'Impact' in Classic Cool Context

This Saturday at 9 p.m., KCET brings you, "Impact," the 1949 film noir about a man trying to escape a dangerous love triangle starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines and Helen Walker. This is the latest entry in KCET's "Classic Cool Theater" series, which aims to give you not only a great film but also a vintage cartoon, two newsreels and an of-the-era musical number. All those extras add up to what makes "Classic Cool Theater" so special: context. In the spirit of this unique package, we're offering you a peek at the America -- and the Los Angeles -- that received "Impact" on March 20, 1949.

If you read a newspaper article about an actor that claimed, "Any consideration of the American 'film noir' of the 1940s would be incomplete without him," who would you think the author was talking about? Raymond Burr? Maybe. Robert Mitchum? Possibly. Humphrey Bogart? Certainly.

If you were reading the obituary of Brian Donlevy from England's The Times circa April 1972, then you'd be wrong. The British paper made that bold pronouncement upon the death of the "Impact" star. Oddly enough, Donlevy's Hollywood career began when he was cast as the henchman of another film noir icon: Edward G. Robinson.

That's not the strange part.

What's interesting is that the movie was Howard Hawks' 1935 western, "Barbary Coast."

Here's a clip featuring both actors. As Robinson walks down the stairs, Donlevy is on his left at the :04 mark:

A decade before the release of "Impact," Donlevy received an Academy Award nomination for his evil supporting turn opposite Gary Cooper in the drama "Beau Geste." Donlevy lost out to Thomas Mitchell for his performance in "Stagecoach."

Though he often played a villain or tough guy, Donlevv was a versatile actor with great range. His films spanned multiple genres too. Donlevy starred in Preston Sturges' 1940 comedy, "The Great McGinty," the 1942 military-actioner, "Wake Island," and the campy British science-fiction film, "The Quatermass Xperiment," plus its sequel too.

That film was released in the U.S. as "The Creeping Unknown":

Take a Closer Look Back

Later in his acting career, Donlevy made numerous guest appearances on television shows such as "Perry Mason," "Family Affair," and "Rawhide." But in 1949, when "Impact" was released, TV was quite a new fad. As this picture from the Los Angeles Times shows, teenagers would gather for "television parties" so they could experience the thrilling new technology together.

The picture's caption included the line, "Parents approve the new idea."