Now playing: Afraid to Talk | Bleader

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Now playing: Afraid to Talk

Posted By on 12.01.11 at 04:15 PM

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Tomorrow night Northwestern University Block Museum of Art presents a rare screening of Afraid to Talk (1932) by Edward L. Cahn, a highly prolific low-budget director active from the 1930s to the early '60s. Edward Arnold stars as a gangster who rubs out one of his enemies, Louis Calhern is an ambitious DA who wants to nail him, and Eric Linden is the unlucky bellboy who witnessed the crime and becomes the DA's star witness. We weren't able to preview this, but our old pal Dave Kehr recently wrote about Cahn in his column for Film Comment—you can't access it online, so in lieu of web traffic, let me deliver a gratuitous plug for the magazine, which is a damn good publication and makes an excellent holiday gift.

"The centerpiece of Afraid to Talk is a highly stylized sequence set in a police interrogation room, in which the only illumination is provided by a low-hanging lamp swinging in low, wide circles," Kehr writes. "The bellboy, unsuspecting, sits behind a table, and as a group of cops presses in around him, the camera closes in on him, too, until all the faces are lost in darkness. As the screaming begins, Cahn cuts to three cops taking a break in an adjoining room. 'Kid's taking an awful beating,' says one. 'Gotta butt?' 'Yeah, in my coat,' his colleague replies. 'This coffee's cold,' notes the third. It's a tough world."

Afraid to Talk screens Friday, 7 PM, at Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, 847-491-4000.

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