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The Scarf

The Scarf(1951)

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The Scarf (1951)

Psychology figured heavily in 1940s films noir, but a few years later it was mostly displaced by a new focus on docu-noir realism. Going against that trend is E.A. Dupont's comeback film The Scarf (1951), which deals not only in murky mental motivations, but makes its title object a catalyst for an amnesia victim to recover his lost memory. An accused murderer (John Ireland) escapes from an asylum and hides out in the desert, obtaining help from a hermit turkey farmer (James Barton). He also makes contact with singer-drifter Connie Carter (Mercedes McCambridge), whose decorative scarf bears a potent connection to his criminal past. English actor-writer Emlyn Williams is the psychiatrist Ireland goes to for help, not knowing that the cultured man is the source of all his problems. Director/co-writer Dupont was a famous director of silent films in Germany. His film is both stylish and stylized. None of the main characters seem to have a stable place in the world, and more than one has a habit of spouting cumbersome philosophy. The real attraction in The Scarf is the dynamic actress Mercedes McCambridge, John Ireland's co-star from the Academy Award- winning All the King's Men (1949). Her character is a singing waitress and possible prostitute known as 'Cash & Carry Connie.' Probably too hard-edged for 1951 audiences, McCambridge's performance has been criticized as camp by latter-day critics, possibly in light of the actress's later preference for edgy roles, like her creepy drug pusher in Orson Welles' 1958 Touch of Evil. Cameraman Franz Planer gives The Scarf an unusually rich B&W sheen, credited in part to his use of a custom-built 'Garutso Lens' that is very sharp yet yields an enhanced depth of field in night photography. The lens system impressed the technically adept director Robert Wise, who employed it for his excellent crime expos noir The Captive City (1952).

By Glenn Erickson

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