Road House (Fox, 1948) D: Jean Negulesco, w/ Ida Lupino, Richard Widmark. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Moontide (Fox, 1942) D: Archie Mayo, w/ Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Harder boiled than Ida Lupino they don't come. She's got the downtrodden, defences-up, whiskey-and-cigarettes voice and a bottomless well of world-weary indifference even Bogart would envy. A long English stage career made her a subtle and versatile actor well before she hit Hollywood.
As Lily Stevens, Lupino shows up to sing at the titular gin mill with nothing on her mind but doing the job. She isn't selling sex, but that doesn't deter bad boy Jefty (Richard Widmark) or good boy Pete (Cornel Wilde). Rivalry and betrayal ensue, and Widmark lifts off to the kind of high-energy performance he'd developed the year before in Kiss Of Death.
According to commentators Eddie Muller and Kim Morgan, Widmark in Kiss Of Death created the template for the modern American movie psychopath. Muller has done a lot of these Fox Noir commentaries. Alone, he's informative but too much the fanboy. Morgan enlivens the party considerably with her happily sexual take on the characters and her feminist view of Lupino.
Lupino shows up in Moontide, too, but the movie really belongs to Jean Gabin, France's biggest star then and for a long time afterward. He did Pépé Le Moko, La Grande Illusion, La Bête Humaine and Le Jour Se Lève. Gabin hated Hollywood. He did a couple of movies and went back home to fight the Nazis.
True to his established persona, he plays a rough working man, tough, sentimental, thoughtful and prone to violence. He's as great a movie star as anyone you've ever seen.
The movie has some fine acting and waterfront atmosphere, but the story isn't much. Lupino is the down-and-outer Gabin falls for, but his weaselly friend Tiny (a great portrayal by character actor Thomas Mitchell) has other plans.
Commentator Foster Hirsch does a solid job on Gabin in Hollywood and Moontide's troubled production history.
EXTRAS Road House: Muller and Kim commentary, appreciation doc, promo materials gallery. Full-frame, b&w. English, French, Spanish subtitles. Moontide: commentary, making-of doc. Full-frame, b&w. English, French, Spanish subtitles.