Zoom Salon of Sudden Fear (1952) 110 min | Mechanics' Institute

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Zoom Salon of Sudden Fear (1952) 110 min
October 2020: Women of Noir

CinemaLit Popcorn Pop-Up Salon: October-- Women of Noir

Hello Film Lovers,

Welcome back to CinemaLit! We have missed our Friday night gatherings. Laura, Pam, and I are excited to launch this new format for CinemaLit as we Shelter at Home. We will be viewing films on Kanopy and gathering online for a Popcorn Pop-Up Salon!

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 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 two days in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by 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.

 Matthew Kennedy, curator and host

CinemaLit Film Series

October 2020: Women of Noir

For October, we return to a longtime CinemaLit favorite – film noir. Our focus is on women in noir, in front of and behind the camera. Three films feature women as the dominant story-driving character – Woman on the Run (1950) starring Ann Sheridan, Sudden Fear (1952) starring a well-served Joan Crawford, and The Naked Kiss (1964) starring a way over-the-top Constance Towers. As an added bonus, two films this month, Woman on the Run and Sudden Fear, offer dazzling footage of their mid-century San Francisco locations. Two other films feature Ida Lupino directing. Lupino was a brilliant actress, as well as one of the very few women who had directorial responsibilities in American films of the 1950s. In The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Lupino artfully locates film noir in a remote desert setting more redolent of Westerns. In The Bigamist (1953), Lupino both directs and stars. Joan Fontaine and Edmond O'Brien are the two other points of what the title accurately suggests is a love triangle. For The Naked Kiss, we are delighted to welcome back CinemaLit emeritus curator and host Michael Fox as emcee.

October 9 -- Sudden Fear (1952) Starring Joan Crawford

Grab your popcorn for this one! With master cinematographer Charles B. Lang, Jr. taking in a San Francisco backdrop, the steep hills and winding streets (Lombard in particular) enhance the film's spirit of wicked glee. Sudden Fear has nothing on its agenda but to entertain.

There are no great moral insights, spiritual uplift, or reenactments of history in Sudden Fear. Since its domain is modest, its brilliance is often overlooked, as though making a movie this taut and satisfying is easy. Joan Crawford is Myra Hudson, a celebrated and very rich playwright-heiress who fires her leading man Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) because he's not "romantic enough" for a role in her latest hit. In a real life parallel, Crawford didn't want Palance to costar, proclaiming him the ugliest man in Hollywood. She was swayed when producer Joseph Kaufman said the saurian-faced Palance would increase sympathy for her character. One of noir's great vixens, Gloria Grahame, is along for the ride as the other woman who sees dollar signs. Grahame could play princess, girl next door, seductress, or Lady Macbeth – often simultaneously.

Grahame and Palance are pitch-perfect, but Sudden Fear is Crawford's movie. With individual credits going to her make-up, gowns, jewelry, lingerie, hats, and furs, she gets the grand Movie Star treatment by RKO Pictures and director David Miller. She delivers a tour-de-force that asks her to go from square-shouldered career woman to giddy newlywed to sweat-drenched murder target. This may be a woman-in-distress movie, but Crawford's Myra must be her own savior. Lang's black-and-white photography and Sheila O'Brien's costumes were Oscar nominated. So were Crawford and Palance, while Grahame's Academy Award for The Bad and the Beautiful that same year was likely also a nod to her more complex performance in Sudden Fear. All three actors are fabulous. So is the movie.

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.”

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 ›
Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling .

Future CinemaLit Films

Oct 23 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon of The Bigamist (1953) 80 min
October 2020: Women of Noir

Oct 30 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon of The Naked Kiss (1964) 90 min
October 2020: Women of Noir

Nov 6 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) 71 min
November 2020: Comic Relief

Nov 13 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943) 99 min
November 2020: Comic Relief

Nov 20 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Ball of Fire (1941) 111 min
November 2020: Comic Relief

Dec 4 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Charade (1963) 113 min
December 2020: CinemaLit Season Finale