Femme Fatales: The Women of Film Noir — Kiss Me Deadly

Ralph Meeker was a tough guy who had some tough luck in Hollywood. Meeker won accolades for his performance in the 1953 Broadway production of Picnic, but when it came time for the movie, William Holden was cast as the star. Meeker reportedly turned down the role because he didn't want to sign a long-term contract with the studio. Picnic made a star out of Holden while Meeker went on to appear in Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory and Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen among other film and television series, but he never captured the fame many thought should have been his.

One of Meeker's most lauded performances was as detective Mike Hammer in Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly, a Cold War morality tale. Cloris Leachman co-stars as a woman being chased by unknown assailants. (When Mike Hammer picks her up on a lonely back road, she's wearing nothing but a trench coat — very, very noir.) Kiss Me Deadly is part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Femme Fatales: The Women of Film Noir series, but it's Meeker who shines as the detective smart enough to avoid being taken in by the sultry, sexy females he meets.

Sunday's screening is introduced by Michael Bergeron of Free Press Houston. 7 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Fri., Aug. 23, 7 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 5 p.m., 2013

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Olivia Flores Alvarez