Zoom Salon - D.O.A. (1950) – 84 minutes | Mechanics' Institute

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Zoom Salon - D.O.A. (1950) – 84 minutes
June 2021 CinemaLit: ream State: California in the Movies

Friday, June 18, 2021 - 6:00pm

June 2021 – Dream State: California in the Movies

June at CinemaLit highlights classic films set in California, with the Golden State figuring prominently in plot and ambiance. We start with the first A Star is Born (1937), steeped as it is in the most mythologized of all California industries – moviemaking. From there we venture back to a CinemaLit favorite: film noir. Too Late for Tears (1949) and D.O.A. (1950) are two pulpy, taut crime shockers, both taking great advantage of their settings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We finish with the great Chinatown (1974), a neo noir so indelible it now flows through our collective movie-watching bloodstream.

Each of these films figure in the new book Dream State: California in the Movies by San Francisco Chronicle's film critic Mick LaSalle. Mr. LaSalle will be on hand for the discussion on June 4 of A Star is Born. Join us for what promises to be a lively dialogue on California, its meanings and symbols to a global audience of filmgoers.

June 18 – D.O.A. (1950) – 84 minutes

The aptly titled D.O.A. has one of the most original high concepts in all of film noir: Southern California accountant Frank Bigelow vacations in San Francisco before marrying his fiancé. While there, he learns someone dropped a slow acting "luminous toxin" in his whiskey at a bar in the Embarcadero. He's dying, and has a few days at most to find his killer. As told in flashbacks, everyone's a potential suspect as he traverses mid-century San Francisco and Los Angeles, staggering down Market Street or climbing the stairs of the Bradbury Building while the clock ticks and the poison destroys him from within.

D.O.A. is based on the 1931 German film Der Mann, Der Seinen Morder Sucht. It was made on a shoestring, and it shows in some drab and flatly lit interiors, but the premise hooks and reels us in. The story is so cinematic it's been remade twice – as Color Me Dead in 1969 and D.O.A. in 1988. This version is particularly complex and nihilistic. That's a bit of a surprise considering the screenwriting team of Russell Rouse and Clarence Green also wrote the breezy lighter-than-air script for the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy Pillow Talk.

In the challenging role of Frank, Edmund O'Brien gives a physical and impassioned performance. (CinemaLit regulars will recognize him as the star of The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist, two Ida Lupino films from our "Women of Noir" series last year.) In The Lost World of Film Noir, Eddie Muller wrote admiringly of O'Brien in D.O.A.: "Director Rudolph Maté gave O'Brien free rein to push the proceedings to a fever pitch. O'Brien responded with a performance more animated than Daffy Duck. He frantically lunges in and out of rooms… he skitters and slides down hallways, outrunning his feet… O'Brien is so overheated he can't stand still for a moment, lest he drown in a pool of sweat."


Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 


I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”



First watch the selected film on Kanopy. All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation for our CinemaLit Salon as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom one day in advance, and then an additional reminder roughly two hours in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by 4:00 PM on the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.


Register with Eventbrite below.

If the green TICKET button is not immediately visible, scroll down on the right in the Eventbrite window until it appears.


CinemaLit Films

Members Free
Public Sliding Scale Free to $10
Register now ›
4th Floor Meeting Room
Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling .

Future CinemaLit Films

May 14 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Whale Rider (2002) – 102 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

May 21 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Leona (2019) – 95 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

May 28 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Legend of the Mountain (1979) – 193 minutes
May 2021 CinemaLit: Visions of the Sacred on Film

Jun 4 - 6:00pm

Dream State: California in the Movies, with author Mick LaSalle, a Zoom salon
A CinemaLit Author Event, cosponsored by Heyday Books

Jun 11 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Too Late for Tears (1949) – 102 minutes
June 2021 CinemaLit: ream State: California in the Movies

Jun 25 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Chinatown (1974) – 131 minutes
June 2021 CinemaLit: ream State: California in the Movies