Film noir with a local connection

  • The 1946 film “Black Angel,” starring Keene’s June Vincent, will be screened Wednesday at the Keene Public Library. COURTESY

Published: 11/1/2018 12:22:59 AM

The classic 1946 film “Black Angel,” starring Keene’s June Vincent, will be screened on Wednesday at the Keene Public Library.

Vincent was born Dorothy June Smith in Ohio in 1920 to the Rev. Willis and Sybil Smith. The family moved to Keene in 1931, when Rev. Smith became the pastor of the First Congregational Church. From early on Dorothy June loved acting, appearing in productions at Keene High School. After studying drama in college for a year, she moved to New York City, where modeling paid for her acting lessons, and she became June Vincent. Spotted in a play on Broadway, she went to Hollywood where she did a series of less-expensive films for Universal, often light musicals and comedies, such as “Here Come the Co-eds” and “Can’t Help Singing,” the latter with Deanna Durbin. Beginning in the early 1940’s, Vincent appeared in films with Humphrey Bogart, Loretta Young, Boris Karloff, Deanna Durbin and Peter Lorre, then became a regular on television shows such as “Father Knows Best,” “The Millionaire,” “The Rifleman,” “Peter Gunn,” and “Have Gun, Will Travel.” When she retired from acting in the mid-1970s, Vincent’s film and television credits extended well over 100.

Vincent made two film noirs, “Black Angel” and “Shed No Tears” (1948). In “Black Angel,” her role is made complex by her need to move from loyal housewife to temptress and back again.

A biography produced by the Allen County Historical Society in Lima, Ohio (2016) recounts a headline that appeared in the Keene Sentinel – “Keene Girl Shines in Film.” The biography goes on to say, “But Vincent didn’t forget where she came from or who she was. When a school friend requested a photograph, she dutifully inscribed the picture as June Vincent, but she signed the accompanying personal note, ‘Most sincerely, D.J.’”

Wednesday’s screening, at 7 p.m. at the Keene Public Library, is free and open to the public. A discussion with film historian Larry Benaquist will follow.

The event is sponsored by the Historical Society of Cheshire County in partnership with the Keene Public Library.

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