Funny thing about noir. It even works in the daytime. Saturday afternoon’s films were a double-double shot, honoring both the lovely Joan Leslie and Ida Lupino, who in many respects is the first lady of the genre. (Check out that career.) I’d seen both movies before, but watching them in tandem brought new aspects to light.

High Sierra holds up on DVD, but it seemed shockingly vital on the big screen. Humphrey Bogart’s recently paroled but not reformed thief yearns for the straight life but can only take crooked roads to get there. His performance is all twisted desperation and thwarted desire. The script, by W.R. Burnett and John Huston from Burnett’s novel, sets up a stark contrast with our leading ladies: Joan as a naïf willing to take advantage of her benefactor, Ida as the hard-bitten moll who recognizes a good man when she sees one. Raoul Walsh stages a climax that still packs a wallop.

Ida comes into her own in The Hard Way, taking on the kind of role that buttered Joan Crawford’s bread. Little sister Joan (Leslie, not Crawford) aspires to a career in the theater, and Ida moves heaven and earth to make those dreams come true. The movie is terrifically well-cast, making excellent use of the comic Jack Carson in a dramatic role and singer Dennis Morgan as a slickster curdled by show business.

Our host Eddie Muller said the movie’s inclusion was sort of a test case; we had to decide if The Hard Way were truly a film noir or just a melodrama with a particularly nasty script by Peter Viertel and Daniel Fuchs. I know what my answer is. When I caught this gem on TCM a few years ago, I thought it was about as noir as it gets. Nice to know I’m not alone in that opinion.

While watching Ida today I was reminded of someone. Then, in a scene in The Hard Way where she appeared without make-up revealing a spray of delectable freckles across her face, it hit me. Lindsay Lohan. Call me crazy.

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