Fritz Lang – The Blue Gardenia (1953)

Not having watched a film since seeing Erie Satie’s and René Clair’s 1924 challenging collaboration on Entr’acte, two months ago, it seemed appropriate to return to the activity with Fritz Lang, the author of the masterful film, M.

Anne Baxter (Courtesy: www.chicagoreader.com)

Anne Baxter (Courtesy: http://www.chicagoreader.com)

The Blue Gardenia is one of Lang’s Hollywood films, made in 1953, in the same year as The Big Heat. There are always attributes of interest in Lang’s film. In The Blue Gardenia, it is the black and white cinematography, the peculiar juxtaposition of Nat King Cole and the Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, the scene with the blind paper gardenia seller in the Polynesian restaurant, and a cast predominantly female (Baxter, Ann Southern, Jeff Donnell), with particularly fine acting by Anne Baxter.

Anne Baxter and Raymond Burr at The Blue Gardenia (Courtesy: www.cinemaadhoc.info)

R Anne Baxter and Raymond Burr at The Blue Gardenia (Courtesy: http://www.cinemaadhoc.info)

These are without a screenplay of any particular coherence, menace, or suspense. But Lang still manages to give it narrative pace. And the locations are stereotypically American: cars filling the Los Angeles streets during the opening credits, a rental flat impossibly large in which the trio of women resides, a restaurant that serves massive quantities of food and has aisles large enough for southern debutantes to waltz in, beautiful clothes for telephone switchboard operators, the mandatory skyscrapers with a newspaper dealer in the lobby, and several plantations’ worth of cigarettes.

Los Angeles (Courtesy: www.imcdb.org)

Los Angeles (Courtesy: http://www.imcdb.org)

All said, I rather regretted it came to its end. And how it came to the end. Raymond Burr is the villain, Richard Conte is the hypocrite. I should like the former’s artist’s studio, and the latter’s pay for newspaper columns and fully subsidized travel.

Coffees and two hamburgers cost $1.40 at Bill’s Beanery, where the ink-stained and drink-besotted newspaper reporters hang out. Bill is the mortician of truth.

Anne Baxter and Richard Conte at Bill's Beanery (Courtesy: www.viennale.at)

Anne Baxter and Richard Conte at Bill’s Beanery (Courtesy: http://www.viennale.at)

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