TRY AND GET ME! [THE SOUND OF FURY] (1950)

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My dear friend Vivian Utterman passed away this week in Kensington, Maryland, at the age of 88. As a loyal patron of my Smithsonian film talks back in Washington, D.C., I owe Vivian a great deal for expanding my film noir knowledge. She was a therapist who adored noir and had generously shared her extensive VHS-DVD collection with me many years ago, which immediately whetted my appetite for wanting to see everything and anything on the subject.

In memory of Vivian, I would like to bring attention to an undervalued film noir I discovered through her generosity, Cy Endfield’s brilliant The Sound of Fury (Try and Get Me!), an independent production which United Artists barely released in 1950 and 1951. It has never, to my knowledge, ever aired on Turner Classic Movies and is available only on VHS and unauthorized DVD bootleg copies, although Thom Anderson and Noël Burch gave the film extended focus in their superb 1996 documentary thesis, Red Hollywood.

Primarily known for his 1964 British adventure drama Zulu, the Scranton, PA-born Endfield (1914-1995), like his directing contemporaries Joseph Losey and Jules Dassin, had his Hollywood career terminated after his name was given to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on September 19, 1951, for left-wing political affiliations [1]. By that time, Endfield had directed, starting in 1946, seven films, including two impressive 1950 United Artists noirs, The Underworld Story (alternately known as The Whipped) and The Sound of Fury (whose producer retitled as Try and Get Me! following audience indifference). Forced into political exile, Endfield’s 1953-1971 productions were mostly British and European in origin – the first five credited to a “front” due to the impact of the devastating Hollywood blacklist [2].

Endfield’s film uses as its source material the same inspiration for Fritz Lang’s maiden Hollywood film, Fury (M-G-M / 1936), a fictionalized account of a 1933 mob lynching in San Jose, CA. In The Sound of Fury, Lloyd Bridges plays a criminal lowlife who persuades a desperate, unemployed working class family man and World War II veteran (Frank Lovejoy) to assist first in petty local robberies and then in the kidnapping of the wealthiest young man in town.

Bridges Lovejoy 2tryandgetme

The abduction ends in Bridges murdering the victim and an ensuing media hysteria that inflames the community. As local liberals provide impotent witness, a mob storms the police jail where Bridges and Lovejoy are being held for trial. Thom Anderson describes this harrowing climax, stylized in both noirish and pseudo-documentary fashion, as “the most unrelenting and disturbing scene of mob violence I have ever seen in a Hollywood movie” [3]. Even the film’s original Variety reviewer admitted “Endfield unfolds it with sock” [4].

The Mob The Mob 2

I have Vivian Utterman to thank for once making available to me this film that critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has described as “a masterpiece of the early ‘50s.”

In 2013, UCLA Film & Television Archive, with support from The Film Noir Foundation, restored The Sound of Fury from its original 35mm negative materials. It is my sincere hope that this preservation print makes its way to DVD and Blu-ray, or, at the very least, Turner Classic Movies, in the very near future.

________________

[1] Annual report of the Committee on Un-American Activities for the year 1952 (Washington, D.C.: Committee on Un-American Activities, U.S. House of Representatives), December 28, 1952: 46; reprinted in Film Culture No. 50-51 Fall & Winter 1970.

[2] Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Potent Pessimism,” Chicago Reader (July 9, 1992).

[3] Thom Anderson, “Red Hollywood,” “Un-American” Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era, eds. Frank Krutnik, Steve Neale, Brian Neve, Peter Stanfield (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press, 2007), p. 261.

[4] Variety (December 6, 1950), p. 15.

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