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Friday, May 25, 2018

TCM's Film Noir of the Week at Midnight ET Saturday Night-Sunday Morning (and 10 a.m. Sunday) is The Clay Pigeon (1949)

 

 

By David in TN
Friday, May 25, 2018 at 1:28:00 A.M. ED

 

 

TCM's Film Noir of the Week at Midnight ET Saturday Night-Sunday Morning (and 10 a.m. Sunday) is The Clay Pigeon (1949).

The Clay Pigeon has an angle seen in several late 40's film noirs—the amnesiac WW II veteran, aka “amnesia noir.” In this one, the vet is accused of treason, while in a Japanese POW camp. He wakes up in a Navy hospital under guard but escapes, and goes on the run.

 

Bill Williams and Marya Marco
 

Bill Williams stars as the veteran. Barbara Hale, Williams' real-life wife, teams with him to find the truth. Richard Loo, the movies’ favorite Japanese bad guy, plays a Japanese prison camp guard now in the USA living in Los Angeles, involved in a criminal gang. This sadistic guard was called "The Weasel" by the American prisoners.
 

 

Richard Fleischer directed with his usual style of getting a lot of action in a 63-minute film.

Richard Loo's character is obviously based on Tomoya Kawakita, who was a Nisei who went to Japan in 1939 and was employed (as were several Japanese-Americans) as guards, who generally were as brutal as the others. Kawakita was called the "Meatball" by the American prisoners.

 


Fictional bad guys played by Robert Bray and Richard Loo
 


The real Tomoya Kawakita in Los Angeles County Jail, 1947
 

Kawakita reentered the United States after the war. He was spotted by a former POW in Los Angeles, who took down Kawakita's license plate, leading to his arrest and trial for treason. This was in the news when The Clay Pigeon was made.

Kawakita was convicted of treason and sentenced to death, which was commuted in 1953. Kawakita was paroled and deported to Japan 10 years later, on the condition he not come back.

Google "Tomoya Kawakita" for information on the case.

The Clay Pigeon repeats at 10 a.m. ET Sunday, May 27. Let's see if our friend Eddie Muller mentions Kawakita, aka "The Meatball," being the inspiration for Richard Loo's "The Weasel."
 

 

N.S.: Nota bene: If not for Barbara Hale’s persistence, and the help of B-film director Edward Killy, Hale and Williams would never have gotten hitched.

Hale on her marriage to Bill Williams: “It took me two years to talk him into marrying me.”

Hale on making B-oater, West of the Pecos (1945):

“I told the director, Edward Killy, about casting a smaller role in the film for Bill Williams. Killy was sort of a stocky man, and had a cigar. He was a short man, and that cigar was about as big as he was . . . He smoked all the time! But he said, ‘Sure, Barb, I'll get Bill Williams up here in Lone Pine.’ He knew I had a crush on Bill. So Killy said, "I'll give him one scene at the beginning of the shoot and another at the end of the picture, so Bill can stay the whole time!’ That was so nice of him.”

Hale and Williams married on June 22, 1946, and remained wed for 46 years, until death they did part, on September 21, 1992. Although Hale would live another 24 years, until she died at 94 on January 26, 2017, she never wed again.

I'm reminded of what Nancy Barbato Sinatra, now 101, once said when a reporter asked her why she never remarried, after divorcing Frank Sinatra: "When you've had the best, all the rest are disappointments."
 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

" Kawakita was paroled and deported to Japan 10 years later, on the condition he not come back."


Shoulda gotten the death penalty and been executed.

Nicholas said...

Absolutely.

David In TN said...

TCM's Film Noir of the Week at Midnight ET Saturday Night-Sunday Morning (and 10 am Sunday) is The Letter (1940).

This is one of Bette Davis' best roles. She plays the unfaithful wife a rubber plantation manager in what appears to be Malaya circa 1930. The film begins with Davis emptying a revolver into a man she claims was sexually assaulting her.

The police don't believe it and arrest her for murder. James Stephenson plays her lawyer-family friend who is approached by blackmailers with a letter indicating the man she killed was her lover.

Stephenson reluctantly breaks ethical rules and buys the letter from the victim's Eurasian wife played by Gale Sondergaard. The plot is a complex mystery.

Bette Davis chews the scenery with Stephenson the conflicted attorney, Herbert Marshall as the cuckolded husband and Victor Sen Young as Stephenson's tricky sometimes assistant.

The Letter repeats at 10 am ET Sunday morning, June 3.