I Walk Alone (1947)

I Walk Alone (1949) is a bold, fun and fast-moving flick with a truly film noir title.

It's a strong exemplar of the film noir style, even if it isn't held up as the one of the greats.

Frankie gets out of prison and after being triggered by the sight if some shadows at the station which remind him of prison bars, he heads down to Broadway ― it looks the same he says. 

But his pal isn’t so sure. The first early signs of the fast-bending steel of the film noir male, here beautifully and memorably played by Burt Lancaster, is one minute in, when he says angrily, and almost to himself  . . . that it better be the same.

It is not of course, the same. The war, and prison, similarly dealt with and both brutal and emotional in their transformative violence . . . these have changed everything. 

The war and prison have more in common that Burt Lancaster's sympathetic and tragic expression. And if one can be in one for the purposes of entertainment, one can certainly be in the other.

Bosley Crowther, film critic for the New York Times, seems to have not been aware of this, and gave the film a negative review, also pointing out that the film may have violated the Motion Picture Production Code. 

He wrote, on Jan 22nd 1948. in the New York Times: "It is notable that the slant of sympathy is very strong toward the mug who did the "stretch," as though he were some kind of martyr. Nice thing! Producer Hal Wallis should read the Code."

Burt Lancaster is greeted by Wendell Corey 

A Film Noir favourite style shot - - the man and the prison bars

Burt Lancaster excelled in his 1940s film noir roles partially because of this incredible vulnerability he could show, while losing nothing of his potency or good looks.

Hoping Broadway hasn't changed? Broadway has changed.

Returning is a theme. That is to say coming back to the old neighbourhood, something Burt Lancaster also does at the beginning of Criss Cross (1949)

You don't need to have been away long for everything to have changed, but what of course these Lancastrian saps don't quite get, is that they have changed too. 

Of course it's a firm favourite film noir theme and metaphor, that of the damaged males returning to America after the war. In the old country, the little girls have all grown up to become inaccessible and now-dangerous women, and the criminals have moved in upon the economy. 

These heels were still trying to get used to it at the end of the 1960s, although by then the criminals really did run everything.

Burt Lancaster spends the first ten minutes of the film, a not inconsiderable stretch, trying to establish if everything is the same, as if trying to placate a childish inner conservative. The changes have been considerable however, and the news comes in a variety of forms, including print.

Bosley Crowther was right to ask why a good-guy such as Lancaster is here expected to represent, should be in stir to begin with. But what is important is that he arrives as a moral force of innocence, and from there he will unravel as he is pinballed through the new bad city that has evolved in his absence.

These for the masculinity on display here are its inscrutability, and the fact that it has been damaged, thus rendering an impenetrable and often emotionless frame. Think of the Swede on his bed, resigned at the beginning of The Killers.

Mike Mazurki, by the way!

There is still something keeping I Walk Alone (1947) out of the primary ranks of the film noir canon, and it's hard to say what it is. It certainly is not the cast:

Burt Lancaster

Lizabeth Scott

Kirk Douglas

Wendell Corey

The themes too, are solid, particularly that of the virtue of a woman being the action which can either heal or save the hero. Finally the urban environment, the true stomping ground of noir, is well realised and presented as perhaps, a slightly one-dimensional jungle, in which the men of America may well be coming unstuck.

Alexis Richardson: You know, you're quite an attractive man.

Frankie Madison: Keep goin'.

Alexis Richardson: How far do you want me to go?

Frankie Madison: I'm at the plate. You're doing the pitching.


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