THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF
In the hard-boiled Film Noir tradition, reminiscent of the work of James M. Cain, greed, unstoppable sexual attraction, and betrayal set off a doomed course in which a femme fatale leads a once upstanding citizen down a dark path. THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950) was the first independent production of Phoenix Films, the company run by Jack M. Warner, son of Warner Bros. Studios mogul Jack L., and a highlight in the lengthy career of director Felix E. Feist, THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF "goes all the way". He helmed more than 45 shorts and feature films between 1932 and 1953, and then, between 1953 and 1965, both produced and directed episodes from various television series, including BONANZA, BUS STOP, THE OUTER LIMITS, PEYTON PLACE, and THE O.HENRY PLAYHOUSE.
"A lightweight, O.Henry type story about a cop who hoists himself on his own petard; heavyweight acting by Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt; as a consequence, the only film this year to take a moderate, morally fair stand on moderately suave and immoral Americans, aged about forty. An effortlessly paced story, impressionistically coated with San Francisco's oatmeal-gray atmosphere; at the end, it wanders into an abandoned fort or prison and shows Hitchcock and Carol Reed how to sidestep hokum in a corny architectural monstrosity. Cobb packs more psychological truths about joyless American promiscuity into one ironic stare, one drag on a cigarette, or one uninterested kiss more than all the Mankiewicz heroes put together."
- Manny Farber
Blinded by love, homicide lieutenant Ed Cullen (Lee J. Cobb, fresh off originating the role of Willy Loman on Broadway in DEATH OF A SALESMAN) goes to great lengths to cover up a murder. His coquettish girlfriend Lois (Jane Wyatt, best known as the mother in the television series FATHER KNOWS BEST) has killed her scheming husband before he could bump her off. John Dall (GUN CRAZY) co-stars as Ed’s kid brother Andy, a rookie on the force who is determined to break his first big case. These accomplished actors are nearly eclipsed by the incandescent star power of San Francisco and especially the world’s most photographed bridge, the Golden Gate. (See also WOMAN ON THE RUN, another Film Noir shot on location in San Francisco).
The extended penultimate scene, filmed to great effect on location at Fort Point, predates Hitchcock’s use of the same locale in VERTIGO (1958). Feist directs the climax almost completely sans dialogue and music, the action scored only by the sounds of wind and echoing footsteps. Feist maximizes tension out of even the most mundane of elements (especially a scarf floating in the breeze), thereby elevating THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF over its B-movie roots, culminating in a kind of visual poetry. Enhancing the overall atmosphere of the film is the work of cinematographer Russell Harlan, who shot the film on location in only 5 days. Over the course of his career, Harlan was nominated for six Academy Awards. He infused with dramatic light and shadow such noteworthy films as GUN CRAZY (1950), BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955), WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957), and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962).
Bonus materials include a featurette on the crew, cast, and production of the original film; a virtual tour comparing the locales from the original movie with how they look today; the restored original theatrical trailer; and a souvenir booklet.
THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF was restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and funded by the Film Noir Foundation.
THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF
Director: Felix E. Feist
Producer: Jack Warner, Jr.
Screenplay: Seton I. Miller, Philip MacDonald
Cast: Lee J. Cobb, John Dall, Jane Wyatt, Lisa Howard
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Editor: David Weisbart
Production Design: Van Nest Polgese
- 82 minutes
THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF REVISITED
- 22 minutes
- B&W and color
Featurette on the crew, cast, and production of the original film.
THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF: THEN AND NOW
- 7 minutes
- B&W and color
Short film in which Brian Hollins leads a virtual tour around San Francisco, hunting down the sites used during the film’s production, comparing the original locations from the 1950 film with how they look today.
RESTORED THEATRICAL TRAILER
- 2 minutes
Restored theatrical trailer for the film’s original release.
Total Running Time: 01:53:00
Souvenir Booklet Text: Eddie Muller (21 pages, featuring rare photographs, press clippings, poster art, and production materials from the making of the film).
Published By: Flicker Alley
Institutional Price: $300 (plus shipping).
To order call: 212.280.8654 or click here for information on ordering by fax, e-mail or post.