Notes from Noir City VII: Yesterday’s Trash

Shakedown (1950) A nobody photographer maneuvers his way into success, money and danger with sexual charm, unchecked gall and ruthless ambition. Once Jack Early talks his way into a one-week trial as staff photographer for an SF paper, he makes an immediate splash by always being in just the right place. But landing a steady job and winning the heart of his good girl photo editor isn’t good enough for Jack, who works two competing mobsters against each other, seeming to side with one while seducing his wife and blackmailing the other with incriminating photographs. Even when it all comes crashing down on Jack, he has the knack to cleverly snap a shot of his own shooting; his last photo makes the front page.

Night Editor (1946) Using a corny newsroom frame, we are introduced to the story of a “swell guy,” a cop who loved his wife and kid but “got caught up.” Tony’s really a dirty cheater dating Jill, a rich man’s younger wife, an insane hot/cold vixen turned on by crime, Jon Waters’ style. While parked at Lover’s Lane, Tony and Jill witness a girl in another car get smashed to death with a tire iron. The killer spots the witnesses and runs off. Jill is titillated and wants to see the dead girl, who we later learn was a friend of hers. Exhausted and vacant, Tony sleepwalks through the investigation that he is, of course, assigned to, unable to reveal the identity of the murderer for fear of losing his job and family. Meanwhile, Jill dates and protects the killer, a prominent banker named Loring, happy to see the vagrant who got picked up for stealing the jewels of the corpse fry for the killing, calling him “trash” who deserves it anyway. As in Double Indemnity, Tony’s elder partner suspects something is up with his young colleague. When Tony finally comes clean to the old pro, they are able to put together the evidence to pin the murder on Loring and make it stick. Confronted in the kitchen at a big party, Jill stabs Tony with an ice pick after one last seductive appeal fails. Arm in arm, he slowly escorts her through the party with the ice pick stuck in his back. Partygoers gasp upon realization. His face ashen and expressionless, he leads her through the front door to the police waiting outside with Loring apprehended. He hands over his badge and drops to the ground. A generation later, Tony is a happy but seemingly lobotomized cigar stand attendant and his son a young cop.


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