Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)

Directed by Gordon Douglas
Cinematography J. Peverell Marley

From the trial of the survivors, we flash back to amoral crook Ralph Cotter’s violent prison break, assisted by Holiday Carleton, sister of another prisoner…who doesn’t make it. Soon Ralph manipulates the grieving Holiday into his arms, and two crooked cops follow her into his pocket. Ralph’s total lack of scruple brings him great success in a series of robberies. But his easy conquest of gullible heiress Margaret Dobson proves more dangerous to him than any crime…


The film that Phil Spector and Lana Clarkson were watching in Spector’s chauffeured car on the way to his Alhambra mansion the night of her murder.  in 2003.

Underrated gangster/film-noir gem

Author: Shawn Taber ( from Rock Forest, Quebec
9 September 1999

I can’t believe that this film is not well known. Get rid of the terrible courtroom framing device, and you have a gangster masterpiece. Coming on the heels of Cagney’s better known White Heat, this film takes violence and corruption to a new level. This film starts off with a brutal jail break and never slows down. The cold blooded violence portrayed is quite jaw dropping. Cagney was born to play this role. He is clearly relishing his cold blooded character. The freshness of this film is surprising. You are totally caught off guard. In this sense, it reminds me most of Kiss Me Deadly. For anyone with a passing interest in Cagney, or gangster films, or film-noir, or film violence, watch this film!!


If they made this movie today…

Author: tostinati from United States
1 October 2001

Spoilers here.

If they made this movie today, they would call it “White Heat 2: Cody Lives”. Cagney is as ruthless as in White Heat, but here, his pathology is under control, (brain surgery after his Oil Tank “accident” in Part 1?) so he can blackmail cops and smoothly double-cross his erstwhile moll while skimming wherever else and whenever he can. In the first couple of minutes of the film, he shoots a fellow prison escapee “just because”. His sense of loyalty to his supposed accomplices goes downhill from there.

Barbara Payton is a more resonant and convincing actress than Virginia Mayo, and it can be argued that her strength as an actress creates much of the tension here: We want to see her get wise to the Cagney character’s dirty game, and also succeed in avenging her brother’s death (the fellow escapee shot in the beginning of the film).


And unlike the case of Virginia Mayo’s unsympathetic moll in White Heat, we actually do root for her to gain a comeuppance against the Cagney character. But we’re torn. Cagney has so much natural charisma, even when playing a snake, that we can never entirely want him to get his. There is a sense of justice and inevitability to the ending. But there remains the nagging hurt feeling at what Cagney– with all that bristling energy and industry and charisma– COULD have accomplished if he hadn’t succumbed to the dark side. Ten stars. See it!

Coal black, brutish, exhilarating noir!

Author: oOgiandujaOo from United Kingdom
25 April 2007

How fickle film history is! To think that this most intense crime thriller has been totally overlooked. I wouldn’t say underrated, because it seems that everyone who has watched it agrees with me.


I woke up ten minutes before this movie started on TV, flicked the switch, and thought, OK cool, a James Cagney movie. I wasn’t prepared for the roller-coaster plunge through abyssal night. Or the violent way with which the riders carom off into the void. The ending scene is totally classic with dialogue and revelation that pitches the film into the darkest reaches of noir.

Everything about this movie is hyped, Cotter (Cagney) hasn’t got a bottle of champagne, he’s got a jeroboam, he hasn’t got a revolver, he’s got an automatic, he hasn’t got one honey, he’s got two, we don’t do 100 kilometers per hour, we do 100 miles per hour, and in a car the size of a carnival float. The guy’s a total psycho, but not in the Robert Ryan way that turns you against his character, in the Cagney way where it’s all like some big game to him.


There are a lot of totally mesmerising scenes in this movie. Two stand out just for the sheer exhilaration factor – this is the bit where you coo out loud. When Barbara (Holiday Carleton) throws a pot of coffee at Cotter he says, ‘No cream?’, so she throws the cream at him, ‘No sugar?’ so he gets the sugar, and finally ‘No cigar?’. I was on the floor. Then there is the scene where Helena (Margaret Dobson) takes him out for a drive in her sporty little number. She takes it up to a hundred to scare him, and then he stamps his foot on hers and takes it to 110 whilst she frantically swerves.

Some people have commented on how the framing device of the court-case doesn’t work. But for me it’s total brutality, the director doesn’t waste time with the minutiae of court proceedings, he just uses them to makes plain right from the very start that its all gonna end badly. It’s a complete train wreck of a movie, there isn’t an honest man in sight, and the casual nature of the violence just shocks you. Cutting kills people like he’s taking out the trash, it’s just another chore.


There’s also classic support from Ward Bond, in this movie he always looks like he’s gonna screw you up and toss you away. This role stands apart from the usual supporting roles he gets, either buffoonish (Fort Apache), ineffectual (Johnny Guitar), foolishly vigilante (On Dangerous Ground).

OK so we got broads with pzazz, we got dialogue to die for, we got utter magnetism from the lead actor (as only Cagney can be), and we’ve got total, anthracitic, ebonic, pitch-black noir. 11/10

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is effective Cagney vehicle

Author: (chuck-reilly) from Los Angeles
5 August 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although not up to the high standards of his previous work in “White Heat” the year before, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is still a worthy follow-up for James Cagney. Whereas Cagney’s Cody Jarrett in “White Heat” was a deranged psychopathic killer, his character here (Ralph Cotter) is more of a calculating cynic who plays on the fears and weaknesses of others.


He’s the type of ruthless criminal who could corrupt a cloister of nuns and he leaves a trail of misery wherever his path takes him. Unfortunately, he has one lovely lady named Holiday who believes all his lies and will do his bidding without question. Played by the beautiful Barbara Payton, Holiday does all she can to aid and abet Cotter until he takes away the only other person she loves in the world: her brother. That’s a mistake that Cotter pays for in one of the most well-remembered death scenes in 1950’s cinema.

Veteran director Gordon Douglas keeps the brutal action moving at a brisk pace and he employs a trove of famous character actors who weave themselves in and out of the twisted plot. Ward Bond is around as a suspicious cop with a shady past. Good-looking Helena Carter plays a young and very rich socialite who Cagney takes advantage of so he can pass himself off as legitimate.


Kenneth Tobey plays an honest detective and they’re in short supply in this film. Barton MacLane, John Litel, Luther Adler and William Frawley (Fred Mertz from “I Love Lucy”) round out the stellar cast. Director Douglas had a prolific career directing a slew of famous and not-so-famous films all the way into the late 1970’s. Cagney, as always, dominates the screen whenever he appears and his performance definitely raises the level of this work quite a few notches. Without him, “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” would’ve been a standard 1950’s “cops and robbers” film with few redeeming values. As it stands, the movie is not a classic like some of Cagney’s other gangster epics, but it certainly has its moments—especially at the end. When Ms. Payton finds out that Cagney has murdered her brother, she gets the opportunity to give new meaning to the title. She sticks a gun in Jimmy’s face and spits out the words “You can KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE!”


Oh no, he stopped being smart when he took my money.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
31 August 2011

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is directed by Gordon Douglas and adapted to screenplay by Harry Brown from the novel by Horace McCoy. It stars James Cagney, Barbara Payton, Helena Carter, Ward Bond, Luther Adler and Steve Brodie. Music is by Carmen Dragon and photography by J. Peverell Marley.

Ralph Cotter (Cagney), career criminal, escapes from prison and crudely murders his partner during the escape. Hooking up with Holiday Carleton (Payton), the oblivious sister of the slain partner, Cotter quickly gets back into a life of crime and violence. But will his evil deed stay a secret? How long can he keep the corrupt coppers under wraps? And is his “other” romantic relationship with Margaret Dobson (Carter) doomed to failure? ……


Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, it seems to have been lost in the slipstream of White Heat that was released the previous year. An undoubted classic of the gangster/crime genre, and featuring one of Cagney’s greatest acting performances, White Heat has unsurprisingly dwarfed many a poor genre entry. However, while it doesn’t equal the searing ferocity of White Heat, both in tone and character performance by Cagney, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye is a seriously hard movie. Energetic from the off, film is often brutal and cynical and awash with potently memorable scenes, with some deemed as being too much, resulting in the film being banned from theatres in Ohio!

Female or a cripple, it matters not to the menacing force of nature that is Ralph Cotter.

Gordon Douglas was a multi genre director, unfussy and able to keep things taut, he gets some super performances from the cast while never letting the pace drag. Cagney is a given, give him this sort of character and let him run with it, in fact it is arguably a detriment to the film as a whole, that it can’t match Cagney’s blood and thunder show? But Bond (big bad corrupt copper), Brodie (Cotter side-kick) and Adler (shifty lawyer) do shine through with imposing turns.


Of much interest is the dual lady characters in Cotter’s life. Both very different from each other, this gives the film a double whammy of femme fatales in waiting. Payton takes the honours, in what is the best written part in the film. Her Holiday Carleton is a good girl drawn in to a murky life by a bad man, while Carter as bored rich girl Margaret Dobson is the polar opposite, she likes fast cars and dangerous men, allowing the actress to deftly sidle in with impact in the smaller role.

Photography isn’t out of the ordinary, and the music is standard boom and bluster for a crime picture. But this is about Cagney’s performance and the grim thematics contained within, and much like Ralph Cotter, it doesn’t pull its punches. Finally sealing the deal with an ending that firmly pulls the movie into the film noir universe. 8/10


Last Cup of Coffee for the Road

Author: radiobirdma from Guernsey
12 April 2016

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce” — the famous Marx quote also counts for Jimmy Cagney’s last gangster movie, a lackluster rehash of his 30s screen persona and classic Cagney stuff, the legendary grapefruit scene from The Public Enemy now transformed into a leaden homage with Barbara Payton tossing a cup of coffee at Cagney, who has — I hate to say it — lost his magic, the dancer elegance, the energetic body language, the aggressive upstart aura. While White Heat from the previous year captures Cagney as a completely berserk character, a distorted middle-age mirror image still breathing the intensity of youth, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye merely reflects the portrait of the artist as his depleted doppelganger.


Director Gordon Douglas can’t hold a candle to Raoul Walsh, the production value looks more like Poverty Row than Warner Bros., the script is clumsy, and Cagney walks through this 35 mm swan song like he’s anticipating those legendary words uttered by Elvis five years later in the opening of Milkcow Blues: “Hold it, fellas. That don’t move me. Let’s get real, real gone.”

At last, Cody Jarrett’s twin brother has finally been found

Author: nomoons11 from United States
16 November 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Man if this character Cagney plays doesn’t appear to have the same look, feel and over the topness of his character in White Heat, I don’t know what other film does.


This was a pretty good but it’s not in the same breath as White Heat. Cagney plays a guy who busts outta prison and gets together with a few corrupt officials and regulars to commit robberies for fast dough. In this we meet his helper in his escape, Barbara Payton and the driver. They get involved with corrupt cops and lawyers whoever else to get ahead. The character Cagney plays so closely resembles Cody Jarrett that just by me mentioning it you’ll immediately know what your in for. Cagney goes through this film doing whatever he wants to whoever without batting an eyelash. The best part is how all the people around him react.


One comment on the time this film was made, late 40’s early 50’s, there probably wasn’t an “institute for cosmic consciousness” in the south. How do we know this was in the south? Well, I know of know other place in the US that had chain gangs(like the one Cagney escapes from). In this film you see a corrupt ex-mob guy who’s running this “new-age” place and I can tell ya folks, ain’t know way that place would have existed in the south in that day and time. They would have run them outta the place. Another little fun nugget? Take a look at the end scene where Cagney falls after being shot. If you look close on the left hand side of the screen, you’ll see a crew members foot come into the frame for just a second. LoL now that’s quality editing.


Looking for over-the-topness in your films? This one should suit you just fine. It was pretty obvious Cagney jumped on this one cause of how well White Heat previously. It works but don’t expect White Heat.

Cagney does Cagney

Author: madmonkmcghee from Netherlands
7 November 2012

So you liked White Heat, with psychotic mamma’s boy Cody Jarret going way over the top? Well, here’s one just like it, only without any pretense at psychological probing of Cagney’s character.


Ralph Cotter is just plain evil, that’s all there is to him. Unfortunately any comparison with White Heat shows up the deficiencies of this movie. There’s simply no real reason to be all that interested in any of the characters. They rob and steal, scheme and cheat, but there’s no real drive to their actions. You keep wondering why you should spend any time with these nasty people; even Cagney lacks that vicious charm he usually gives to these gangster roles.If you can watch Cagney do anything you may like this movie, for me it held too little appeal.


An overlooked but excellent gangster film noir !

Author: gullwing592003 from United States
13 May 2010

James Cagney is in top form in this rare & obscure gem, obviously made to cash in on the success of White Heat. If you enjoyed White Heat you will relish Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. Cagney does not disappoint & shows that he is still at his best as a gangster. No matter how evil & despicable Cagney was you could never really hate him. That was how charismatic & electrifying James Cagney was & only he could have played Cody Jarrett & Ralph Cotter. Cagney is more in control & more clever & manipulating as Ralph Cotter. Everyone gets sucked in & gets caught in his web from Crooked Cops played by Ward Bond & Barton Maclane, a crooked lawyer (Luther Adler), the moll (Barbara Payton), the wealthy businessman & his spoiled daughter.


I like the scene where Cagney sets a trap for Inspector Webber (Ward Bond) by recording a conversation about plans for a bogus heist on record to blackmail & use against him to get what he wants. Cherokee Mandan says “Let’s try it on for size”, he gets Ralph a gun permit & later Cagney even gets the inspector to give him a policeman’s uniform to undermine & cash in on a criminal racket.”Any business that pays 50 grand is a good business to be in”. Cagney seemed unstoppable & was in control of every situation, pushing the envelope & it’s easy to see why Holiday Carlton (Barbara Payton) had to kill Cagney in the end for killing her brother during the prison break.


I almost wished he hadn’t of gotten killed by her because it seemed like the rich father & his daughter had some kind of good influence on him, Ezra Dobson later approves of their marriage & decides not to have it annulled & offers Cagney a proposition of managing his daughter’s money(Helena Carter)who’s richer than her father. When she asks Ralph why he carries a gun she asks to see it & intentionally tosses it in the water. “You don’t need it any more”, he was heading in a new direction & starting a new life of respectability & leaving his criminal life behind. Or would Ralph have just gotten greedy to their millions of $$ & bumped them off as well or would he have reformed ? We’ll never know. Watch this movie, I highly recommend it !!


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