Drive a Crooked Road (1954)

Directed by Richard Quine

Drive a Crooked Road is a 1954 American crime film noir directed by Richard Quine and featuring Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster, Kevin McCarthy, and Jack Kelly. The drama’s screenplay was written by Blake Edwards and Richard Quine from The Wheel Man; a story by Canadian James Benson Nablo.

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Great performance by Rooney

24 October 2005 | by madformickey05 (United States) – See all my reviews

Drive A Crooked Road was a great performance by Mr. Mickey Rooney. I’m never ceased to be amazed by this man’s talents. As a child I used to watch his films and he always amazed me then and always will. I recently discovered this classic gem and is one of the best performances of Mr. Rooney’s. Mickey Rooney always gives a good performance. Mickey Rooney plays an auto mechanic who is framed by the girl he thinks loves him. Mickey Rooney did a lot of great film noir in the 50’s. For other great Rooney 1950’s performances check out Baby Face Nelson, The Big Operator, The Last Mile (an amazing performance by Rooney.) You will not be disappointed.

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Affecting performance by Rooney as duped misfit in odd weeper/noir

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
18 August 2002

Is there such a thing as a male weeper? Bang The Drum Slowly certainly belongs, as do parts of The Knute Rockne Story (`Let’s win this one for the Gipper!’). Probably the whole athlete-dying-young genre does for men what Stella Dallas did for women. Another candidate for inclusion is Drive A Crooked Road, a 1954 noir starring Mickey Rooney.

 

Rooney’s abbreviated stature helped keep him in pictures as America’s oldest teen-ager. But once he hit 30, it was inevitable that adult roles should come his way. As the noir cycle was in full swing, that’s where he landed. In The Strip and Quicksand, he still managed to pass as a stripling. By the time of this movie, however, he was well into his 30s, with broad hits of chubbiness settling into his face and midriff. He was still the star, not yet relinquished to character roles, though it was unclear how to handle him. So he became a misfit – a `freak.’

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He’s an awkward, lonely auto mechanic with dreams of driving someday in the Grand Prix – dreams he knows won’t come true. With one exception, his fellow mechanics tease him mercilessly, especially about his lack of sexual experience. One day an unattainable woman (Dianne Foster) gives him the big eye, and he succumbs, however tentatively at first. (His ache for her is palpable when she plays hard to get, as he tosses on his rooming-house bed with his few racing trophies now emblems of hollow triumph). But she’s just a cat’s-paw for her real boyfriend, Kevin McCarthy, living the high life in his beach-house bachelor pad; he’s planning to knock over a bank in Palm Springs and needs Rooney as his daredevil driver. With Foster’s increasingly reluctant urging, Rooney signs on….

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The resolution, of course, is the falling out of thieves; a large portion of the plot was to be echoed, 10 years later, in Don Siegel’s remake of The Killers. Though the robbery and escape should have been the centerpiece, or at least the central set-piece, of the movie, here it seems curiously perfunctory (these comments are based on viewing a version some minutes short of recorded running times, however). But the movie’s staying power lies in Rooney’s portrayal of the dupe, the victim – all the more memorable for being so understated.

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Perhaps Rooney’s finest movie

10/10
Author: bux from Tecumseh ok
29 May 2001

I saw this one at the theater, as a kid, when it came out. I have searched for a VHS copy of this one for years, and finally came across it recently on the internet. It is no wonder that this one stayed with me for so long. This is without a doubt Mickey Rooney’s best movie as an adult. It would seem that after the war and the Andy Hardy series wound down that Mick was having a difficult time finding his niche in Hollywood. He did score very well with “Quicksand”(1950)but in this one he pulls out all the stops. Constantly he is referred to as “the little freak” and several comments are made concerning his manhood, or lack thereof. We slowly watch as Mick is played off by the gangster’s moll, lured into the web of robbery and deceit; this is NOT a pretty movie. The movie builds slowly to an unforgettable, unexpected climax. Still a great movie after almost 50 years!

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Nearly perfect with a couple of big problems

8/10
Author: HEFILM from French Polynesia
12 April 2010

Richard Quine probably has his best “non comedy” film with this one, but maybe has to take the rap also for what’s weak about this film. The opening car race and the key bank “race” are pretty blandly done as is any other action set piece in the movie. The opening scene is really poor, like something you’d see in a film made in the Early silent days. Badly matched rear projection, the camera angle is so wrong in the rear projection that is doesn’t match the action of Rooney driving at all. The process work isn’t bad, the footage shot is. The rest of the race material is also poor. And for a film about the ability to race, the fact that the racing is bad can’t be overlooked. After this crappy beginning the excellent performances and dialog drive the film along perfectly. Most of the cast is perfect and the personal violence between characters is very strong. Rooney is very understated here–in many of his other adult work he’d tend to over act, not here though at all. It’s an award worthy performance.

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Just too bad that the action is treated like sloppy second unit work–some say (un)credited to Blake Edwards himself–but with Edwards interest in fast cars etc., hard to believe he’d shoot this stuff so badly. The ending, which also involves some action is perfunctorily done and the resolution too quick. Too bad because otherwise this would be a nearly perfect movie. Still if you get over, the opening especially, this is a must see.

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Mickey Rooney in an understated performance

6/10
Author: calvinnme from United States
1 January 2011

In his youth, and in particular his heyday over at MGM, Mickey Rooney would practically do cartwheels through his roles – he was that high energy. However, he was capable of something more than playing the energetic optimistic young man of pre-war America, and this film and 1950’s Quicksand are probably the best examples of what that something was.

Here he plays auto mechanic Eddie Shannon that also does some race car driving. A mob of thieves take note of his talent behind the wheel at the race track and the gang leader’s girl (Dianne Foster as Barbara) flirts with Eddie and gets him to believe that she loves him.

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Then the thieves lower the boom on him – they proposition him to drive their getaway car during a bank robbery in return for 15000 dollars. The reason that Eddie is so needed is that the road between the bank and the main highway past the point where any road blocks would be requires fast driving over what amounts to unpaved desert terrain. Eddie’s an honest guy, willing to wait and work for the things he wants, but Barbara is holding out the need for this quick money as a condition of their relationship continuing, so he gives in and agrees to the robbery plan. To him, Barbara is his treasure, not any amount of money that he could land. Little does he know she’s fool’s gold.

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Rooney is convincing as the little guy who takes it on the chin from a verbally abusive coworker at the garage who – like all bullies – doesn’t seem to realize that high school is at least ten years behind him. Without saying much you can tell Rooney’s character Eddie is a guy that has come to have low expectations of life, not so much abused as he is ignored and invisible to the opposite sex, and is surprised when a beautiful girl takes notice of him. Things are getting out of hand for Barbara too, as she feels deep remorse for using Eddie. Kudos also go to Kevin McCarthy and Jack Kelly as the two thieves. McCarthy’s character has a very thin veneer of charm painted over what appears to be a soul of pure evil. When he kisses a rather apathetic Barbara and doesn’t like her lack of enthusiasm, he warns her to never kiss him like that again in a way that will give you goosebumps. Jack Kelly’s character is more of an all out wild man. You can just tell that he considers violence the most amusing pastime on earth.

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I’d recommend this one for Rooney’s performance, but I’d downgrade this one just a little bit on lost opportunities for what could have been some fine action shots during the bank robbery scene and the getaway thereafter.

Mickey Rooney is Career Driven

8/10
Author: howdymax from Las Cruces, New Mexico
23 April 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I tuned into this movie expecting to see Mickey Rooney doing his impersonation of a dramatic role. I mean, Mickey Rooney. Has anybody ever seen him do anything on film that wasn’t over the top? Well, tune into this movie. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was.

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The story has to do with a lonely, out of step guy who has a dream of racing in The Grand Prix. He’s an accomplished mechanic, who races on weekends, but you know he’ll never amount to anything. Along comes, long legged Dianne Foster. He falls hard, and she sucks him into a devious plot to rob a bank. What Mickey doesn’t know is that she is in cahoots with a couple of classy mutts played by Kevin McCarthy and Jack Kelly. Foster lures the Mick into driving the getaway car so they’ll have the money for him to race and they can live happily ever after. Not a chance. The plan all along is to ditch Mickey after the robbery, so she can run off with the mutts. Poor Mick never catches on on until the hammer drops, but by this time, the girls conscience gets the best of her and she spills the beans to Mickey. There is an explosive ending, but it does leave the viewer hanging a little.

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This is a Columbia cheapo, but the story is tight and well written. More importantly, the acting is first rate. All the principals really perform, but it’s Mickey movie. He underplays the part of Eddie the sap perfectly. I didn’t think it was possible, but this was later in his career, and I wish he had done more like it. It proved to me that he had much more range than one would think. I have to wonder if his height held him back. Or maybe it was his earlier body of work. Either way, I know he had much more to offer than Hollywood ever asked of him. Keep an eye open for it. You won’t be disappointed.

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