographer's film pack.

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