So, why do I like this film? There are countless classic films I could have chosen to introduce in my entry. This choice wasn't easy; a large part of me wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a film where I can discuss Hollywood's mistreatment of people of color and/or women. Then, I decided that may get too serious and critical for the judges - this I can reserve for my blog posts. Eventually, I chose SUNSET BLVD (Billy Wilder, 1950); I wanted to discuss the powerful character of Norma Desmond, and the decrepit side of Hollywood that the film reveals. However, I wasn't able to travel to the location I needed to introduce Sunset, so I had to use what I had. And I had the greatest city in the world in my backyard.
Let's be honest; the strongest aspect of The Naked City isn't the plot/story. It's New York City. I'm proud to say that I am a New Yorker from birth. I was born in Bronx Lebanon Hospital, raised in Queens, and then moved to the Bronx. I went to NYC public schools from Kindergarten to the 12th grade; my undergraduate and graduate degrees are from St. John's University and New York University, respectively. Along with film, the city essentially raised me. So, the first time I saw The Naked City, I was astounded. My love of classic film collided with my love of the city; and it wasn't portrayed on sound stages or sets. It was real.
The Naked City begins with narration from the film's producer, Mark Hellinger. A helicopter shot over Manhattan provides the visuals, and a first-time viewer may think s/he is about to see a travelogue or documentary. Hellinger goes on to narrate the seemingly mundane details of random New Yorker's lives, until he states that a young woman has been murdered. Then we are introduced to Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and protégé Detective Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor). The murder investigation leads the viewer to various neighborhoods in New York City; not excluding the outer boroughs (which, as a Queens/Bronx girl, I absolutely love). Take a look at the opening shot:
When I first saw The Naked City about 6 years ago, recognizing locations was my favorite part of watching. Jimmy Halloran lives in Queens, and he rides the IRT Flushing line (now known as the 7 train) home. His wife complains to him that their child tried to cross Queens Boulevard by himself. Anyone who knows anything about Queens knows how dangerous it would be for a child to do this, even today. The fact that such a seemingly insignificant detail resonated so deeply with me is one reason why I love The Naked City. The minute I shared a personal experience with someone else in the film, the film became personal to me. At that moment, I felt partial ownership of the film. These are moments that film fans like myself live for - the connection.
Mark Hellinger's narration pops in and out of the film, which is a good thing. It may seem outdated and/or corny to some, but it serves a greater purpose. Each time Hellinger draws our attention to every day New Yorkers - women shopping, children playing games outside, vendors selling food on Delancey street - we are reminded of the dynamics of the city. Even in the film's climax, when the suspect daringly ascends the heights of the Williamsburg bridge, people are seen below living their lives unchanged. Only someone who truly understands New York would think of doing this. This is an excellent way of reminding us that, like the film's most memorable line (and later, the tagline of the television show): "There are 8 million stories in this city." Thus, we are reminded that this is just one story. There are countless others, and no two are the same.
In case you want more film geekery in video form, you can check out my contest entry below:
Please mind my choice of words in certain parts. I meant to refer to Valley of the Dolls as a Cult Classic, but nerves got the best of me.
Also, TCM posted a small bio about me on their film festival page!