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On a Warm Friday Night in Most of the Country, It's a Good Time to Catch up With Four Noir Suspense Classics on TV TVWeek

By Chuck Ross

TCM has been showing a number of classic film noirs on Friday nights in June, ending tonight with four really terrific films that I recommend.

The first starts very soon: at 6:30 p.m. PT and 9:30 p.m. ET. It's the least well known of the four movies. It's called "Deadline at Dawn," and it's a crime thriller from 1946. The hard-boiled dialogue by Clifford Odets crackles, though it's not as pointedly sharp as his dialogue in "Sweet Smell of Success." Odets is working from a novella by William Irish, which is a nom de plume of Cornell Woolrich, who was one of our greatest practioners of pulp fiction. A number of his works have been made into movies, including one of Hitchcock's masterworks, "Rear Window."

"Deadline at Dawn" is an actor's delight, with Susan Hayward, Paul Lukas, Marvin Miller and Joseph Calleia particular standouts.

That the acting is one of the film's pleasures is no surprise, since the movie is the only motion picture directed by Harold Clurman, one of the most famous theatre directors in the history of New York theatre. WIth Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford, Clurman founded the influential Group Theater in New York. Clurman was also a drama critic. I don't know why he only directed this one movie.

The luminous black and while look of the movie is courtesy veteran RKO cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca. His work should be much better known than it is.

Following "Deadline at Dawn," you can catch, from 1944, "Murder My Sweet"  on TCM at 8 p.m. PT (11 p.m. ET). It's one of two films featuring Raymond Chandler's great L.A. detective Philip Marlowe that is showing on TCM tonight. Playing Marlowe in "Murder My Sweet" is Dick Powell, previously known for musicals. He's wonderful in the part, and  he is my secord favorite Marlowe on screen.

My favorite portrayal of Marlowe is in another movie on tonight, and, in my opinion, the best of tonight's lot. It's "The Big Sleep,' featuring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe. From 1946, it's directed almost flawlessly by Howard Hawks. One of Bogart's best roles. Lauren Bacall is smart and sultry; Dorothy Malone is sexy and seductive  There is nothing about this movie that I don't like. If you've never seen it, it's one of the most enjoyable crime thrillers ever made.

"The Big Sleep" screens on TCM tonight at 10 p.m. PT (1 a.m. ET).

The fourth film on tonight that I highly recommend is one of Hitchcock's best, "Strangers on a Train." It has one of the best performances in any Hitchcock film, that of Robert Walker as the nasty Bruno Anthony, in a performance on the dark side that I think is only challenged in its greatness by Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet" and Andy Robinson in "Dirty Harry." Hitchcock is known as the "master of suspense," and this is one of the films from where that moniker comes.  "Strangers" comes on TCM at 2 a.m. PT (5 a.m. ET).