The titular Flamarion (sap #1) is a sharpshooter touring vaudeville with two assistants, Connie (the no-good dame) and her dipso husband Al (sap #2). A sociopathic grifter from way back, Connie seduces Flamarion into "accidentally" killing Al during their act one night. Once a cold-hearted loner, now hopelessly in love, Flamarion sees his plans for marriage go kablooey when Connie suggests they split up for a few months in order to divert suspicion.
When she doesn't show up at a pre-arranged time and place -- and his telegram to her is returned with a taunting "ADDRESS UNKNOWN" -- Flamarion realizes he's been had, and spends his last dollar tracking her down, eventually finding her in a Mexico City vaudeville theatre. Connie's now an assistant to her latest lover, Eddie the trick bicyclist (sap #3), while putting the moves on an acrobat (sap #4). Startled by Flamarion suddenly shooting out the lights in her dressing room, Connie gives him the ol' Honey-where-were-you routine to no avail. Grabbing her own gun, Connie shoots Flamarion, who has enough strength to strangle her to death before he himself dies onstage after falling from the rafters. If only show business was really this exciting.
|"The drink's on me! Or is it you?"|
|Load your pistol, Erich, before it's too late.|
Mary Beth Hughes, with her sexy-girl-next-door style, is like a silver dollar gleaming in the gutter. No matter how beautiful it shines, once you pick it up you're covered in muck. Initially
|Hey ladies, wouldn't this turn you on?|
The Great Flamarion overflows with great noir dialogue. One exchange is almost a textbook example of the seedy B-movie world. Connie, already having hooked Flamarion, is at a bar planning to run away with Eddie when Al stumbles over.
AL: I was lookin' for ya. I need some dough.
CONNIE: I don't have any with me.
AL: Well, what did you do --
CONNIE: What did I do with it? How much do you think is left in the grouch bag after the way you've been kicking it around?
AL: For the love of Mike, cut out the preachin'. (to bartender:) Hey George, gimme a bourbon. And see what the boys in the back room will have. Better make mine a double bourbon, George. (glaring at Connie:) I'm in kind of a hurry.
CONNIE: Y'know, no matter how fast you can drink, the distilleries can stay way ahead of ya.
AL: Yup. But by next week, I'll have 'em workin' nights to do it. (Connie tries to take Al's drink; he slaps her hand away.) Some day you're gonna do that and not pull back anything but a stump!
Now that's a conversation. Did people really talk like that in the '40s? If so, they were a lot more colorful than today's dullards, who describe everything as "amazing" and "mad crazy." And while we're on the subject, were these noirs about unfaithful women playing on the fears of American soldiers overseas during the War? Or were all dolls really two-timers back in the day? If nothing else, years of watching B-movies go along way to explaining my issues involving trust.
|Flamarion spills his guts in|
more ways than one.
Just as an example, Mann gives von Stroheim a wonderful moment the actor probably never experienced in any movie before or after.
|The man you love to hate to love to|
|Wilder, von Stroheim, Hughes, |
Duryea and Mann try to ignore
Billy Wilder's insults.
Unfortunately for a movie perfectionist like me, the original credit sequence on circulating prints of The Great Flamarion was replaced by a generic opening by TV-Pic, the distribution company that ran it on television in the '50s. The saving grace, however, was that TV-Pic appeared to have used the original negative; the movie is excellent for a public domain B-production, with faces popping out from shadows like the bullets Flamarion fires onstage. As with many other movies dissected here, The Great Flamarion has been unjustly forgotten, probably due its orphan status. However, being available for free on YouTube can only help revive its stature for new generations of fans of film noir, B-movies, treacherous dames and the Second Amendment.