Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ralph Meeker Night On TCM

I just found out that Turner Classic Movies is dedicating tonight's prime time schedule to forgotten tough guy Ralph Meeker. Meeker (1920-1988) is best known for his definitive take on Mickey Spillane's iconic detective, Mike Hammer, in 1955's Kiss Me Deadly. If you haven't seen the film, do so... now! The DVD appears to be out of print in the U.S., so TCM's your best bet.

Ralph Meeker's Mike Hammer is one bad man. He wears a naturally menacing leer on his smug mug and doesn't hesitate to manhandle an elderly desk clerk, slap, punch, and shove a thug down a flight of steps, tell a nosy old woman to shut up, or snap a valuable Caruso record in half in front of its owner's eyes. And he's the hero of the film! Kiss Me Deadly is such a dark film with some genuinely disturbing imagery. Much has been written about the film's subtext and meaning, but I avoid delving too deeply into those things because I’m tired of having my favorite films drained of their vitality through turgid analysis. I can only say that the movie is an atmospheric masterpiece, with great performances from well-known character actors (Paul Stewart, Jack Elam, Albert Dekker) rising stars (Cloris Leachman in her film debut), and unknown players (Maxine Cooper and Gaby Rogers) who seemed to exist solely within the film.

"I don't care who I pummel, just so I'm dishin' out some hurt!"

Meeker's brilliant portrayal of Mike Hammer is sacred to me. And because of his absolute mastery of this role, I have purposely avoided reading anything about his private life---wouldn't want to spoil the image (heck, Noir nasty men Dan Duryea and Richard Widmark were dedicated family men!) I have of him. So partly because of my own choosing, Ralph Meeker remains a mysterious figure to me. I never saw him in anything before I saw Kiss Me Deadly, but have seen his work in a few films, like the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle Jeopardy (1953) as well as his brief role in another gritty movie, the Frank Sinatra film, The Detective (1968). He also appears in a childhood favorite of mine, Kiss Me Deadly director Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen (1967). I’ve also seen some of his many TV appearances from the 1970s, but Ralph Meeker will forever be etched in my memory as Mike Hammer.

TCM airs Kiss Me Deadly tonight at 11:30pm (est.) along with:

I no longer get TCM and I haven't seen those last three movies, so you'll get the "Meeker Edge" on me if you see them.


  1. Aw, I was commenting on this very same night over on my journal, and my despair over not being able to watch it myself. Alas, I don't have live tv service at all, just DVDs. I usually don't regret that, until things like this come around (almost always TCM scheduling makes me want to break down and get cable again). I haven't seen Glory Alley or Big House U.S.A., really would have liked to catch those.

    Kiss Me Deadly is one of my 10 ten favorite movies, as well as The Dirty Dozen. Two movies I will never tire of and would have to take with me to the proverbial desert island.

  2. AGH! I missed Kiss Me Deadly tonight, hopefully it will be on again. Also thanks for the link for the Sex and the Single Girl soundtrack, I didn't know it was on CD, thanks so much!!

  3. DKoren: The Kiss Me Deadly DVD is also on a three-disc MGM Noir compilation, with True Confessions and IIRC, Mulholland Falls. I saw one at Borders a few months ago and at a decent price.

    Sarah: I didn't think my comment on your blog posted! I'm glad it did. The S&TSG soundtrack is a lot of fun.

  4. Ah, thanks! That's good to know about Kiss Me Deadly being out on DVD somewhere right now, as I was recommending it to a friend the other day. I do own the DVD -- my life would not be complete without that movie to watch whenever I wanted!


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