Pulp Fiction Thursday: Road House

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m featuring the 1948 film noir Road House, not the 1989 Patrick Swayze hit of the same name. The Swayze movie was more fun that a ferret down your trousers but it’s not pulp fiction. 1948’s Road House is the real deal.

Road House was originally called Jefty’s Bar:

Jefty was a spoiled brat who inherited the road house from his father. He’s played by Richard Widmark in his smirking, cackling villain mode. But he’s more of a malignant narcissist than the sort of full-tilt psychotic villain he played in Kiss Of Death. Jefty would have shot the old dame in the wheelchair instead of making like Tommy Udo:

Jefty is, however, willing to frame his bestie, played by Cornel Wilde. The reason: Ida Lupino who played the glamorous songbird who Jefty hired to class up the joint.

Class it up she did with this song by Randy Newman’s Uncle Lionel and Dorcas Cochran:

Ida was quite a canary when she wanted to be,

Jefty’s Road House was quite a joint with a bar, restaurant, and even a bowling alley. That’s where Wilde and Lupino fell in love. That’s right, they were bowling. Ida somehow made it sexy:

I don’t recommend smoking while bowling. In fact, I don’t recommend smoking at all, but everyone did it in 1948. It was considered sexy, not stinky.

The French circa 1948 did not agree with me. Here’s what they called Road House there:

Back to the villain of the piece. Widmark’s Jefty was a gun nut who enjoyed brandishing his weapons:

His gun love proves to be his undoing. Jefty also failed to understand the first rule of movies: The two best-looking people in a film always wind up together. Nobody was prettier than Cornel Wilde or Ida Lupino just as nobody laughed like Richard Widmark.

Road House was beautifully directed by the journeyman Romanian Jean Negulesco with a fine script by another guy with an Eastern European name, Edward Chodorov.

I neglected to mention the presence of Celeste Holm in the cast. She was always an indicator of quality.

Grading Time: Road House was a rare big budget film noir with stars in the cast. It lived up to its budget. I give it 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A-.

FWIW, I give Road House 1989 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.

The first part of this soundbite would have never worked with Jefty:

Pulp Fiction Thursday began life as a visual feature, so let’s get arty.

We begin with the one sheet poster with Widmark looking saner that he did in the movie.

It’s time for some color lobby cards for this black and white film noir.

What did I tell you about Wilde and Lupino? They were gorgeous thereby destined to end up together. They weren’t just decorative objects:  Both had notable careers as directors of independent films.

Here’s Jefty chatting up Lupino whilst fondling his rifle.

Notwithstanding the glossy freeze frame image on the video, the trailer is in glorious black and white.

Finally, a TCM tribute to Ida Lupino:

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