Blaze of Noon


Blaze of Noon (Paramount, John Farrow) is proof that the surface genre of many of Hollywood's films differs from its ultimate genre - or, in Rick Altman's terminology, that their genre syntax is at odds with their genre semantics. Semantically speaking, Blaze of Noon is a flying adventure film, much in the mold of Only Angels Have Wings. The plot focuses on four brothers MacDonald who trade in barnstorming for a growing industry of air mail delivery.


But, in the context of Paramount's 1947 releases, the film has less in common with Calcutta than it does Dear Ruth. Ultimately, the adventure gives way to romantic comedy between Colin MacDonald (William Holden) and his love interest (Anne Baxter), with some detours in melodrama. It's a genre hybrid that suggests that hybridity was often more the norm in the classical period than genre consistency (a point Altman has made).

The hybridity was probably a strategy noticeable in Paramount's output. I've increasingly become interested in Paramount's 1947 films because a) these are among the toughest to find, since they've not had much home video release and b) the studio has such an uneasy mismatch between the changing cinematic fashions of the postwar years and the brand of sound-stage luxury that had distinguished the studio in its heyday. For instance, the cinematography of William Mellor draws extensively from the "Europeanized" glamour lighting in its use of North light in its romance scene:


This contrasts to the otherwise brighter tonal register of the high-key scenes. As well as the thematics of nostalgia that I have noted elsewhere in 1947's output. Here we the spectator are invited to know that the MacDonalds are on the right side of history (aviation will in fact take off) but at the same time vicariously experience historical innocence as a superior state.

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