Saturday, November 1, 2008

Life Imitates Art (Again)


First of all, nobody who appeared in this film ever dropped anyone off the side of a building! However, there's an important plot point in Manhandled (1949) that involves a "slip of the lip" which would later haunt one of the film's stars in real life. Manhandled's plot concerns a nasty private investigator, Karl Benson (Dan Duryea) who is hot for his boardinghouse neighbor, psychiatrist's secretary Merl Kramer (Dorothy Lamour). After Merl gently refuses Karl's unwanted advances, she blabbers about a patient(!), an unemployed writer who that day told Merl's psychiatrist boss about a dream he had where he kills his wealthy wife for her jewels. Inspired, Karl develops a plot to steal the jewels and and frame Merl for the murder of the writer's wife. It's up to good-guy insurance investigator Joe Cooper (Sterling Hayden) to save the day.

"Why don't you quit yer cryin' and get me some bourbon."


In a sad case of life imitating art, Manhandled star Sterling Hayden's own psychiatrist (in contrast to Lamour's rather innocent "loose lips" moment in the film) would inform on Hayden to the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) a huge violation of doctor-patient confidentiality that was typical of the Noir era. Hayden ended up testifying and "named names." To his credit, Hayden later wrote in his autobiography Wanderer (still in print!): "I don't think you have the foggiest notion of the contempt I have had for myself since the day I did that thing." In an interview later in life, Hayden sarcastically commented, "I castigated myself the way any proper person should." Ironically, Hayden was a patriot, joining the OSS (Office of Strategic Services; later known as the C.I.A.) before Pearl Harbor and operated as a gunrunner, helping Yugoslav partisans against occupying Nazi forces and earned the Silver Star for bravery. The fact that the partisans were Communists (and United States allies) didn't matter in those dark days after World War II, when paranoia and fear ruled the day.

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2 comments:

  1. Again, interesting stuff! I didn't know anything about Sterling Hayden...

    I want to see MANHANDLED. I have a strange crush on Dan Duryea. :)

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  2. When paranoia and fear ruled the day? Hell, that could be today. Anyway, thanks for posting that. I didn't know that little tidbit. It cheers my heart!

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