Cinema Jolly > 11:45


Stuart Heisler


Friday 28/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Within a running time of just over an hour, Among the Living samples an array of genres: Southern gothic horror, evil-twin thriller, Freudian melodrama, comedy, and politically charged satire. In the opening scene, unemployed mill-workers crowd around the gates of a dilapidated mansion, heckling the funeral of the hated mill-owner – surely voicing the views of Lester Cole, who cowrote the story and screenplay. The son of a union organiser for the garment industry, Cole was one of the most unapologetic communists among the Hollywood Ten. Six years before the congressional hearings that would send him to jail and onto the blacklist, he seems to forecast the mood of the McCarthy era in a climactic scene where a small town’s citizens turn into a frenzied mob, rabidly pursuing a cash reward for the capture of a killer and trying an innocent man before a kangaroo court. The film’s spooky, sinister atmosphere presumably owes much to co-screenwriter Garrett Fort, best known for his work on Dracula and Frankenstein, as well as to German-born cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl. His inky, densely cluttered interiors and shadowy views down empty alleys make this an early milestone in the development of the noir look. Director Stuart Heisler drives the story along at a fast clip, chasing scares with laughs, as in a hilarious scene where the mentally disturbed Paul Raden (Albert Dekker), just emerged from a lifetime of confinement in a secret room, stumbles into a dive bar. The joint is jumping, and the jazzy, rapid-fire montage of jitterbugging couples is a reminder of Heisler’s background as an editor. A further jolt of energy comes from a turbo-charged young Susan Hayward, playing an avaricious flirt who fastens onto Paul, an early avatar of the childlike, mother-obsessed psycho. More shocking is the venerable Harry Carey as a coldly selfish, unethical doctor, subverting his kindly persona and previewing the kinds of disillusionment that film noir had in store.

Imogen Sara Smith

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Lester Cole, Brian Marlow. Scen.: Lester Cole, Garrett Fort. F.: Theodor Sparkuhl. M.: Everett Douglas. Scgf.: Haldane Douglas, Hans Dreier. Mus.: Gerard Carbonara. Int.: Albert Dekker (John Raden/Paul Raden), Susan Hayward (Millie Pickens), Harry Carey (Dr. Ben Saunders), Frances Farmer (Elaine Raden), Gordon Jones (Bill Oakley), Jean Phillips (Peggy Nolan), Ernest Whitman (Pompey), Maude Eburne (signora Pickens). Prod.: Sol C. Siegel per Paramount Pictures 35 mm. D: 67