Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Early film noir: Street of Chance

A man walking down a city street gets knocked out by falling debris and wakes up not sure of his own name. Looking around, he has no idea why he is in that part of town. When he goes home, he finds his apartment is not his and his wife moved away a year ago. Who is he? What has he been doing for a year? And worse, who is the tough-looking thug following him?

This is a great set-up for a film noir. It was adapted from a story by one of the great writers of noir tales, Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich (1903-1968) wrote many stories about people’s fears. His characters often dread something in their past is catching up with them, or that they have inadvertently brushed up against evil, and now it is coming for them. His stories include Phantom Lady, Deadline at Dawn, Black Angel, and “It Had To Be Murder,” the original short story that later was made as the movie “Rear Window.”

In the 1942 film, “Street of Chance,” from Woolrich’s 1941novel, The Black Curtain, the great American character actor Burgess Meredith is the man who finds he has been living two lives. His wife is played by Louise Platt, who appeared three years earlier in John Ford’s “Stagecoach.” The man’s girlfriend for the previous year, a woman he now has no memory of, is played by Claire Trevor. Trevor was also in “Stagecoach" and appeared in several noir films including “Murder, My Sweet” and “Raw Deal." The thug is played by Sheldon Leonard.

“Street of Chance” was efficiently directed by Jack Hivley, who got some good performances out of his players, but could not overcome the low-budget look of the picture.

Still, this movie is a good – if a little obvious – who-done-it, and a first rate example of noir storytelling.

A faded version of this movie is on YouTube. But since this film is hard to find, faded is better than nothing.

(For more posts on film, TV and more, check out Todd Mason’s site.)


  1. Sounds good - pretty sure I've read some books where memory loss features as the pivot for the story.

  2. I found this by chance on YouTube a while ago. Quite a find for such a nearly lost film. I wasn't as impressed with the movie as I was the book. Meredith was good as always. As much as I enjoy nearly everything I see Trevor in (BORN TO KILL is one of her best performances) I don't remember a thing about her in this movie.

    Just found a book called RED DARKNESS published in the UK one year prior to BLACK CURTAIN that has almost exactly the same plot. The similarities are numerous. I wonder if Woolrich knew of it.