Cast & Crew
As Lily Krenshka is hauled into a small town police station for soliciting drinks at a bar, Max West, a down-and-out alcoholic photographer, snaps her picture. After the local constabulary orders Lily to leave town on the next bus, she begs Max to give her the photo he shot, and he agrees on the condition that she accompany him to his apartment, where he can safely extract the negatives from his camera. Lily, a brassy blonde suspicious of all men, is surprised when the elderly Max offers her a short-term assignment posing as a bathing suit model and then invites her to spend the night on his couch. When Max recalls his glory days as a society photographer, Lily asks him to teach her his trade, but he insists that she follow the police edict and leave town the next morning. The next day, however, a customer phones the sleeping Max about a job, and Lily takes charge and begins to promote his career. In gratitude, Max teaches Lily everything he knows, and months later, when she decides to strike out on her own in New York, Max suggests that she change her name to the more elegant Lila Crane. Outside the Allied News Service building in New York, Lily meets reporter Russell Bassett when the two collide in a revolving door. When Lily mentions that she has been unable to find a job, Russ advises her to snap some exclusive pictures of a breaking news story. Hearing sirens in the distance one evening, Lily takes Russ's advice and follows them to the scene of a raging fire. When Lily recklessly tempts the flame to get a close-up, Russ sweeps her out of the way of some burning debris and then offers her the use of Allied News' darkroom to develop her negative. Russ also provides Lily with an introduction to Les Bauer, the owner of a sleazy nightclub, and helps her find a room in a cheap hotel. After Les hires Lily to work as a "flash girl" at his club, gossip columnist Roy Carver offers to pay her for snapping incriminating photographs of the patrons. When Roy instructs Lily to take a photo of mob lawyer Horace Sutherland and his mistress, Lily takes the portrait to Sutherland herself, having learned that Sutherland's boss, gangster Frank Backlin, is investing in the Club Coco, a high-class nightclub that is opening soon. Threatening Sutherland with the photo, Lily convinces him to give her the photo concession at the club. Soon after, Russ returns from an assignment and informs Lily that Allied plans to hire her as a staff photographer. When the ambitious Lily refuses to relinquish her lucrative position at the nightclub, Russ chides her for choosing to work for a gangster. One night, Mrs. Payton Grange, a grand old society dowager whom Max once photographed, comes to the club. Mrs. Grange has refused to be photographed for years, but relents when Lily asks if she can take a picture for Max. Mrs. Grange is so pleased with her portrait that she agrees to let Lily publish it, thus launching her career. One year later, Lily is still striving to reach the top although she has achieved acclaim as a society photographer. Overwhelmed with work, Lily sends for Max to be her assistant. Soon after, Russ invites Lily to go to Maine with him, but she scoffs that she is too busy to take a vacation. At the club one night, a prominent judge asks Lily to shoot his picture, but when a dancer bumps into her, her framing is thrown off. Later, when she develops the film, she notices two strange men standing in the background. The next day, Coco Fields, the club's manager, phones Lily and instructs her to testify that she spent the night with Backlin, who has been accused of killing one of his associates the previous evening. Upon reexamining the misframed photo, Lily realizes that Backlin and his murdered associate are pictured in the background. Unnerved, Lily goes to Russ in Maine, but when he asks her to marry him and work as photographer on his new assignment as foreign correspondent, she refuses to resign her job at the club. After Russ angrily departs, Lily returns to the city alone. On the night of Mrs. Grange's birthday party at the Club Coco, Lily is in the midst of shooting a commemorative photograph when Mrs. Grange collapses and dies. After Lily rejects Roy's offer to buy the print, he steals the negative and publishes it. Thinking that Lily violated Mrs. Grange's trust, Coco fires her, and soon all her clients follow suit. When even Russ refuses to believe her pleas of innocence. Lily decides to get even with them all and offers to sell Sutherland Backlin's incriminating photograph for $25,000. After Backlin's thugs kidnap Lily, Russ finds a copy of the photo addressed to Max, instructing him to go to the police if anything happens to her. Alarmed, Russ hurries to Lily's apartment and is met by one of Backlin's goons. After throwing incendiary chemicals in the man's eyes, Russ forces him to reveal that Lily is being held prisoner at a trucking company warehouse. Russ bravely overpowers Lilays abductors, and having finally learned her lesson, she presents the police with the incriminating photo and then renounces her glamorous career to marry Russ.
Edna M. Holland
Helen Eby Rock
Diane De Laire
Robert B. Willaims
Lewis J. Rachmil
Abner E. Singer
Cleo Moore, Janis Carter and Ida Lupino Are Among the Stars of Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2
Made at the height of the noir years, 1946's Night Editor is formatted to be the first of a series of "Night Editor" movies, all consisting of stories told over a card table by the night crew in a newspaper office. No sequels were made using this radio-show format, but the device was successfully adapted for Jules Dassin's classic noir The Naked City. The flashback tale of a guilty detective is solid noir material, but the framing story reduces it to a wholesome life lesson for a young reporter: extramarital affairs are poison.
Married Detective Tony Cochrane (William Gargan) is parked with his society girlfriend Jill Merrill (Janis Carter) when they witness the murder of a young woman. Jill prevents Tony from apprehending the killer, as the scandal will destroy his marriage, and possibly his career. Tony stands by helplessly while his friends on the force mistakenly arrest an innocent man for the crime. The detective identifies a bank executive as the guilty party but cannot interest the DA, who happens to be a personal friend of the accused. Tony then discovers that Jill is conniving to keep Tony's hands tied in the matter. With the innocent man about to be executed, Tony will have to do act swiftly to prevent a terrible miscarriage of justice ... for which he bears full responsibility.
Night Editor is a familiar tale of a policeman compromised by a wicked woman, in this case the beautiful and irredeemable Jill. Icy blonde Janis Carter is yet another fine noir actress granted few opportunities to show what she can do. She almost exclusively played duplicitous women, as in Framed, I Love Trouble and The Woman on Pier 13. Jill Merrill is a skilled manipulator of men. When we see her holding an ice pick near the finale, we know Tony's in big trouble.
Director Henry Levin generates some interest for Tony Cochrane's dilemma but beefy William Gargan plays the straying, dull-witted cop as easy prey and not particularly sympathetic. Burnett Guffey creates attractive images but the low-end Columbia production has a claustrophobic feel. Yet Night Editor remains an exemplary slice of noir: Janis Carter's dead-on classic femme fatale earns the movie a solid B+.
One Girl's Confession (1953) introduces DVD both to the obscure auteur Hugo Haas and his most notable leading lady, Cleo Moore. Czech emigré Haas was an accomplished writer, director and actor who won character parts in Hollywood films before beginning a strange cycle of sordid dramas about tarnished women and older men, usually played by himself. Although Haas' micro-budgeted films gained little initial attention beyond critical jabs at Ms. Moore's limited acting ability, they're due for rediscovery -- even the worst has a worthy plot twist or two.
Waitress Mary Adams (Cleo Moore) steals $25,000 from her employer, who cheated her father into an early grave. Although she refuses to give back the money, she serves only three years of her sentence and takes up a new waitressing job for immigrant gambler Dragomie Damitrof (Hugo Haas), who soon becomes a good friend. Mary wants to recover her buried loot to help Johnny, a local fisherman (Glenn Langan) but isn't sure who she should trust. Then Dragomie gambles away everything he owns, including his café. Mary sends her employer to dig up her money; when he returns he says he couldn't find it. When Mary sees Dragomie driving a new car and giving parties in a swank apartment, her only desire is revenge.
One Girl's Confession comes on as an exploitation quickie promising a "hot" performance by the sexy Moore, who has a habit of showing off her profile in tight sweaters. Noir fans will certainly remember Moore as a sultry dame interrogated by Robert Ryan in Nicholas Ray's classic On Dangerous Ground. The unhappy blonde is accustomed to being propositioned: "Men are all alike, their faces are just different so you can tell them apart." After a history of betrayal by men of all ages, Mary is a somewhat incompatible mix of disillusionment and naïveté. Although not the most expressive actress, Cleo Moore brings cold beauty and a warm smile to the role, and allows her performance to be shaped by director Haas in a sub-Sternbergian fashion.
Despite some gaping lapses in logic, the show shapes up as a morality tale in miniature, where even the moral is of no great consequence. Cleo Moore apparently lured enough lonely men into theaters, to merit her return in a series of Columbia films, including several more by Hugo Haas.
Cleo Moore is part of the ensemble cast of Women's Prison, which could be the template for 101 trashy babes-behind-bars epics to follow. In 1955 the concept was still associated with the classy Warners drama Caged. The mostly female cast is comprised of well-regarded star names, most of whom were probably freelancing after being cut loose by the crumbling studio system. In keeping with the antiseptic fifties, this brightly lit prison is clean and staffed with mostly sympathetic matrons. There's nothing wrong with the system, as the burden of villainy is carried by two bad-apple wardens.
Convicted for manslaughter by automobile, the already traumatized Helene Jensen (Phyllis Thaxter) becomes hysterical when subjected to the harsh solitary confinement given all new inmates at the women's prison. Only the intercession of kindly Doctor Crane (Howard Duff) prevents the sadistic women's warden Amelia van Zandt (Ida Lupino) from punishing Helene further. The more experienced inmates offer Helene protection: Brenda (Jan Sterling of Ace in the Hole), Mae (Cleo Moore) and Joan (Audrey Totter of Tension). Joan's husband Glen (Warren Stevens) is incarcerated just across a wall in the same facility, and is continually looking for excuses to cross to the other side to see her. Van Zandt continues to abuse the prisoners, and Dr. Crane can't get the do-nothing supervising warden Brock (Barry Kelley) to do anything about it. Glen's discovery of a way to sneak to the women's side results in Joan getting pregnant, which pushes van Zandt over the edge. When the inmates learn that Joan has been severely beaten, a cell block riot breaks out.
Women's Prison is also not a true noir but merely a spicy potboiler about caged women, where the only real steam comes from the pressing machines in the laundry room. The main characters are given fairly good dialogue, with saucy Jan Sterling afforded the best lines. Former MGM wartime sweetheart Phyllis Thaxter is reduced to screaming fits by the warden's perverted methods. Dr. Crane tells van Zandt to her face that she's a sexually frustrated psychopath, a scene that carries considerable camp value considering that Ms. Lupino was Mrs. Duff at the time. In contrast to later exploitation efforts, Women's Prison has no lesbian angle and no shower scenes; we instead get celebrity impersonations, and gospel songs from a group of black inmates led by Juanita Moore.
The impressively produced Over-Exposed (1956) wrings the most out of a tiny budget and benefits from a script that gives star Cleo Moore a real character to play. Although burdened with typical 1950s-era values -- no decent woman prefers a career over marriage -- the movie shapes up as satisfying entertainment.
Nightclub girl Lily Krenshka (Cleo Moore) is caught in a police raid but avoids being run out of town when the elderly photographer Max West (Raymond Greenleaf) takes her in. Lily helps Max kick his drinking habit and uses her B-Girl wiles to help him sell more photos; soon the studio is on its feet again and Lily has learned the photography trade. Under the new name Lila Crane, she goes to the big city and meets reporter Russell Bassett (Richard Crenna), who helps her make a sale or two. Taking a job as a photo girl in a restaurant, Lila works an angle between a columnist and a gangster to land a lucrative photo girl position at the fanciest eatery in town. Turning on the charm, she meets people who help make her a famous name with commercial clients and even a guest spot on a TV show. Lila turns down Russell's offer of an "honest" position as both his news photographer and his wife -- but gets in a tight spot with the criminal element that helped kick-start her career.
Over-Exposed is a great showcase for the underappreciated Cleo Moore, as her tramp-turned slick businesswoman shows her off in several modes -- the hard girl on the street, the perky model, the successful artist. Lila Crane uses the tricks she learned to hustle drinks to cajole smiles out of customers and cooperation from rich matrons. Her experience also comes in handy when negotiating with the powerful and the unscrupulous. Unlike Mildred Pierce, Lila is only after material success. If she were a man, her ambitions would be celebrated. The film makes an interesting statement about the economic liberation of women, at least until the conventional ending.
Although the film lacks impressive visuals and directorial touches, its leading lady is always attractively photographed. Much maligned as a Marilyn Monroe wanna-be, Ms. Moore is deserving of her cult status.
Sony's Bad Girls of Film Noir Volume 2 is another assemblage of pristine-quality transfers. The two newest B&W films are encoded in enhanced widescreen. Trailers have been located for every title save Night Editor. An additional extra is a 1954 Ford Television Theater show entitled Remember to Live. Cleo Moore plays to type as a cheap neighborhood vamp who distracts returning Korean War vet Dane Clark from the wholesome girl he really belongs with, Barbara Hale.
For more information about Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2, visit Sony Pictures. To order Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Cleo Moore, Janis Carter and Ida Lupino Are Among the Stars of Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 2
Richard Crenna, 1927-2002
Born on November 30, 1927 in Los Angeles, California, Crenna was the son of a pharmacist father and a mother who managed a number of small hotels in the Los Angles area the family owned, where Crenna was raised. At the tender age of 11, he was encouraged by a teacher to audition for a radio show, "Boy Scout Jamboree" at the nearby KFI-AM radio studio. Little did he realize that it would be the start of a very long and prosperous career.
Crenna found steady radio work for the next several years, culminating in 1948 with his breakthrough role of the goofy, squeaky-voiced Walter Denton in the hit radio series Our Miss Brooks. Crenna carried the momentum of his success to television when he spent four more seasons as Walter on Our Miss Brooks (1952-1956). Almost immediately after the run of that show, Crenna scored another hit series as Luke McCoy in the rustic comedy The Real McCoys (1957-1963) co-starring Walter Brennan.
Although he had been acting in films since the early '50s Crenna roles didn't come to critical notice until the mid '60s, appearing in Robert Wise's acclaimed The Sand Pebbles (1966) as the stalwart gunboat captain co-starring Steve McQueen; Terence Young's intense thriller, Wait Until Dark (1967), as a criminal who terrorizes a blind Audrey Hepburn; and another Robert Wise film, the Gertrude Lawrence biopic Star! (1968) playing the high profile role of Richard Aldrich opposite Julie Andrews.
Crenna's profile slowed down in the '70s, despite a brief return to television comedy in Norman Lear's political satire All's Fair (1976-1977) with Bernadette Peters. That show may not have lasted long, but Crenna bounced back with a resurgence in the '80s with a string of hit character parts: Lawrence Kasden's stylish film noir Body Heat (1981), as Kathleen Turner's ill-fated husband; Ted Kotchoff's hit Rambo: First Blood (1982), as Colonel Samuel Trautman, Sylvester Stallone's former Commander; Gary Marshall's excellent coming-of-age tale The Flamingo Kid (1984), one of his best performances (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination) as a smooth, charismatic gin-rummy champ who takes Matt Dillon under his tutelage; and many other quality roles in theatrical and made for television movies.
At the time of his death, Crenna was a member of the Screen Actors Guild board of directors and had a recurring role in the hit CBS dramatic series Judging Amy. In addition to Penni, his wife of 47 years, Crenna is survived by a son, Richard, two daughters, Seana and Maria, and three granddaughters.
by Michael T. Toole
Richard Crenna, 1927-2002
According to a May 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, star Cleo Moore asked for and obtained a release from her Columbia contract because she was upset at having to turn down several loan-outs due to the fact that the studio pressed her into conducting an extensive personal appearance tour for Over-Exposed.