Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong describe what it takes to make real jazz music. They perform the Cole Porter song, “Now You Has Jazz,” on “The Edsel Show” on October 13, 1957.
Among the many Public Domain movies available, one of the most entertaining is Behind Green Lights. In fact, pure entertainment appears to be exactly what the film strives for. The plot is rather convoluted and complex for it’s one-hour run time. It involves a rather implausible blackmail plot that hinges on a flower lady, a corrupt medical examiner and the beautiful daughter of the reform candidate for mayor in an unnamed city.
This is a movie that fits securely within the Hollywood studio system, produced at a time when movies were among America’s most important entertainment media. In the year of this film’s release, more than 90 million American’s attended movies weekly.
Attending movies in 1946 was an entire evening’s entertainment. American’s expected and received more than a single movie for their $.25 admission (under $5.00 adjusted for 2020 inflation). On their night out, American’s watched a major feature picture, perhaps some cartoons and newsreels, and often, a second “feature.”
In these years, the movie studio system was at its financial and productive peak. It ground out pictures to fill demand and drove the abundance of talent and resources available in Hollywood at the time to its limit. Even low-budget, B-features used sets, production designers, hair and wardrobe pro’s, lighting designers, writers and even directors, available as needed.
Behind Green Lights benefits from the excellent studio production system and is solidly entertaining as a result. Snappy dialog, evocative lighting, eye-catching sets, striking costumes and make-up all display the best craftmanship of the period. Carole Landis is beautiful, uncannily put together and composed. William Gargan is past his prime, but a solid professional actor in an engaging. Almost fatherly role. A multitude of character actors fill out the cast.
The plot is less important that the series of set pieces that form the bulk of the movie. Reporters, crime victims, police, lawyers, come and go and perform small entertaining “bits” that fill out the hour-long movie. When finished, a murder is solved, love blossoms, and life goes on as “normal.”
There are no deep lessons to be learned, no psychological insights to be found, no real meaningful ideas expressed, just an hour of solid entertainment provided by outstanding professionals at the height of their power. The current day equivalent might be an average weekly episode of NCIS or Chicago P.D., something to be enjoyed as leisure.
This is comfort food. It is a good time had by all. Enjoy these fine performances for what they are; the American movie studio system doing what it is really good at, providing fine entertainment.
Past Entertainment Feature Film
Beyond Green Lights
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