Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Strip (1951)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

The best films of film noir tend to star cynical, brooding leads, like Humphrey Bogart or William Holden. The makers of The Strip took a very different approach, putting Mickey Rooney in the lead role. Along with films like My Outlaw Brother and Quicksand, Rooney was working to break out of the typecasting of the Andy Hardy childhood roles he was best known for. Unfortunately, Mickey's permanent youthful appearance and gee-whiz persona do not lend themselves to the genre, and it's difficult to take seriously the idea of Rooney in the jazz nightclub scene, let alone associating with mobsters.

Though the film is only 85 minutes long, it is incredibly slow paced due to various musical and dance interludes, none of which advance the story to any degree. On one hand, some of these scenes are the highlight of the movie, particularly the jazz scenes featuring Louis Armstrong, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and Jack Teagarden. Without these scenes, however, the film would have little reason to exist, since it is largely devoid of any atmosphere, twists and turns, or shady characters, all necessary and classic tropes of the film noir genre.

The film received its sole Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Song, for the simple and lovely "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, and Oscar Hammerstein II. The song is performed throughout the film, including a performance by Satchmo himself. The song lost to "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" from Here Comes the Groom.

There's not much worth celebrating about The Strip aside from the performance of a few jazz legends and shots of the Sunset Strip circa 1950 that are interesting from a historical perspective. Rooney just isn't enough of a heavy for film noir, and the film never elevates above a thin plot distracting from a musical performance showcase.

Remaining: 3173 films, 882 Oscars, 5460 nominations

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