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January 10-16, 2007

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'Criss Cross'

Yvonne De Carlo in 'Criss Cross'

By Michael S. Gant

The Munsters, my eye. For some reason, all the obits for Yvonne De Carlo, who passed away Jan. 8, seemed to overlook her greatest role: Anna in the film noir classic Criss Cross (1949). As the irresistible neighborhood girl caught between her old husband, Burt Lancster, and her slick new gangster boyfriend, Dan Dureya as Slim Dundee, De Carlo makes a perfect noir object of desire. One look and Lancaster's big lug seals his fate, all the way from a botched armed car robbery (an inside job, of course, because in the movies, armed car robberies are always inside jobs) to a final showdown with Slim in a remote seaside getaway. Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers, Cry of the City), Criss Cross pulses with desire and danger. In a memorable scene, Lancaster's character, Steve Thompson, back in L.A. after a few years of drifting and odd jobs, wanders back to his favorite nightclub. There on the crowded dance floor, he spots his ex-wife, Anna, dancing furiously while Esy Morales' hot Latin band, decked out in wild ruffled shirts, plays a frantic rhumba number. The cross-cutting between the musicians, Lancaster's mute smitten mug and De Carlo's sexy spinning moves (somehow amplified by the impassive look on her face) creates an emotional vortex that Steve cannot resist. Soon, deceit, crime and murder must follow. And yes, that is a very young Tony Curtis that De Carlo is dancing with. (The clip can be found on YouTube:

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