The Sellout (1952)

Director:

Gerald Mayer

Haven D. Allridge is the editor-in-chief of the News-Intelligencer newspaper in St. Howard, a town where he and his family have lived all their lives. Peggy, Randy and Marcia Staunton – Haven’s married daughter, her husband, and their child – now live about thirty miles away in Bridgewood County, which is adjacent to the St. Howard town limits. Randy is the county prosecutor. Haven learns first hand the corruption of the county sheriff, K.C. Burke, and his associates when, in an innocent enough move in picking up an acquaintance, Wilfred Jackson, at a bus stop located within the county and lightly bumping but not damaging a county sign with his car in the process, Haven and Wilfred are hauled into jail, where they spend the night before appearing before the county judge the next morning. Beaten up by prisoners with who they shared the cell, Wilfred, who has no money and pleads not guilty to the charge of soliciting rides on the highway, is held at a labor camp for trial in thirty days…

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The meaning of ethics

23 October 2011 | by blanche-2 (United States) – See all my reviews

Walter Pidgeon, John Hodiak, Tomas Gomez, Audrey Totter, Cameron Mitchell, Karl Malden and Everett Sloan all star in “The Sellout,” a 1952 film. Pidgeon plays a well-respected newsman, Haven Allridge, who runs afoul of a corrupt sheriff (Gomez). Despite the fact that he and his department have been using violence and other illegal tactics unopposed because people are afraid, Allridge decides to take him down. He uses the power of the press to bring the matter to everyone’s attention, and soon an indictment is called for. Since Allridge’s son-in-law (Mitchell) works for the court, a special prosecutor (Hodiak) is brought in. Unfortunately, when it comes time for the indictment proceedings, everyone seems to have forgotten what they said previously.

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This is an okay movie, although predictable, with good performances. It does point out that ethics aren’t just for people who have nothing to lose, when it’s easy. True ethics are for the tough times, when one is faced with huge losses.

Good cast.

Enviable cast doesn’t ignite four-square crusade against corruption

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
18 January 2003

An enviable cast of noir veterans (John Hodiak, Audrey Totter, Walter Pidgeon, Thomas Gomez, Everett Sloane, and Karl Malden) tackling an all-American storyline – a newspaper crusades against municipal corruption – promises something above the ordinary. But The Sellout’s promise, like cold fusion’s, proves an inflated one; the movie never quite ignites.

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An editor from a mid-sized city (Pidgeon), visiting his daughter’s family in a neighboring county, drives into a speed trap. He’s thrown into jail, subjected to a prisoners’ kangaroo court, and fined the entire contents of his wallet. Once back, he launches a crusade against this hijacking of the law, lining up witnesses and publishing blistering editorials against Gomez, the sheriff, and county boss Sloane. Then, abruptly, he leaves town and the campaign ceases.

A prosecutor from the state capital (Hodiak) is sent to investigate; upon arrival, he’s ambushed by a B-girl and shantoozie (Totter) who works at the machine’s headquarters, a road house called Amboy’s. Her philosophy of life is eloquent: (`Who makes plans? You do the best you can – Sometimes you wish things turned out differently.’) But she grows sweet on him and warns him off. With the help of honest cop Malden, Hodiak tries to get to the bottom of the editor’s silence, but everywhere encounters a stone wall. It turns out that the corruption runs very close to home….

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Probably the biggest shortcoming of The Sellout is relegating Totter to a sub-plot that fizzles out too early; she lends the movie whatever quirky subversiveness it shows. For the most part, however, it’s four-square – there’s little visual excitement – and a little too self-important. Though crowded with incident, it ends up just plodding along. It’s also rooted in a now (one hopes) vanished America where out in the boondocks, away from the bright lights of civilization, lurked pockets of unexpected peril. The billboards marking the city limits might have well warned: Beyond here lie monsters.

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No Stool Pidgeon

6/10
Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
1 October 2011

Idealistic and respected newspaper editor Walter Pidgeon (as Haven D. Allridge) is accosted by corrupt sheriff Thomas Gomez (as Kellwin “Casey” Burke) in a nearby town and treated poorly in jail. Vowing to “skin this tin badge off that sloppy shirt of yours if it’s the last thing I do,” Mr. Pidgeon wants his newspaper to help blast the nasty Sheriff out of office. Then, suddenly, he becomes “The Sellout” and stops his exposé. Following a likely murder, state attorney John Hodiak (as Charles “Chick” Johnson) and detective Karl Malden (as Buck Maxwell) attempt to prosecute the case, but find Pidgeon uncooperative. The transition of leading men is awkward, but this is an engaging little drama, with a nice supporting cast.

****** The Sellout (5/30/52) Gerald Mayer ~ John Hodiak, Walter Pidgeon, Karl Malden, Thomas Gomez

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Losing Momentum

6/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
27 July 2009

1951, the Kefauver congressional committee on organized crime and corruption is making headlines, and MGM under new head Dore Schary is trying to make that famously big-budget studio relevant to news of the day. The trouble is that the so-called Tiffany of studios just doesn’t have the same feel for gritty material as a Warner Bros. or an RKO. Too bad this film doesn’t sustain the harrowing feel of the first 15 minutes, when prominent editor Allridge (Pidgeon) is brutalized after a minor traffic infraction by corrupt Sheriff Burke (Gomez). Allridge’s ordeal has the feel of a “sudden nightmare” to it, as if he’s been abruptly forced into a savage new world where the old civilized rules no longer apply. It’s a backwater county run by the sheriff like a private fiefdom and a jailhouse where inmates rule once the cell door slams shut. I like the way we’re shown the difficulties state prosecutor Johnson (Hodiak) encounters in trying to rid the county of Burke and his outlaw regime.

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Still and all, the longer the movie lasts, the more momentum it loses, ending with a final 20 minutes of plodding courtroom procedure. There’s still some suspense in the air (why did Allridge skip town), but the initial energy has long since dissipated. At least part of the problem lies with uninspired direction that can’t sustain the early sense of tension and evil. Too bad noir maestros like Phil Karlson or Anthony Mann weren’t running the show. Those reviewers contrasting this film with Karlson’s similar Phenix City Story are right on target. Nonetheless, the movie does have its moments, along with a vibrant turn from the under- rated Audrey Totter who never seemed to get the recognition her talent deserved.

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Final film of Richard Cramer, whose career started back in the days of silent films.

In this drama, an idealistic newspaper editor tries to launch a public crusade against a corrupt sheriff. The editor ends up kidnapped, but fortunately, the states attorney continues with the cause. The sheriff is brought to trial, but none of the witnesses are willing to speak against him.
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