TCMFF 2021: I Love Trouble (1948)
Despite the virtual nature of this year’s festival, Turner Classic Movies brought their ‘A-Game’ this year. Over the span of three days, the network managed to present not only essentials and bonus footage, but even a number of under-seen discoveries. One of these, I Love Trouble practically leapt off the schedule page as a must see during TCMFF. Well, here’s everything you need to know about this little seen noir.
I Love Trouble follows a private investigator (Franchot Tone) who finds himself pulled into a complicated web of noir intrigue when he’s hired by a wealthy man to find his missing wife. The movie features an impressive cast, including: Janet Blair, Janis Carter, Adele Jurgens, Glenda Farrell and Steven Geray. S. Sylvan Simon directs the film from a script by Roy Huggins.
I Love Trouble is a noir rarity which enjoys very few broadcast airings. In fact, I’ve only really stumbled across it thanks to the host of public domain film apps out there. I believe it is even on YouTube. And with that being said, perhaps the biggest short-coming with this particular feature was the print. Unfortunately, time has not been good to I Love Trouble. The film is rough and grainy and it’s positively crying out for a good restoration. At some level though, we are lucky a print of a movie like this even exists. So many poverty row noirs have been lost to time.
I Love Trouble is an important watch, especially for fans of Franchot Tone. Like Dick Powell, Tone found himself struggling a bit as the industry changed into the 1940s. This movie, released during the peak of the film noir movement (along with Phantom Lady) typifies Tone’s work during this era. He’s rough and gritty and is a million miles away from the romantic and juvenile roles he took during the 1930s. While it might take a bit of getting used to, his casting in a role like this adds not only a new layer of character development, but at the same time, his presence is important in crafting the noir sensibility we know so well.
At this point in his career, Tone was in his early forties. He’d seen plenty of success, but there’d been plenty of lean years as well (particularly after World War II). On the screen, Tone brings a world-weary heaviness to the role which is of course typical of film noir. This casting works at all levels because there is a sense of who he was just a decade before inherent in Tone’s screen persona. He’s older, he’s tired and at some level, he’s not quite the man he once was. Yet, he still has to survive his current situation in the shadow of his memories; hence, the disillusionment of film noir.
The cast behind Tone brings together all the colorful delightfulness of some of the best works of noir. Classic TV fans should keep an eye out for a pre-almost everything Raymond Burr as an above average noir hoodlum. Meanwhile, John Ireland shines whenever he tackles film noir. At the same time, Glenda Farrell shows us why she’s a treasure who isn’t given the love she deserves.
The script comes from Roy Huggins’ own work. Franchot Tone’s character (Stuart Bailey) would actually grow more popular with time. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. would play the role throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s in the ultra-popular television series, 77 Sunset Strip. There’s alot here to enjoy for not only fans of film noir, but for those who enjoy the private eye TV shows of the late 1950s as well.
This time out, Huggins’ script is weighed down by the complexity of the noir storyline. There’s a lot that happens in the narrative, but ultimately the plot is largely dominated by macguffins. It’s these characters we’re supposed to love. This is made all the easier thanks to Huggins’ snappy and quippy writing.
“Is he out?”
“Like a strand of Christmas lights”
Lines like these are sprinkled tantalizingly throughout the story, each quip sounding more quintessentially noir than the last.
“You ever have the feeling you’re being watched or followed?”
“Not nearly enough”.
In the scope of film noir, I Love Trouble is a work which has seemingly always been there; but unfortunately, never received the attention it deserved. Watching the movie, it emerges as a quintessential work of film noir. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but there’s something magnetic beneath the surface pulling you in. There’s alot here to love.
I Love Trouble is streaming on the Watch TCM app following the TCM Classic Film Festival.
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Thanks, I’ll watch it later this week.
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