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Open Secret + He Walked By Night

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)
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John Reinhardt's 1948 noir film Open Secret is startlingly bold for its time, taking on anti-semitic thug groups and domestic abuse while actually having the gall to call Nazi sympathizers "stupid." The story follows a recently married couple, played by John Ireland and Jane Randolph, on their honeymoon, as they pay a visit to the home of the husband's war buddy. But the war buddy never shows, and the couple soon realizes that he's been murdered and had photographic evidence of a white-supremacist group's crimes, and was trying to expose the group. The couple works with a Jewish photo developer to redeem their friend, as the thugs also begin to close in.

Open Secret at its core centers around white, Christian, working-class men in the United States who were convinced to resent and attack foreigners. With an emphasis on rare photographic evidence of the kinds of anti-Semitic hate groups that were tolerated at the time, the film's title takes on a sad, ironic meaning. The dark lighting typical of film noir takes on a  symbolic significance, as victims of hate literally fight their oppressors in the dark. Reinhardt vividly captures a forgotten chapter of American racism in under an hour and a half. This movie will be screening here in a double-feature with the police procedural film-noir He Walked By Night, which is an early example of a semi-documentary film that has the criminal exploiting police radio calls to escape capture. —Reid Kurkerewicz