High Wall (1947)

Directed by Curtis Bernhardt
Cinematography Paul Vogel

After a brain-damaged man confesses to murder and is committed, Dr. Ann Lorrison tries to prove his innocence.

great performance by Taylor

Author: blanche-2 from United States
3 September 2006

Robert Taylor is Steven Kenet, accused of killing his unfaithful wife in “High Wall,” a 1947 film noir also starring Audrey Totter and Herbert Marshall. In our first glimpse of Steve, he’s in a car with a dead woman careening down the road to get rid of her. The problem is, due to a brain injury suffered during the war, he can’t remember what happened. He is institutionalized for psychiatric evaluation to see if he can stand trial as a sane person. Audrey Totter is Ann, the psychiatrist who takes in Steve’s small son as well as works with her patient to try and uncover the truth. Herbert Marshall plays his dead wife’s boss.

tayor wall

After World War II, Hollywood began to explore mental and emotional disorders and the use of psychiatry to unlock the traumas of the mind. “Possessed,” “Spellbound,” and “The Snake Pit” are just a few of the dozens of films employing the use of psychiatry, mental hospitals, and/or psychotropic drugs. In “High Wall,” the psychiatry seems to be more of a plot device than something that is actually used to help the patient. It’s there to provide flashbacks. Meanwhile, the Taylor character, once he has surgery, has a mind of his own and is constantly slipping out or in the psychiatrist’s office window, hiding in her car, and visiting the scene of the crime. The biggest problem is that the character of the murder victim is never developed, and the reasons for her behavior are never made clear. Nevertheless, the film manages to hold one’s interest, has a great atmosphere and a couple of really shocking moments. There are also some very funny bits throughout, including a scene where Steve meets the public defender.


This is one of Robert Taylor’s best performances. After “Johnny Eager,” one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs began to play more complex roles and more bad guys. It was a good move; he played them very well. He doesn’t get much support from Audrey Totter, who turns in a dull, somewhat cold performance in an attempt to be a professional woman. She doesn’t give the role a lot of shading. Herbert Marshall seems somewhat miscast and is too lethargic for a role that requires some emotional range.

Very watchable for handsome Taylor’s excellent performance.


Physician Heal Thyself

Author: seymourblack-1 from United Kingdom
8 May 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s difficult to understand why “High Wall” remains such an overlooked and under-appreciated movie. It certainly has much to commend it, such as the creative and stylish expressionist cinematography which greatly enhances the action and the judicious use of close ups which add intensity to some of the more dramatic moments (especially those involving the two main characters). The grid-like shadows that adorn the walls, floors and patients in the Psychiatric Hospital, emphasise the perception of it being an institution where people are caged in. A high speed sequence in one of the early scenes in which Steven Kenet (Robert Taylor) drives a car recklessly and crashes with his wife’s dead body in the front passenger seat, effectively grabs the audience’s attention and provokes interest in what events had led to such a dramatic incident. This thriller also features one of the most casual murders imaginable where the weapon used is an umbrella handle! Equally bizarrely, there is also the spectacle of a psychiatrist who goes completely off the rails when she takes a series of actions which are seriously unprofessional.

taylor ggoo

Steven Kenet (an ex-bomber pilot) is arrested after his wife’s murder but genuinely can’t remember whether he killed her or not and is therefore, referred to a Psychiatric Hospital for assessment. Medical tests reveal the presence of a blood clot on his brain and it’s believed that the clot is the most likely cause of his memory lapses. An operation to remove the clot is recommended but Steven initially refuses permission. Steven’s six year old son had been living with his mother and one day when Dr Ann Lorrison (Audrey Totter) is trying to persuade him to change his mind about the operation, she tells him that his mother has died and that unless he has the operation, there is no possibility that he could be declared mentally fit enough to deal with his own finances and his son would then have to be admitted to the county orphanage. The operation goes ahead and is successful but still does not bring back any memory of his wife’s death.

tayor high

A man called Henry Cronner (Vince Barnett) tries to sell Steven useful information about his wife’s death but is murdered shortly after. This leads Steven to believe that he may be innocent and he then agrees to be given the truth drug (sodium pentothal) so that he can describe to Ann all that he remembers from the night of his wife’s murder. He can remember starting to attack his wife and then when he woke up she was dead.


Ann goes to her car and is surprised to find Steven is in the back seat. He gets her to take him to the murder scene where he goes through everything he can remember. One night when Ann visits Steven, he locks her in his cell and escapes. Ann searches for him and eventually finds him outside the murder scene. At the apartment where the murder took place, they meet someone they suspect may be involved and Ann administers the truth drug and carries out some questioning which gradually reveals who murdered Mrs Kenet.

The_High_Wall_movie_poster (2)

Dr Lorrison had initially suspected that Kenet may be guilty and that he’d refused treatment to protect himself from prosecution. As she got more familiar with his case she started to feel more sympathetic towards him and after he’d had the operation and undergone the sodium pentothal test, her attraction to him had deepened.

Dr Lorrison is a remarkably unethical practitioner who improperly gains temporary custody of her patient’s son and then, when it suits her, tells Kenet that his son is in danger of being sent to an orphanage.


At a later stage she disingenuously informs Kenet that his son has been taken in by a woman called Martha Ferguson (conveniently omitting to mention that Ferguson is actually her aunt with whom she lives). After the first occasion when Kenet escaped from the hospital and forced her to go with him to the scene of the murder, she didn’t report the matter to her colleagues and after his second escape she also went to join him at the same location. This time however, she readily injected the suspect with sodium pentothal despite the fact that he was confused and groggy after being savagely beaten up by Kenet!!!

High Wall 1947

Robert Taylor turns in a very good performance as a man whose condition makes him tense and truculent at times and whose predicament also makes him anguished and confused. He projects all these feelings quite powerfully and also shows a more tender side to his personality in the scenes involving his son.

Murders and Medicinal Mania.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
11 January 2014

High Wall is directed by Curtis Bernhardt and adapted to screenplay by Sydney Boehm and Lester Cole from the play by Alan R. Clark and Bradbury Foote. It stars Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter, Herbert Marshall, Dorothy Patrick and H.B. Warner. Music is by Bronislau Kaper and cinematography by Paul Vogel.


Suffering from a brain injury sustained during the war, Steven Kenet (Taylor) is further rocked by the realisation that he may have strangled his wife during one of his blackout episodes. Committed to a county asylum, Steven responds to treatment by Dr. Ann Lorrison (Totter) and comes to believe he just might be innocent of his wife’s murder. But can he convince the authorities? Can he in fact get out of the asylum to find proof?

By 1947 film noir had firmly encompassed the plot strand involving returning veterans from the war. Plot would find them struggling to readjust into society, they would be battle scarred, emotionally torn or suffering some form of injury, such as a popular favourite of film makers of the time, the amnesia sufferer. High Wall is one of the better pictures from the original film noir cycle to deal with this premise. Where except for a daft method used to bring the story to its conclusion, it’s a well thought out and intelligent picture.


The pairing of Taylor and Totter is one of the film’s strengths, they are helped no end by having parts that requires them to veer away from roles that they were accustomed to. Bernhardt and Vogel dress the picture up superbly, the camera glides eerily around the asylum, throwing impressive shadows across the drama, and the camera technique used for Kenet’s flashback sequences proves mood magnificent. Out of the asylum the visuals still remain beautiful whilst still exuding a bleakness befitting the unfolding story, with rain drenched streets the order of the night. While Kaper drifts a suitably haunting musical score across proceedings.

It’s unhurried and cares about attention to details, and even though some of the ethics involved in story are dubious, this is a smart entry in the psychological film noir canon. 7.5/10


Johnny Eager (1941)


Mervyn LeRoy

Cinematography by

Harold Rosson
District Attorney’s daughter falls in love with a gangster the D.A. is trying to put in jail.
A good forties gangster film!

6 August 2003 | by Woody Martin (Vanright@hotmail.com) (Bklyn. New York) – See all my reviews

Robert Taylor was just great in this film, Van Heflin was great as well. Taylor as a likeable bad guy with class, you can’t help but root for him in the end, wishing for a happy ending, but knowing that this likeable gangster will go out in blaze of glory. I wish it were available on a DVD format, they don’t make them like this any more!


Enchanting film-noir with endearing performances

Author:Jugu Abraham (jugu_abraham@yahoo.co.uk)from Trivandrum, Kerala, India
13 January 2003

Just as Sydney Greenstreet is unforgettable in “The Maltese Falcon”, Van Heflin’s role in Johnny Eager is memorable. Heflin won an Academy Award for this role that would be a dream role for any serious actor. The role provides superb lines, wide emotional range and an unusual character for a Forties movie. A weeping Heflin would be arresting to even a casual viewer. Several years later, Heflin played a somewhat similar but rugged and drunk Musketeer with a broken marriage in “The Three Musketeers.” The casting of “Johnny Eager” is the secret to its success.


Robert Taylor made a name as the good looking good guy in the movies, but he is even better when he plays the bad guy in a handful of films. This is one such example. The strength of this role is his ability to transform from a likable good guy into a steely, gangster with an eye-brow movement and a subtle variation in his voice. Yet amongst the several negative roles (“Conspirator”, “Undercurrent”, “Ride, Vaqeuro”, “The Night Walker”), Taylor in “Johnny Eager” is able to present the versatile actor he was.


The lovely Lana Turner is overshadowed by Taylor and Heflin, not just by the script but their individual performances. Usually Turner overshadows her male colleagues.

The film would never have stood out but for the script (Grant and Mahin) and the direction (LeRoy). The opening sequence and the ending sequence are well crafted and can stand alongside the best of film noir. I am surprised that this work gets often overlooked in discussions about the best examples of the genre. I found the film richly entertaining and well-made.


T(aylor) +T(urner)=Dynamite!

5 December 2003

“Johnny Eager” was the one and only movie film god and goddess Robert Taylor and Lana Turner made together, which is very puzzling–their single pairing raked in the dough at the box office, and the fact that they were both under long-term contract to the same studio, MGM, made it such that no pesky and expensive loan-outs from other studios would be necessary (in fact, Taylor has the distinction of being MGM’s longest contract star, with Turner not far behind) . But however lamentable that is, much consolation can be garnered from the fact that their lone film is a very memorable and excellent one, with a solid storyline, good direction, great casting and flawless performances by all.


In a marvelously inspired decision, Robert Taylor was cast in the title role as Johnny Eager, Gangster–quite a departure, to say the least, from his previously romantic matinee idol roles which established him as a star. At first glance the perfectly handsome, gentlemanly Taylor would seem woefully miscast, but proves otherwise–he holds his perfect features with such an air of menace and calculation and acts every inch the tough guy, both of which are completely convincing. One never gets the sense that he is “trying” to be a heavy, he simply is. In fact, “Johnny Eager” would be the start of a new phase in Taylor’s career where, like actors such as Dick Powell and fellow MGM star Robert Montgomery, he would cut loose from his light, “nice guy” leading man roles and emerge with a much darker, harder-edged “flawed hero” if not “bad man” persona. In this film he does so terrifically as the cynical, selfish, big time recently parolled hood who’s only priorities are money and avoiding a return to the big house.


He faces problems with each when he is unable to get a license from any judge to open up his greyhound racing racket, and when the daughter of the prosecutor who sent him away falls for him. But the cunning and ruthless Johnny Eager sees how he can use the girl and her father to meet his own ends and cleverly concocts a devious, heartless scheme to do so–but things don’t turn out as expected when the unexpected happens and he genuinely falls for her.

And how could any man not? Lana Turner plays the part of the prosecutor-judge’s daughter, sociology student Lisbeth Bard, who has the power to make any bad man rue his rotten ways–she is captivating with her luscious, luxe blond beauty (which in her physical prime was such that she often is considered by “critics,” whoever they may be, as one of cinema’s greatest beauties, and justifiably so. In fact, in the relatively recent “Femme Fatale,” Rebecca Romijn-Stamos was made up to look like Lana) and warm sensuality blended with a slightly cool sultriness.


She simply shimmers and sparkles, glitters and gleams like a white diamond. Her rapport and sexual chemistry with Taylor is so palpable and electrifying that I consider him one of her best leading men, alongiside only John Garfield in “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. In fact, during filming the two had an affair and their powerful attraction translates onto film. Though Turner was, with good reason, known more for her riveting looks, glamorous sex appeal and strong screen presence rather than her acting ability, in this film she turns in a truly depthful, sincere, multi-faceted performance, running the gamut from cool, assessing fascination to frantic, desperate angst, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that she was directed by Mervyn LeRoy, her trusted mentor back from her starlet days at Warner Bros., who “brought” her with him when he moved over to MGM.

Johnny-Eager-7 (1)

The dynamic Edward Arnold is good as usual as Lisbeth’s lawyer father, who is alternately sinister and sympathetic because of his willingness to do anything to protect his beloved daughter, whether it be from Johnny Eager or from jail time, even if it means forsaking his honesty and breaking the law which he has promised to uphold. Despite the sterling performances of these actors, it is Van Heflin who steals the show (and won the AA for Best Supporting Actor) in his star turn as Johnny’s best and only friend Jeff Hartnett, and a strange one at that–a maudlin, conscious-ridden, cerebral alcoholic, the type who seems like he would be the last person fit for the criminal world. But despite this, he sticks with Johnny, and the viewer (or at least I did) truly gets the sense that there is a homoerotic bond, at least on Heflin’s part.


This is good stuff and I highly recommend it. If you are into film noirs, then this is a must see.

p.s. Someone flippantly dismissed Turner as a sort of 2nd rate Veronica Lake–that is definitely not true, for it can be argued that Turner became a star around or even before Lake did and despite their sultry, stunning blond looks and charisma, the two had distinct personas of their own and were not “interchangeable.” Although one could never go so far as to say Lake was mysterious, she was somewhat inscrutable and “cool-er”, something Turner was not. And while Lake definitely did have sufficient star quality, Lana had much more of it, and what’s more, she also had a strong audience rapport–something that enabled her to remain a star even when her looks started to fade and despite the shock over the Stompanato Scandal. Lake was a star mostly on the basis of her hairdo, and when it went out of vogue or she changed it, interest in her waned. I say this as a fan of both of these marvelous ladies.


don’t doubt Robert Taylor

2 January 2007 | by RanchoTuVu (Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico) – See all my reviews

A parolee masquerades as a cabby while running a dog racing track on the side. As the film opens, he has an interview with his parole officer, and then goes to the track, which is under an injunction from the D. A. who had sent him to prison in the first place and who’s step-daughter (Lana Turner) he later falls in love with, enters the exterior of his office, puts on one of his expensive sport coats, and becomes the head of a rather extensive gambling racket. For doubters of Robert Taylor, this could make them believers as he rises well above this fantasy like story that wants to be a tough crime drama but refuses to be gritty enough to sink into a convenient gutter. Nonetheless, Taylor puts a lot of punch into his part, outshining the film’s Oscar winner Van Heflin, who plays his heavy drinking philosophizing associate.

johny little

Van Heflin shines in this MGM gangster film

Author:reelguy2from Boulder, Colorado
17 November 2004

MGM produced this well-written, well-produced gangster saga, a type of film that was very unusual for the studio.

As the alcoholic, self-loathing, philosophizing buddy of Johnny Eager (Robert Taylor), Heflin steals the show. He plays his role with great intensity and complexity, making his performance one of the most deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscars in the history of the Academy Awards. His crying scenes are enough to choke a person up, and his possible suggestion of a homoerotic attraction to Eager is unique in a film of this era.

johnny ffff

It’s unfortunate that Heflin’s subsequent roles and performances were generally dull. This actor needed roles that put him emotionally on the edge and exploited his intensity. But at least in Johnny Eager, Heflin set a standard for screen acting that remains a role model to this day.

Robert Taylor plays his scenes with Heflin with some dramatic tension and a hint of subtext, while still remaining comfortably within the confines of a handsome Hollywood leading man. Turner delivers her lines very artificially, coming across as insincere, and her face seems incapable of expressing emotion. Beautiful she is, but given the taut script, the director had the potential of eliciting less formulaic playing from her. Luckily, the rest of the cast is excellent -especially Edward Arnold and Robert Sterling.

Watch this one and you won’t be disappointed. Heflin’s performance is worth it all.



A sesquipedalian Heflin!

Author: sandra small (sandi_small@muchomail.com) from gateshead, tyne and wear, england, uk
20 December 2008

The celebrated German philosopher Immanual Kant’s premise of theory was that there is no originality, because we are influenced by what we experience. In that case Johnny Eager (1942)is a clichéd gangster film. But the clichéd roles give way to nuanced characters, which have originality within their various slants of their respective stereotypes. Director Leroy achieves this by adding to the clichés of sharp suited mobsters and their dolls anomalies as in the emotional, erudite gangster with ethics.


A classic stereotype, (well observed and researched by the production team) is that of Lana Turner’s character; Lizbeth Bard. She is the clichéd sociology student. That is she is a middle class naive ingénue, whose fascination with her subject matter gets her in too deep. This role gave Turner credibility as an actor! Likewise, the film gave Taylor the credibility he deserved as an actor of dimensions. His caricature of the solipsistic gangster gave him an edge which usurped his ‘pretty boy’ image.


Nevertheless Taylor’s Johnny Eager seems to have a sense of his beauty that has the women running to him. One example is the scene when the women run to serve him at the desk near the start of the film. This begs the question of was Johnny Eager’s looks that had the women eating out of his hand? or was it his ‘gangster’ image that attracted them? Could Eager have had the women falling for him with just looks alone? His character wouldn’t be half as sexy in the role of Bard’s other love interest, that of the sweet, well intentioned good -guy as in Robert Sterling’s character; Jimmy Courtney.

johnny tto

The other stand out performance (deserved of his Oscar) is that of Van Heflin playing the complex ,sesquipedalian and polymath, Jeff Hartnett. He is the cerebral side kick of Eager. Like the women, he has got in too deep with Eager because of his homo erotic attraction to the latter.

Mention should also go to the excellent turns by Edward Arnald as the over protective Dad, who has come from nothing,making it as a respectable lawyer, with ambitions for his daughter to marry a wealthy socialite with a good name. His over protectiveness as Bard’s Dad gives way to a subtext of incest. This has Hartnett (Heflin) mention the famous psychologist Freud.


Also outstanding in this film is the clever script, which is evidently well researched, as in the example of the naive sociology student. The direction of the film is a credit to Mervyn LeRoy who portrays the clichéd caricatures of the characters to almost perfection. . The film takes allot of twists and turns, which defines it as ‘film noir’.

This was the film that altered the career of Robert Taylor, transforming him from a ‘pretty boy’ film star to a credible actor. It definitely is worth seeing.


Cabbie by day, gangster by night, and hunk – always!

Author: blanche-2 from United States
15 August 2006

Robert Taylor is a reformed gangster on parole at the beginning of “Johnny Eager.” After meeting with his parole officer and two sociology students – one of whom is the gorgeous Lana Turner – Johnny transforms himself into the gangster he has remained. It’s in this identity that he runs into Turner again at a nightclub. The gangster interests her more than the cabbie. Little does he know, her father is the prosecutor who has an injunction to keep a dog track from opening in which Johnny has a financial stake.

johnny taxi

According to Lana Turner, she and Taylor flirted and made out, and Taylor told Stanwyck he wanted a divorce. Turner didn’t want to break up the marriage and told Taylor it was no go. Stanwyck, however, never spoke to Turner again. Turner and Taylor make a beautiful couple and they sizzle on screen.

Both turn in excellent performances. Turner plays a love-struck, vulnerable young woman who will do anything to protect her man – she’s great. Taylor, sporting a mustache, is terrific as Johnny – a goody two shoes around his parole officer, a mean, selfish tough guy around everyone else. He has no idea how to love or to be loved.

johnny hood

Van Heflin won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as Johnny’s friend Jeff, an alcoholic philosopher and Johnny’s conscience. Heflin plays up the sensitivity of Jeff and his love for Johnny, giving the role gay overtones. He is fantastic.

If you’re under the impression that Taylor and Turner were just two of Hollywood’s non-acting pretty people, think again. During their careers, both played many worthwhile roles and played them well. If the critics dismissed them because of their looks, or in Turner’s case, the headlines she garnered in her private life, too bad, but the audience always got their money’s worth with these two pros.

Wonderful film!

johnny gof

Badge 711

Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
24 January 2005

(Some Spoilers) Davilishly handsome Robert Taylor as paroled crime bigwig Johnny Eager with the eye-popping gorgeous 21 year-old Lana Turner as Lisbeth Brad. As well as Van Heflin who received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Johnny’s sad sack drunk and scholarly pal Jeff Hartenett put on quite a show in the MGM glossy crime/drama “Johnny Eager”.

johnny good
Doing his parole as a taxi driver Johnny Eager is still secretly running his old crime organization with that cold and hard-fisted efficiency that he ran it before he was sent up the river to the state penitentiary. At his monthly parole board hearing Johnny meets two sociology students Lisbeth Bard and Judy Sanford, Lana Turner and Dana Lewis, and both fall, Judy outwardly and Lisbeth secretly, for the good-looking former hoodlum.

Later Johnny again meets Lisbeth at a nightclub that he was doing business with and learns that she’s the step-daughter of State DA and the man who put him behind bars John Benson Farrell, Edward Arnold. Johnny has all the top police and politicians paid off to allow him to go back to business as top city crime boss. Eeryone but the straight and honest DA Farrell who swore to do everything to put Johnny back in prison.


With Lisbeth madly in love with Johnny he sees a chance to take advantage of her blind passion for him to his benefit. Getting Lisbeth up at his pad he has one of his hoods Julio, Paul Stewart, break in and get into a fight with him. As Julio has Johnny on the floor and is about to knife him Johnny screams to Lisbeth to shoot him with his gun and she does killing Julio saving Johnny’s life. Unknown to Lisbeth the gun had blanks and Julio was anything but dead but the thought on her part of killing someone drove Lisbeth into a deep depression.

johnny eager 1941 5

Johnny uses the fact of Lisbeth’s guilt to blackmail her step-father DA Farrell to stop hounding him. At the same time have him approve of Johnny opening the dog racetrack, run by his mob! Something which DA Farrell publicly avowed never to sanction.

Not realizing how much Lisbeth is in love with him this whole plan backfires on Johnny when she tells him that she’s willing to take the rap for him! This in order to keep Johnny out of prison for being at the scene of the crime. With Julio alive this would show not only Lisbeth, who Johnny didn’t really care that much for, but her step-father the State DA what a low-life louse he is and throw him back in the clink this time for good.

johnnu yy

Never really loving anyone Johnny’s attraction to Lisbeth and her selfless love for him turned out to be his downfall. Trying to tell Lisbeth that Julio was alive and that she has nothing to feel guilty about only makes Lisbeth fall more in love with Johnny. Lisbeth thinking that he’s trying to keep her from going to jail for saving his life by killing Julio. In desperation Johnny now sees that the only way he can get out of this dangerous situation is to make sure that Julio is really dead and this turns out to be a fatal mistake on Johnny’s part.

johnny freids
Robert Taylor is darkly handsome and effective as the ruthless Johnny Eager as he finds out that his good looks and success with women turned out to be his Achilles Heel. There was a heart-breaking scene at the dog-track when one of Johnny Eager’s former girlfriends Mea, Glenda Farrell, tried to get him to use his influence to get her husband police officer Joe Agridowski, Byron Shores, back on his old beat. That way he can spend more time with her and their three kids. It takes officer Argidowski twice as long to go to work and back from where he’s assigned to now and it’s injuring his feet from walking the twice as long beat.

johnny hot lala
Johnny coldly and unfeeling turns the desperate Mea down even though he could have easily helped her husband. Later there ironically turned out to be a bit of poetic justice for Mea and her husband Joe in the final scene of the movie at Johnny Eager’s expense.

The Big Combo (1955)

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis

The Big Combo is a 1955 film noir crime film directed by Joseph H. Lewis and photographed by cinematographer John Alton, with music by David Raksin.

The film stars Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte and Brian Donlevy, as well as Jean Wallace, who was Wilde’s wife at the time. It also included the final screen appearance of actress Helen Walker.


unacknowledged film noir classic!

9 October 1999 | by Rajdeep EndowSee all my reviews

It is surprising that the brilliance of this film has not been adequately recognised by the viewing public or the critics. Probably inspired by the prototypical rogue cop in Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat”, this film features the crusade of one man – Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde in a super performance) to pin down Richard Conte’s smooth-tongued gangster. Struggling to keep away the departmental bureaucracy, he battles singlehandedly against organised crime with a devotion to duty bordering on the obsessional (“It’s my sworn duty to push too far”).


Despite the absence of any big name in the cast, this film presents all the elements that we have come to love about American film noir – great lighting and photography, tight script (“First is first, and second is nobody”), a great storyline, and some superb performances (Susan Lowell as a society girl – the gangster’s moll – is ravishing).

Watch this film. It’s time it got recognition amongst the greatest films to come out of Hollywood. Ever.

Reviews of the movie today are mostly positive. Chris Dashiell on the website CineScene finds the dialogue “run of the mill” but praises the film’s director, writing that “Lewis had a remarkable ability to infuse poetry into the most banal material, and The Big Combo is one of his best efforts… it’s not as startlingly inventive as Lewis’s best film, Gun Crazy (1949), but it’s a quality B-film, satisfying and dark.”


The staff at Variety magazine liked the film’s direction, music and photography, despite “a rambling, not-too-credible plot.” They wrote, “Performances are in keeping with the bare-knuckle direction by Joseph Lewis and, on that score, are good. Low-key photography by John Alton, one of his best,and a jazz-derived score by David Raksin with solo piano by Jacob Gimpel are in keeping with the film’s tough mood.”Film critic Ed Gonzalez lauded the film in his review, writing, “Shadows and lies are the stars of The Big Combo, a spellbinding black-and-white chiaroscuro with the segmented texture of a spider’s web …


John Alton’s lush camera work is so dominant here you wouldn’t know Joseph H. Lewis was also behind the camera. The story doesn’t have any of the he-she psychosexual politicking that juices the director’s Gun Crazy, but that’s no loss given this film’s richer returns. The set-pieces are fierce, as is the Casablanca tweak of the last shot, and Wallace’s performance—a sad spectacle of a hurting creature caught between light and dark, good and evil—is one of noir’s great unheralded triumphs.”

Critics have compared the quality of The Big Combo to Fritz Lang‘s The Big Heat as one of the great film noir detective classics in terms of style.


The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 91% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on eleven reviews

Tell Him You Hate Music And Quickly!

Author: ArchAngel Michael from Quis Ut Deus?
23 August 2016

Spoilers Ahead:

Conte gave great performances in Thieves’ Highway, in an atypical hero role, and as a good villain in Cry Of The City; this is the best villain he ever achieved. Mr. Brown vents his venom equally upon henchmen, his number two Donlevy, and Diamond his nemesis on the police force. This Noir is one of a kind in its rare delineation of the terrible fate of the gangster’s moll.


As the movie opens, we get to see Susan’s exasperation at dragging around two hoods who shadow her everywhere she wishes to go. Van Cleef and Holliman are excellent at showing you how they cannot wait to get their nasty hands on Susan who is on the down-slope of that all important: keeping Mr. Brown’s attentions. She conveys this great sense of the foreboding of what is to come. Be warned, this is not remotely for kiddies, truly the darkest Noir of the period next to CrashOut. Conte taunts everyone around him constantly daring them to attack him. Even a boxer is not spared from his lecture on improperly hating his opponent sufficiently. He uses his number two, whom he displaced, as a negative example of not having sufficient B’s to destroy anyone in your way friend or foe. He finishes the lesson off by striking the boxer, normally a very bad idea, but Conte’s Mr. Brown is pure ambitious malevolence in human form.

My header comes from a very innovative torture session on Diamond using hair tonic and a hearing aid to dish out some serious physical abuse. This Noir is also rare in its departure of showing the cops in an idealized form: not here, the corruption is on full display with Mr. Brown having tentacles into Diamond’s superiors. Wilde was always a ‘pretty boy’ of the period with limited acting range, Donlevy and Conte make up for any acting deficits. Brown is outsmarting Diamond all throughout the movie, with a little help from his goons and downtown corruption. Brown is just as cruel to anyone working for him, watch what happens when he thinks Van Cleef and Holliman know too much!


The best scene in the movie is Brian Donlevy’s horrible fate when he tries an end run, attempting to bribe Brown’s goons in a tragic coup, to wrest control from Mr. Brown. Brown was so clever that he sensed the smoldering resentment beneath Donlevy’s surface, the poor sap takes the bait; it doesn’t go well. Wilde’s acting limitations are made up by a bevy of gorgeous women who are believably chasing after Wilde. Diamond’s obsession with Alicia, coupled with Susan’s awareness of Brown’s ruthlessness, gives us a believable ending.

SPOILER: I love the finale, forgive the philosopher: What a powerful existential metaphor for Brown. Like a freaking vampire, Light destroys him. He scurries about like the giant rat he is with Susan shining the light on him. This is an example of how good a movie this is, it is not a brainless, boring Noir like The Clock; this is intense and violent with great writing.


You will believe Brown got to the top after watching Conte’s portrayal of him. I collect Noir and it is Conte’s best performance by a mile. Everything and everyone is background to his Mr. Brown. Even his creepy goons give him a wide berth. While not a feminist Noir, Susan shows us the feminine side of being a moll plus the destruction of Brown is left to her: quite apropos. She goes from a terrified victim, anticipating her future destruction, to the spotlight operator of doom, at the very end. After The Lineup and The Big Heat, this is my third favorite Noir. It was just released on Blu Ray, you will have to zoom it to get those crappy side bars off of the screen. The more famous of Noirs: Laura, Double Indemnity and Out Of The Past, simply don’t have the intensity, all the way through, that these three do. They are short, intense and well written. I love Out Of The Past but it does has some slow parts in it. This, like the aforementioned other two, moves like lightning. A Great Film Noir. He Is One Nasty Music Lover!. Q.E.D.


I’m trying to run an impersonal business. Killing is very personal. Once it gets started, it’s hard to stop.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
6 August 2010

The Big Combo is directed by Joseph H. Lewis, written by Philip Yordan and photographed by cinematographer and noir icon John Alton. David Raksin scores the music and it stars Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Jean Wallace, Brian Donlevy, Lee Van Cleef & Earl Holliman. The story sees Wilde as Police Lt. Leonard Diamond who is on a personal mission to bring down sadistic gangster Mr. Brown (Conte). Something that’s doubly perilous since he’s infatuated with Brown’s girlfriend, Susan Lowell (Wallace), who is trapped by the hold that Brown has on her.


Violent, dark and sexy, The Big Combo is a riveting experience from start to finish. In truth, Yordan’s writing is pretty standard stuff here, but Lewis, Raksin and Alton really raise the bar in film noir atmospherics. From the nifty beginning where a blonde lady flees a darkened boxing match-pursued by two heavies-to the foggy airport conclusion, Lewis’ movie revels in shifty shadows, shifty sexual motives and even shiftier characters. Upon its release the film caused something of a stir on account of its tricksy thematics, and that’s not hard to believe since the film still comes off as potent even today. It’s a film where what you don’t see has the greater effect, and where suggestion is everything; for better or worse. One sexy scene involving Conte {stepping in when Jack Palance bailed} and Wallace so incensed Wilde, who was then married to Wallace, he tried to have it taken out the picture! Yes this is a ripper of a movie to be sure.

gif combo

Set entirely at night time, in and amongst dimly lit back alleys, rain-sodden pathways and moody plush apartments, the piece gives Alton the chance to shoot his chiaroscuro magic. I can’t state enough just how great his work is here, sexual urges are cloaked in a fatalistic sheen, nocturnal shenanigans briefly lit by the blink of some neon ray. Masterful. Away from the smart technical aspects (the cast are strong, the set pieces brisk too), the piece works great as a gangster movie, this in spite of there only being a small handful of crooks in the story. That the two henchmen {superbly underplayed by Cleef & Holliman} are evidently gay, just adds more sexual deviance into the sleazy norish stew. Gangsters, cops & society gals, all of them have a sense of doom hanging over them, to which they have the same things in common; that of blending violence with sex. Raw direction, moodily photographed and jazzily scored, The Big Combo is a big movie in the noir pantheon. 9/10


You can’t tell a jury that a man’s guilty because he’s too Innocent!

Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
15 April 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

****SPOILERS**** Were introduced to the movie “The Big Combo” with a really super cool and jazzy score by music composer David Raksin. At a local boxing arena and see this cool, like the music, statuesque and sharp looking blond running from two perusers who we assume are out to either work her over or even kill her. We find out soon enough that the two man chasing and finally catching up with the woman are Fante & Mingo, who sound like a song and dance duet, played by Lee Van Cleef & Earl Holliman and the sexy blond is Susan Lowell, Jean Wallace, who’s Fante & Mingo boss Mafiso Mr Brown’s, Richard Conte, very uncooperative girlfriend.


Susan doesn’t know it at the time but she caught the eye of police Let. Leonard Diamond, Cornel Wilde, who became so infatuated with her, from afar, that he spends all his off, and vacation, time following her around to keep tabs not only on Susan who’s abusive boyfriend Mr. Brown that Let. Diamond wants to free her from. It’s when Susan swallows a jar of sleeping pills that almost kills her that Let. Diamond makes his move using that tragic occasion to have Susan arrested for attempted murder, of herself, in her suicide attempt.

Trying to save Susan from the unfeeling and obsessive Mr. Brown Let. Diamond does his share of abusing Susan himself by hounding her, in and out of the hospital emergency ward, to the point where she almost suffers a nervous breakdown. We later learn Mr. Brown also drove his old lady Alicia, Helen walker, to crack up as well. In fact it’s Alicia who’s the key to this whole confusing story with her sudden disappearance on a cruise in the middle of Atlantic Ocean some seven years earlier!


Trying to get a murder rap on Mr. Brown for his wife’s Alicia murder Let. Diamond uncovers the startling fact that it wasn’t Alicia who Mr. Brown whacked, or deep sixth, some time ago on that Atlantic cruise. Mr. Brown knocked off his former boss Mr. Grazzi who’s job as big time Mafia kingpin Mr. Brown took over! Alicia in fact is alive and-well let’s just say alive-with her being put against her will into a private sanitarium where she now spends all of her time talking to and conversing with the plants that she grows in the sanitariums greenhouse.

The film has Let. Diamond go so far in his obsessive attempt to get Mr. Brown arrested so he can save Susan from his clutches, and even more important keep her all to himself, that you don’t look at what he’s doing as anything righteous heroic or even legal! It’s all a desperate act of a loved crazed and uncontrollable stalker very much like the unbalanced Travis Bickel in “Taxi Driver.


Mr Brown for his part had nothing but sheer contempt for the overzealous and obnoxious Let.Diamond who at first didn’t even talk directly to him using his now stooge, as well as doormat, and former boss Joe McClure, Brian Dunlevy, as his intermediary or interpretor! Even though he and Let. Diamond both spoke the English language! It’s when Let. Diamond starts to put the screws on him that Mr. Brown starts to play dirty.

Mr. Brown using his two henchmen Fante & Mingo to go so far as to kidnap the pain in the butt Let. Diamond They then torture and humiliated him, by forcing a bottle of hair lotion down his throat. Fante & Mingo finally try murder Let. Diamond only ending up drilling his old girlfriend, who was replaced by Susan, Rita (Helen Stanton)with 11 bullets as she was staying in a fleabag hotel room that Let. Diamond was registered in.



Like all sick and deluded sociopaths Mr. Brown turns out to be his own worst enemy by turning his own gang of hoods against himself. The kicker comes when Mr. Brown tries to do in both loyal and dedicated Farte & Mingo for all the good work they did for him in the movie, like setting up the vengeful and a bit delusional Joe McCrue. Bringing the two hoods a box filled with dynamite sticks, which he told the two hit men was a gift for their services, Mr. Brown has it set to go off as soon as they opened it. It went off all right but only Farte got blown away with his tight as a Victorian brassiere bosom buddy Mingo miraculously surviving. Mingo now knowing what a back-stabbing creep his boss Mr. Brown is decides to spill the beans on him which in the end got him a lifetime and rent-freed apartment, or cell, in the state penitentiary.


Boomerang (1947)

Directed by Elia Kazan
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
The true story of a prosecutor’s fight to prove the innocence of a man accused of a notorious murder.

Cameo Alert – Arthur Miller

This is a pretty good, taut, realistic, gritty film-noirish film from the camera lens of Elia Kazan. Kazan gives us the story of a Connetticut district attorney bumping the legal establishment in Hartford by NOT railroading a suspect who he knows to be innocent despite exhausting pressures to prosecute from local elected officials, businessmen, police, etc… The film, as previously noted, has a semi-documentary feel to it – all due to Kazan’s expertise behind the camera. Whilst the story certainly is engaging, the acting is all high-level here with Dana Andrews doing a fine job as Henry L. Harvey the attorney faced with an ethical dilemma.

3acc0b39e1bd9e3cc7d06590870c1596 (1)

Andrews acting range is not too wide but he delivers here and is more than ably assisted by men(and women) like Ed Begley as a businessman gone bad, Jane Wyatt as his lovely wife(Andrews’s wife that is),Arthur Kennedy as the suspect with seemingly little to say, and a couple of Kazan would-be regulars – Lee J. Cobb doing a phenomenal job as a decent yet hard-headed police chief and Karl Malden as a police detective. Kazan shows us the story from many angles and has the benefit of having a real story as the basis of his film. We see the angles of different political opponents, a jealous/crazy girlfriend, local people who saw the crime of a priest being shot, and the journalists who try to scare up any angle they can. Some scenes are quite jarring like the confession scene. Arthur Miller, the great American playwright is seen briefly in a scene of suspects being lined-up. He was Kazan’s close friend.


Solid Murder Drama

Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
11 May 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is another fine Film Noir from the vaults of 20th Century Fox! Made in 1947 “Boomerang” was the brainchild of talented producer Louis deRochemont who began to bring a new semi-documentary style of picture making to cinema. He strove to give a more realistic look to films by shooting in actual locations and eschewing the phony indoor exteriors offered by the studios. “Boomerang” was such a project and was filmed in Connecticut where events in this true story took place.


Splendidly directed by Elia Kazan and sharply photographed in glorious black & white by Norbert Brodine “Boomerang” does indeed have a newsreel look about it especially with the fine voice of Reed Hadley (uncredited) doing the narration. Previously deRochemont had great success with this type of picture with his production “The House on 92nd Street” two years earlier. Richard Murphy’s taut screenplay for “Boomerang”, from an article in Reader’s Digest, was based on an actual incident in Bridgeport, Connecticut where the murder of a kindly church pastor occurred. The film recounts the efforts of the town council to bring pressure to bear on the frustrated local police department to bring the killer to justice by any and every means possible. Dana Andrews gives his usual stalwart and likable performance as the local D.A. who suddenly finds himself going over to the side of the defense when the only and hapless suspect is coerced into signing a confession for the murder.


The movie has a wonderful all-involving style to it with beautifully lit and splendidly atmospheric courtroom scenes. And there are uniformly excellent performances throughout from Sam Levene, Robert Keith, Ed Begley, Karl Malden but especially from Arthur Kennedy as the suspected culprit and Lee J. Cobb as the police chief.

A great movie that every noir devotee will want in their collection. Extras include a commentary, a poster gallery and a Trailer. Good one Fox!


Good Acting Highlights This Story Of Human Foibles

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
23 July 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Boy, this can be a frustrating story to watch, but the acting was great with a number of well-known people doing their usual excellent jobs. I’m speaking of actors like Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Dana Andrews, Ed Begley, Sam Lavene, Jane Wyatt, Robert Keith and more.

The story shows how people go about doing things for the wrong reasons. It’s tragic when it involves a man’s life. Here, an Episcopal priest gets shot in broad daylight in a New England town (Hartford, Conn., I think.) Amazingly, he runs away and is not caught. Soon, with no clues and no suspects, the public is demanding action. A lot of this looks like a bunch of clichés, but it’s based on a true story.


It’s an election year so you have one party which is desperate to hand over a killer and satisfy the public. You have the opposite party led by a defense team which doesn’t care if their man’s guilty or not; they just want the guy to go free and make the others look bad. The cops, meanwhile, don’t want to keep looking bad so they’re anxious to pin something on the first suspect that looks really guilty. This sort of thing goes back-and-forth throughout the film. You know the suspect “John Waldron” (Kennedy) is Innocent so it’s frustrating watching him get in deeper and deeper.


You see two extremes. In the “old days” like when this was filmed, a guy could be brought into the police station and has harassed to the point of making a false confession. Where’s the lawyer? “Ah, you’ll get one later,” says a cop. It looks ridiculous to us today. Now, we are used to the opposite where the accused doesn’t go anywhere or say anything without a lawyer present. It seems too many guilty men go free today but – in this movie’s era and previous to that – too many innocent people were sentenced. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a middle ground where justice always prevails? Even more ridiculous is somebody allowed to bring a gun into the courtroom but, once again, it’s life 60 years ago.


Also involved in the story is an overzealous press (what else is new?), promises of government posts, a scorned woman lying her butt off, a man who has put all his money into a business project and what happens in the case affects him, and the usual “good guy” who won’t sell out his principles. Speaking of that, about at the one-hour remark, we see a quote from the “Lawyer’s Code Of Ethics.” I had to laugh; I don’t know one lawyer who subscribes to that! From the above, you get the gist of the story. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers. Suffice to say, it’s a wonderfully-acted film with some good direction by some young director named Elia Kazan! If you watch, be prepared to have your blood pressure go up and down. It’s a very manipulative movie, but that helps make it interesting.


It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Wade.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
26 October 2010
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Boomerang is directed by Elia Kazan, based on a story written by Fulton Oursler (Anthony Abbot), with the screenplay written by Richard Murphy. It stars Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Ed Begley & Karl Malden. Plot is based around a true story, a case that even today remains unsolved, where a priest was shot and murdered in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1924. A vagrant and ex-serviceman (here played by Kennedy) was indicted for the murder. The evidence at first glance seemed solid, but the state attorney (Andrews here) on prosecution duties wasn’t convinced and set about deconstructing the evidence. Much to the shock of his superiors and others with vested interests.


Gripping melodrama told in semi-documentary style and filmed on location in Stamford, Connecticut (Kazan was refused permission to actually film in Bridgeport). As a crime story it’s as solid as it gets, dripping with realism and filling out the plot with may notable points of reference. Political pressures, police procedural, corruption, unstable witnesses, bitter dames and of course an innocent man on trial for his life (we know the latter since it’s based on facts and Kazan lets us in on it early on). It’s all in there for a taut, suspenseful and noirishly well told story. The acting is top dollar, both from the leads and an impressive supporting cast. While even tho more time should have been afforded the “dodgy dealings” aspects, it slots into place nicely enough to still leave us splendidly agitated at the no resolution outcome. It’s all in the build up and execution. 7/10


They never really solved the murder of Father Dahlme

Author: theowinthrop from United States
27 September 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

History is loaded with homicides that never were solved, some of which have become part of global history (such as the 1888 Whitechapel or “Jack the Ripper” Murders, or the 1892 Fall River or “Lizzie Borden Case). The murder in Bridgeport, Connecticut of Father Dahlme in 1924 is a relatively forgotten case, except it was made into this film that was an early directing experience of Elia Kazan. Starring Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Ed Begley Jr., Robert Keith, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Karl Malden, Philip Coolidge, Cara Williams, the film was a “B” feature that was lucky enough to have top character actors and even some filming in Connecticut (but not Bridgeport – actually it was shot in Stamford).


Father Dahme was a popular figure in Bridgeport who was shot on the main street while lighting his pipe on a dark night. But there were at least half-a-dozen witnesses to the shooting. Unfortuntately the killer wore a dark coat and light hat (which many American males had as parts of their wardrobes) and evaded capture quickly. Pressure was put on the local government to find the killer (the political issue deals with the new “reform” party being confronted by the outed old party – represented by newspaper owner Taylor Holmes – is well handled in the film). Finally a suspect, an unemployed war veteran (Kennedy), is arrested in Ohio. A trail of circumstantial evidence seems strong enough to bring charges against Kennedy, completed by the so-called confession (signed) that he gave them.


The case is presented to the State Attorney (Andrews), but he is noticing how weak the individual links are. With the use of his staff and friends he tests out various points, and finds that while the witnesses in most cases are probably honest in their testimony (one exception is Cara Williams, who has a grudge against Kennedy), they might be mistaken. So is some more important ballistics tests.

Andrews proceeds to surprise everyone by pulling the rug out of his case. The Judge warns him about disbarment and possible trial for malfeasance in office. Chief of Detectives Cobb is furious that his men are being considered forcing that confession. And banker-politician Begley turns out to show a sneaky and vicious streak demanding Andrews change back to prosecuting Kennedy for his own reasons.


It is an exciting story, and follows the main points of the mystery correctly. This is understandable because the screenplay was based on an article in “Reader’s Digest” the previous year by “Anthony Abbott” (Fulton Oursler) the creator of the “Thatcher Colt” mysteries, which were popular in the 1930s (several of which were turned into films, such as THE PRESIDENT’S MYSTERY PLOT). The result is Kennedy is released from prison, and while the film admits some people in Bridgeport believe he was guilty, two other suspects (both of whom die violently in different ways) are shown as potential alternate perpetrators.*


The odd performance of the prosecutor turned out to demonstrate his integrity to the public. It was Homer Cummings, a Democrat from Connecticut who was former Democratic National Chairman, and who (from 1933 – 1939) was Attorney General of the U.S. under Franklin Roosevelt. This is quite a fascinating conclusion to the film (and to history) but not so unusual. The Massachusetts prosecutor of Lizzie Borden was William H. Moody, who would end up Attorney General of the U.S. and later a U.S. Supreme Court Justice under Theodore Roosevelt (Lizzie, by the way, sent him a letter of congratulations!).


Altogether a well-done “B” feature, and one with point as a civics lesson. In fact, with it’s view of just what should be expected from our public prosecutors seeking true justice, BOOMERANG makes a nice companion film to TWELVE ANGRY MEN, which looked at what to really expect from our juries.

(*If you check the WIKIPEDIA article on “Homer Cummings” you will find that the suspect who was the basis of Arthur Kennedy’s character died in 1961. Apparently nothing criminal was associated with him afterward.)


Private Hell 36 (1954)

Directed by Don Siegel
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
When 2 detectives steal $80,000 from a dead robber, one of them suffers from a guilty conscience which could lead to murder.

An effective early Siegel

12 November 2007 | by Martin Bradley (MOscarbradley@aol.com) (Derry, Ireland) – See all my reviews

This taut, low-key and highly effective B-movie film noir was an early example of a style that director Don Siegel came to perfect in his later films. Although dealing with robbery and murder it’s at its most effective in the small scenes of domesticity between the central characters, a crooked cop, his partner and the women they are both involved with and there are good performances from Steve Cochran, Howard Duff, Ida Lupino and Dorothy Malone in these roles. (Lupino co-wrote the movie with producer Collier Young). Excitement is generated from not knowing exactly which way the characters might go and from the degree of complexity that both the players and writers invest them with. The denouement is a bit of let-down, however, with things tidied up too quickly and too neatly. Still, it’s a commendable effort.

giphy (1)

Alcohol, affectation, and ex-wives override any expectations

Author: melvelvit-1 from NYC suburbs
17 January 2009

Independent filmmaker Ida Lupino didn’t intend to make a B picture with PRIVATE HELL 36 but that’s what happened. In the early 1950s, director/writer/actress Ida and her writer/producer husband Collier Young broke away from the studio system by forming “The Filmmakers” and they used it to tackle such topical subjects as rape and “ripped from the headlines” social commentary. Young and Lupino soon divorced but they kept their working relationship going and even used each other’s new spouses in their “classy” exploitation films.


Ida directed Collier’s wife Joan Fontaine in THE BIGAMIST (1953) and her follow-up film was going to be “The Story Of A Cop” starring her husband, Howard Duff. At the time, big city police corruption and the Kefauver TV hearings on organized crime were hot-button issues that made national headlines and were inspiration to writers like William P. McGivern who fashioned roman-a-clefs in films like THE BIG HEAT (1953), SHIELD FOR MURDER, and ROGUE COP (both 1954). Never one to let a good story go by, Ida Lupino threw her bonnet into the ring but by the time she was ready to make “Cop”, she and Duff had separated.

They soon reconciled but, afraid to rock the boat, Ida decided not to direct her husband and hired Don Siegel, who had just made RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11, for the job. The result, now called PRIVATE HELL 36, is the story of L.A.P.D. partners Steve Cochran & Howard Duff and what happens when temptation proves too much for one of them. Lupino actually tackles themes that many Films Noirs have been accused of doing now and then: capitalism, materialism, and the American Dream are the mitigating circumstances propelling the self-inflicted problems everyone involved have to confront.


Loyalty and “the blue wall of silence” are also thrown in for good measure but the character study the film becomes disrupts the pace. The movie starts off with a murder/robbery but the real action doesn’t come until after the half-way mark; in between are slow build-ups involving family man Duff and his wife, Dorothy Malone, and the single Cochran who’s fallen for a witness in the case, nightclub chanteuse Ida Lupino. Ida’s a bit old for her role as a sympathetic “femme fatale” but the dynamics between her and the seemingly laid-back Cochran are one of the film’s highlights. The movie takes too long by half to get where it’s going but the ride is fascinating -as is the back story:


“Siegel was never comfortable working on the film and most of his memories of it are bad. He can remember little of it and readily admits that he may be blocking it out psychologically. The things he does remember are uniformly unpleasant. Siegel recalls there was a great deal of drinking on the set by the cast and producer. The script was never really in shape, ready for shooting, and Siegel was given little opportunity to work on it. He began to lose control of the picture, got into fights with Lupino and Young, had difficulty keeping Cochran sober, and got in the middle of arguments with his cameraman… One time, he recalls, Miss Lupino told Guffey that she wanted him to re-shoot something and even Guffey, whom Siegel describes as the mildest of men, exploded and became party to the bickering.


‘I was terribly self-conscious on that picture,’ recalls Siegel. ‘I had just done a picture for Walter Wanger, RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11, in which I had great authority, did whatever I wanted to do. Now I was on a picture battling for every decision, working with people who were pretentious, talented but pretentious. They’d talk, talk, talk, but they wouldn’t sit down and give me enough time. They wouldn’t rehearse. Perhaps it was my fault. Cochran was a good actor, but not when he was loaded, and I had a hard time catching him even slightly sober. I was not able to communicate with these people and the picture showed it. Strangely enough, I personally liked both Ida Lupino and Young and still do, but not to work with.”


Cinematographer Burnett Guffey had just won an Academy Award for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and would do so again with BONNIE & CLYDE over a decade later. Don Seigel hired his friend Sam Peckinpah as “dialogue coach” and Howard & Ida’s little girl had a bit part. The alcohol-fueled acting (enhanced by Leith Stevens’ jazzy score) is fine all the way around with Steve, as usual, being the stand-out as he slowly reveals his character to be a self-assured sociopath under the badge.


A Must-Have for Cochran Fans

Author: mackjay from Out there in the dark
5 May 2003

PRIVATE HELL 36 has one of those pulp-sounding titles that are like a drug for noir enthusiasts. We just have to see any film with a title like this, even if in some ways it may be a disappointment. One of Don Siegal’s less galvanizing films, PRIVATE HELL still delivers in terms of noir situations and atmosphere.


Where the film really excels, however, is with the cast. In major roles, Howard Duff and Dean Jagger deliver the goods. Duff is especially adept at the hang-dog, trapped noir protagonist. And this is one of many small-scale noirs with many familiar faces in bit parts: Richard Deacon, Dabbs Greer, King Donovan. Dorothy Malone had yet to come into her own as an actress, but she looks incredible here.

Malone might have seemed a better choice for the Femme Fatale lead, were it not for Ida Lupino’s extraordinary, iconic noir presence. Something in Lupino’s vaguely exotic face and world-weary voice belongs eternally to the noir universe. She may have been a few years too old, but her spider-like character rescues the film from the merely routine.


Also rescuing the film, and raising it a few notches above a B programmer, is Steve Cochran as Cal Bruner. Somewhat belatedly (he died in 1965) it appears that Cochran is finally receiving recognition not only for his handsome looks, but for his perceptive acting. Every scene with Lupino and Cochran in this film is riveting. These performers are totally convincing in their doomed mutual attraction.

For Lupino’s Lili, meeting Cal could have meant redemption. But she is indeed a Femme Fatale in this film, even if not an all-time classic one. The man she touches will be marked for destruction.


Cal, on the other hand, is the most complex and interesting character. His responsible investigator, by way of a drug-like obsession with Lili, heads toward corruption in true noir style. Without spoiling anything, it can be said that this film’s last 10 minutes are the very stuff of film noir.

Solidly Siegel?

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
23 November 2008

No, not really.

Two detectives, Jack Farnham and Cal Bruner are deeply investigating a robbery in which $300,000 was stolen. As their investigation progresses, they, by way of a sultry woman called Lilli Marlowe, manage to find the perp and recover the cash. But Bruner has fallen for Marlowe, and realising she has expensive tastes and that his police salary can not sustain the relationship, he ponders turning to the dark side, with Farnham equally at odds with himself over the pressures of raising a family.

giphy (2)

Is Private Hell 36 a Noir film? Well I’m no paid expert on the subject but it certainly has all the ingredients in place. Yet the film, in spite of some watchable attributes, is a largely character driven talky piece of fluff that isn’t really raising the bar in film noir. Or, in fact, crime picture history. Certainly it’s not a film that screams out that it was directed by Don Siegel. It’s a solid premise to work from, and in Ida Lupino (Marlowe) and the great Steve Cochran (Bruner), the picture boasts two very fine performances, with each actor giving the film its emotional weight. A nod of approval also goes to the scoring of the piece by Leith Stevens, as jazzy blues like combos flit in and out to create an ear worthy alliance as our detectives battle with their very conscience. All things considered it’s an enjoyable enough piece, but one that fades very quick from the memory. Solid if unspectacular, and reliable if lacking in any major amount of thrills and brain tickling plotting. 5/10


Underrated Siegel/Lupino noir that inspired Stanley Kubrick

Author: mwmerkelbach from Stuttgart, Germany
16 January 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Decent people struggling for keeping things going are suddenly tempted by a large amount of money coming from a long gone robbery. With its moral ambiguity and twists and the main focus on character development the writing and acting of “Private Hell 36” is above ordinary crime movies from that period.


It is exactly what makes this early Don-Siegel-flick a true film noir despite a conservative crime movie posing as one. If you don’t expect too much action and can relax while watching a slow paced middle section, which builds up tension carefully and therefore convincing, this one will give you a very enjoyable watch. Forget about the voice-over at the very end telling something about “good cops, bad cops”, because that was simply the way they had to handle things in the fifties to avoid censorship. Besides the fact that Howard Duff appears a little too stiff once in a while, Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran and Dorothy Malone make it a real fine treat. I also liked the jazzy score – typical for that period on one hand, but perfectly creepy and surprisingly “modern” on the other.


It is very obvious to me that Stanley Kubrick was highly inspired by this one for his very own sensational film noir “The Killing” that came out the year after. The race track as a central location, money blown out of an opened suitcase, a trailer park as a hiding place and especially the Ida-Lupino-character, which is very close to the one of Marie Windsor in “The Killing”, brought that suggestion immediately up to my mind. In comparison to other movies at IMDb “PH 36” seems a bit underrated to me, maybe because everybody’s expecting crime movies to be extremely fast paced as those that are made since the early 70’s. In fact “Private Hell 36” is a grim little noir and for its fans that does mean something else. 8/10

Private Hell 36 1

A Movie That Punches Above Its Weight

Author: seymourblack-1 from United Kingdom
17 October 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“Private Hell 36” is a no-frills crime thriller written by Ida Lupino and producer Collier Young which was made by their independent company “The Filmmakers”. The story about temptation and police corruption is well paced and provides evidence of Don Siegel’s considerable directorial skills at an early stage in his career. A particularly impressive example of this is the sequence early on in the movie in which an off duty cop interrupts a drugstore robbery and gets involved in a shoot out. The depiction of what follows is stylish and tense and provides the story with an extremely gripping introduction.


When the LAPD links a $50.00 bill recovered in the attempted drugstore burglary to a major robbery carried out in New York a year earlier, further enquiries lead to a singer at a local night club. Police detectives Cal Bruner (Steve Cochran) and Jack Farnham (Howard Duff) interview the singer, Lilli Marlowe (Ida Lupino) but she’s unable to provide them with a precise description of the customer who gave her the money as a tip. Soon, more of the marked bills come to light at the Hollywood Park Racetrack and this leads Captain Michaels (Dean Jagger) to assign Bruner and Farnham to accompany Lilli to the track to see if she can identify the wanted man. A number of days pass without the man being seen and during this time, Cal and Lilli become close. She’s very materialistic and despite her attraction to Cal isn’t convinced that a long term future with a police detective would enable her to achieve her financial aspirations.


One day Lilli sees the man they’re searching for leaving the track by car and Cal and Jack follow him. After a high speed chase, the car they’d been following leaves the road and crashes and the driver is killed. The two detectives recover a metal box full of money from the vehicle and Cal, without hesitation, starts to put bundles of bills into his pockets. Jack is very nervous about being a party to what has happened but Cal subsequently takes him to a trailer park where the money is hidden (in trailer number 36) and Jack agrees to go along with the scheme, although he remains very anxious and is consumed with guilt.


Captain Michaels tells the two detectives that only $200,000 of the $300,000 stolen in New York had actually been recovered from the crashed car and deduces that the dead man must’ve had a partner. Shortly after this, a man claiming to be the partner telephones Cal to demand his money back. Jack doesn’t want to proceed with paying the partner and suggests they hand the money in to the police and confess what they’ve done. Cal pays lip service to agreeing and they both go to get the money from trailer 36, where some unexpected developments bring the story to its all action climax.


“Private Hell 36” is one of those movies that certainly punches above its weight. Despite an obviously low budget and a very straight forward, pulp fiction type story, “The Filmmakers” produced an end product which turned out to be far greater than the sum of its parts. This is down to the director’s skills and also some fine performances from a talented cast. Steve Cochran and Howard Duff are particularly good as the two men who both recognise the dangers of their jobs and who, for different reasons, are desperate to be better rewarded.


When they discover the metal box full of money, both men are strongly tempted to steal its contents but their reactions are ultimately quite different to each other. Cochran is confident and focused as his character readily seizes the opportunity to realise his ambitions and seems totally unconcerned by any thoughts about guilt, duty or the legality of what he’s doing. Duff on the other hand looks convincingly anxious and full of guilt. Dean Jagger also provides a well measured interpretation of his character’s rather benign and avuncular manner which doesn’t make it obvious just how well he’s attuned to everything that’s going on.


The Unfaithful (1947)

Directed by Vincent Sherman
Cinematography Ernest Haller

The Unfaithful is a 1947 film noir directed by Vincent Sherman, starring Ann Sheridan, Lew Ayres and Zachary Scott. The movie is based on the W. Somerset Maugham-penned 1927 play and William Wyler-directed 1940 film, The Letter.


Chris Hunter (Ann Sheridan) stabs a man in her home one night while her husband Bob is out of town. The dead man’s name is Tanner and she claims not to know him.

A blackmailer, Martin Barrow (Steven Geray), shows up with a bust of Chris Hunter’s head signed by Tanner, who was a sculptor. Larry Hannaford (Lew Ayres), her lawyer and a good friend, realizes that Chris is lying about not knowing the man she killed.

Barrow double-crosses her by taking the artwork to Tanner’s wife (Marta Mitrovich), who is now convinced Chris had an affair with her husband. She relays this information to Bob Hunter (Zachary Scott), who demands a divorce after Chris admits having an affair with Tanner while her husband was away during the war.


Chris is charged with murder and tried. Hannaford persuades the jury that while Chris was indeed guilty of adultery, she stabbed Tanner in self-defense. Hannaford then convinces Bob and Chris at least consider trying to save their marriage rather than rush into a divorce.

The New York Times gave the film a mixed review: “The Warner Brothers have turned out a better than average murder mystery in The Unfaithful, but they have badly over-weighted with melodramatics the things they obviously wanted to say about a pressing social problem. The new picture at the Strand stabs and jabs like a hit-and-run prizefighter at the subject of hasty divorces and the dangerous consequences to society of this ill conceived cure all for marital difficulties, but it never gets across a telling dramatic punch. However, through some uncommonly persuasive acting and skillful direction the patently artificial plot stands up surprisingly well.”


An A Picture With The Look Of A B

18 March 2005 | by David (Handlinghandel) (NY, NY) – See all my reviews

And that is a compliment for a film noir.

This is a strange movie, both daring in its subject matter and shackled by the censors. So a sculptor did a head of Ann Sheridan while hubby Zachary Scott was away in the war. Surely this ought to have been a full nude.


Still, it captures the frustration of someone left alone for a long period (Sheridan), the anger of the person who expected her to be a dutiful Penelope, and most especially the nature of gossip when such things occur: Eve Arden is splendid as the leader of a fancy gang of cats, who regularly shuck their own husbands (courtesy of protagonist Ayres, a lawyer) and click their tongues at Sheridan.

The strange thing is that, though the sets are attractive, the crowd scenes plausible and well shot on Southern California streets, two of the stars and maybe more look worn out and bedraggled: Sheridan, though a sympathetic character, wears unflattering makeup that gives her a harsh look and Ayres looks puffy and tired.


This is a variation on the far better known “The Letter,” a movie I respect for its craft but that I have never cared for. “The Unfaithful” is a more fully realized entertainment, though perhaps less elegant and stylized than its predecessor “The Letter.”

Fine remake of William Wyler’s ‘The Letter.’

Author: haroldg-2 from Philadelphia
13 July 2001

THE UNFAITHFUL (1947), is director Vincent Sherman’s 1947 loose remake of the 1940 William Wyler/Bette Davis classic, THE LETTER.

148066377 (1)
Glamorous Ann Sheridan stars as a woman who kills an intruder in her home, and then tries to hide the fact that the man had once been her lover from her husband and the police. There’s one problem; the dead man had been a sculptor, and his widow has possession of a bust he had sculpted which Sheridan had obviously modeled for.

Sheridan is excellent as the loving wife who, out of loneliness during her husbands tour of duty in WWII, gave into temptation and an adulterous affair, then with her attorney (Lew Ayers) makes a desperate effort to retrieve the incriminating object before her husband (Zachary Scott) finds out the truth.


Neither Ayers or Scott have ever set the screen on fire for me, and that holds true here as well. But they’re both always competent actors, and they give fine support to Miss Sheridan’s gutsy performance in one of her better Warner Brothers star vehicles.

Eve Arden also has several memorable scenes as a gossiping relative.

It’s not the classic film that THE LETTER is, but still a well made and highly entertaining Hollywood drama worth seeing.

Another Fine Performance By Ann Sheridan

Author: Randy_D from Michigan
7 December 2000

Ann Sheridan is in fine form here as a woman whose past not only catches up with her, it threatens to ruin her life.

Sheridan portrays Chris Hunter, a woman who, while her husband was serving in World War II, gives in to her loneliness with a meaningless one night stand, hence the title of the film. While she tries desperately to keep this from her husband you get the sense that she knows it is only a matter of time before he finds out.

Ann Sheridan manages to evoke sympathy even though her character she did something that even she admits is unforgivable. You can’t condone what she did but at least you can understand why she did it.

Lew Ayres and Zachary Scott turn in solid supporting roles in a film worth catching.

What happened to Roger?

Author: krorie from Van Buren, Arkansas
19 March 2006

This is not a remake of “The Letter,” rather this film and “The Letter” are based on the same source, a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Strangely, Maugham is not given credit. Since he was still alive at the time, one wonders why he didn’t object. Since “The Letter,” there have been other films using the same theme but not quite as obviously as “The Unfaithful,” though the setting and other parts have been changed to update the story.


The delightful Ann Sheridan, who never received her due recognition as an actress, plays the bored housewife who has a fling while her new husband is away at war. Like so many other beauties, Marilyn Monroe comes to mind, Sheridan was promoted as a sex kitten, The “Oomph” Girl, and her true talents were never appreciated by the Hollywood establishment.

Though Sheridan is fine, three supporting players steal the show. The magnificent Lew Ayres shines as the attorney friend who tries to put the pieces together hoping to exonerate Chris Hunter (Sheridan) from suspected murder. The more he searches the less the puzzle pieces fit. Ayres received a bum rap by Hollywood big wigs when he exercised his First Amendment rights during World War II to express his pacifist views. This movie represents his efforts to be re-accepted.


Zachary Scott plays against type as the husband who is caught in a murder investigation he doesn’t understand. As the story unwinds, he learns more about his wife than he wants to know or to accept. When Bob Hunter (Scott) appears on the scene having been away on business, the viewer automatically thinks he is in someway involved in the killing since Scott usually played the bad guy. This film shows that Scott was a more versatile actor when given an opportunity.

Then there’s the elegant Eve Arden as family friend and relative, Paula. Arden has some of the best lines in the movie and does she know how to deliver them! She is catty, coy, and funny when delivering just one well-written line of dialog. When her role turns more serious toward the end of the flick, she knows how to handle that too with élan.


The film is worthwhile but there are a few weaknesses. One is the introduction of characters that just wander in and then disappear without rhyme or reason. For example, at a drunken party, Paula’s ex, Roger, played by Douglas Kennedy, disrupts the proceedings and has to be led away by Chris and Larry Hannaford (Lew Ayres). After such a grand spectacle, Roger is never seen or mentioned again in the movie. The viewer keeps waiting for his return thinking that just maybe he had something to do with the murder.


Another weakness is running time. This film is way too long. It would have played much better in a 60+ time slot. As is, there is too much dialog. So there are long boring talky parts included to stretch the film to an almost two hour format. “The Unfaithful” is more of an effective programmer than the flashy main feature it tries to be.


Nora Prentiss (1947)


Vincent Sherman

Nora Prentiss is a 1947 black-and-white drama film noir directed by Vincent Sherman, and starring Ann Sheridan, Kent Smith, Bruce Bennett and Robert Alda. Sherman also directed leading lady Sheridan in another 1947 film noir, The Unfaithful. The cinematography is by cinematographer James Wong Howe, and the music was composed by Franz Waxman.


Dr. Richard Talbot, unhappy with the dull routine of his married life, begins an affair with nightclub singer Nora Prentiss. Feeling unable to ask his wife for a divorce, he fakes his own death by substituting a dead man’s body for his own. He and Nora then move from San Francisco to New York, where Nora continues her singing career. Meanwhile, Talbot drinks heavily and becomes increasingly paranoid and reclusive as he learns that his death is under investigation. After a fight with Nora’s nightclub boss, Talbot crashes his car and his face is badly scarred. The police, not realizing that the man is Talbot, arrest him for his own murder. Guilty about the suffering he caused his family and feeling he has no future, Talbot convinces Prentiss to keep his secret, allowing him to be convicted and executed.


When the film was released, the staff at Variety magazine gave the film an unfavorable review. They wrote, “Nora Prentiss is an overlong melodrama, a story of romance between a married man and a girl. But it’s never quite believable. Ann Sheridan makes much of her role but the production has unsympathetic slant for leads and a lack of smoothness … Sheridan is the singer, and has two tunes to warble. As the doctor, Kent Smith is okay dramatically in a part that doesn’t hold much water. Bruce Bennett, co-starred, has little to do as a medico friend of Smith’s



8 June 2006 | by sol (Brooklyn NY USA) – See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** Straight laced at his practice as a big city, San Francisco, doctor and wonderful family man Richard Talbot, Kent Smith,has never done anything more serious in his life then being late at his doctors office. That was all to change when one evening going to his car he ran into singer Nora Prentiss, Ann Sheridan. Nora has a fainting spell falling on the street and bruising herself. Bringing Nora up to his office Richard after treating her starts to slowly fall madly in love with Nora. That leads to him throwing away his very successful practice his family, wife and two children, and later even his life, which in the movie he loses twice. Where in the end Richard faces the California gas chamber for first degree murder.


The movie “Nora Prentiss” is about a mans obsession. That obsession leads him into such depths of depression and depravity that he destroys everything he held near and dear to himself in order to keep the woman, Nora Prentiss, that drove him into this madness and in the end loses her as well. Nora for her part is totally unaware of how far her lover was willing to go to keep her from disappearing out of his life. Spending money like crazy on Nora and using the excuse of working late at the office so that his wife Lucy, Rosemary DeCamp, won’t suspect his almost nightly lateness from home Richard is still very reluctant to divorce his wife, on what possible grounds? Then like heaven sent a patient of his Walter Bailey, John Ridgely, who not only fits Richards hight and weight but is even Richard’s age,43, pops into his office one night and collapses and dies from a heart attack!


Going to call the police to pick up the body Richard get this bright idea to switch identities and thus bury his past, as Dr. Richard Talbot, and start a new life as whoever he chooses with who he feels is the love of his life Nora Prentiss.

Nora who was leaving for New York for a job as a singer at the Sea Gull Cafe run by her very close friend and former employer Phil Dinardo,Robert Alda, runs into Richard who excitedly tells Nora that he’s divorcing his wife and within weeks when his divorce papers go through they’ll be able to get married. Rchard in fact disposed of Bailey’s body with his wedding ring on him to make it look like he was the one who was killed.


In New York living like a fugitive from the law Richard has Nora becomes a bit annoyed of his constant secrecy and avoidance of people. It soon gets to the point where she’s forced to live with Richard in a hotel room and only having her job at Phil’s nightclub as the only contact with the outside world. Richard, now calling himself Robert Tompson, for his part constantly keeps up with the news back home in San Francisco and learns that his “death” is being investigated by the police as a murder suspect with evidence found at his office; The cops found a letter of divorce that he partly burned that’s interpreted as a blackmail note. Also at the accident scene the police found a can of gasoline with his fingerprints on it.


Richard finally lose it when he finds Nora, who by then he already confessed what he did, in her dressing room with Phil! That has him go into a jealous rage and attacks the startled nightclub owner. This causes the police to chase Richard all through the streets of Manhattan ending up in a fiery accident in Central Park with his face badly burned.

With Phil not pressing charges and Richard getting a face-over, plastic surgery, it now looks like he and Nora can finally get married and put his life as Doctor Richard Talbot behind him. It’s then his being fingerprinted by the police for car theft and those fingerprints matched those back in San Franciso on the can of gasoline come up as a match! This made Richard the number one suspect in his own murder! how’s that for ultimate justice.


Now with nothing to look forward to with his wife and family as well as Nora out of his life forever Richard, or as he’s known now as Robert Thompson, can only sit in his dark prison cell and count the days leading up to his scheduled execution. He can also see what a mess he made of his life by reaching for something that he should have known was well out of his reach Nora Prentiss.


From the very beginning it’s all downhill for Dr. Talbot!

Author: grasshopper54 from Cromwell, CT
1 March 2003
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Never in the annals of film history has one man screwed up his life as badly as Dr. Richard Talbot, played by Kent Smith. From the very beginning of this film, Talbot’s life unravels, at first very slowly, but, as the film progresses, in a hideously downward spiral that goes out of control by the end of the film. Watching this film makes one want to chant `I’m glad I’m not this guy!’ over and over again. Kent Smith’s antics as Dr. Talbot in this film make Fred Mac Murray’s Walter Neff of `Double Indemnity’ or Wendell Corey’s Cleve Marshall in `The File of Thelma Jordan’ look like child‘s play. Both of these movies can scare you silly regarding infidelity, but still, there is no comparison.


As the film begins, Talbot is portrayed as a straight-laced family man; an individual who has no clue about the world around him save for his family and work. This, of course, doesn’t last too long. Enter Nora Prentiss. Ann Sheridan does a superb job portraying the alluring Nora, a nightclub singer who gets clipped by an automobile while she’s crossing the street. Just by luck, Talbot is outside of his office and sees the accident. Being a doctor, he brings her up to his office in order to repair the damage, which consists of a bruised knee. The ride downhill to ruin begins for Dr. Talbot, first in a subtle way. He becomes tempted to see her perform in the nightclub across the street from his workplace. You can feel the rush toward disaster get a little quicker at this point.


First it’s dancing, then it’s a jaunt to his summer cabin when the family is away on a trip, then it’s expensive gifts, then it’s his coming home in the wee hours of the morning. By then his wife, played by Rosemary De Camp, becomes suspicious, but (miraculously) maintains her reserved attitude about what’s happening around her and her family. The gnawing anxiety inside of her finally prompts her to angrily quip, `Not everyone in San Francisco is in poor health’ or “I wonder what’s going on inside of you” to her husband during one breakfast. Of course this is the day of their daughter Bonita’s birthday which, of course, he forgets because of his frequent late evening trysts with Nora. You can feel the plunge toward certain disaster getting more apparent, just like feeling a noose being put around one’s neck.


It gets so bad by this time that he can’t even concentrate on his work. Before a New York doctor witnessing an operation, he almost kills the patient. Of course this happens after Nora tells him that she wants to call it quits (good timing!). Talbot can’t give her up. He pursues her like a male moth pursues a pheromone laden female. She keeps pushing him away, but nothing can stop this guy by now.


By now everyone viewing this film has a clue that this guy is tormented by the demon of infidelity. He feels like a trapped rat in a corner. He wants to divorce his wife, but lacks the courage to tell her. The viewer can feel the gnawing dilemma within Dr. Talbot and by now is REALLY glad that he’s not in his shoes! Enter Walter Bailey, played by John Ridgely. Bailey is a heart patient who, coincidentally, collapses and dies in Dr. Talbot’s office the moment he is writing a note to his wife asking for a divorce. Talbot notices that Bailey is the same age, height and weight as himself. In a day before DNA identification, Talbot sees a way out of his dilemma. He places his ring, watch and money clip on Bailey, drives his 1941 Buick to a cliff somewhere in Carmel, CA, douses the interior of the car with alcohol and sets it on fire with (of course) Bailey in the driver’s seat. It gets much worse, by the way…


So, Talbot “kills” himself in his endeavor to by with Nora. The continuing downward spiral gets a little more bizarre and precarious… He takes off to New York City with Nora and keeps informed with San Francisco newspapers about his death. He then notices that the District Attorney is investigating his death, so another factor is introduced in the plot: paranoia. He and Nora stay shut up in the hotel they’re living in. Nora is perturbed that they’re not living a “normal” life like everyone else. She is also confused as to why he is acting the way he is, not knowing what’s being written in the San Francisco papers.


Talbot becomes even more paranoid when they go out dancing one evening and he runs into the same doctor who watched that botched operation mentioned earlier. He tells Nora that they have to leave NOW without explaining to her what the problem is. By now Nora is really perturbed about what’s going on so she confronts him. He finally explains to her the mess that he got himself into, all because he wanted to be with her. The walls start to close in on Talbot as you can see him deteriorate in the seclusion of his hotel room. Hotel meals, newspapers and alcohol are all that he looks forward to in his `prison’. Nora gets a job as a singer at Phil DiNardo’s (played by Robert Alda) nightclub and manages to make a living for both herself and her `prisoner’ boyfriend.


Still another factor appears in the plot: jealousy. Talbot, who by now is calling himself Thompson, becomes enraged that Nora is spending too much time at the nightclub and with Phil. It doesn’t help any when he reads in the gossip pages how Nora and Phil are `an item’. One night he slips out of his hotel room and goes to the nightclub, pummeling DiNardo and fleeing in the latter’s car. As can be expected in this film, he speeds off, is pursued by the police and has an accident resulting in severe facial injuries. He treats his injuries like a blessing, thinking that his being altered in this way can let him live a `normal’ life in the great outdoors without being identified by anyone. Can Dr. Talbot really put away his past self now? Not a chance.


In perfect timing, the law arrests him because of a fingerprint identification on the can of alcohol he used in order to destroy his previous identity. Whew! They extradite him back to California where he is tried for the death of himself. He is so disfigured that not even his wife or past colleague, Dr. Joel Merriman, recognize him. He is sentenced to die and he makes Nora promise never to tell anyone who he is. Would you? Warner Brothers advertised the movie with a tremendous advertising campaign. The billboards asked: `If you were Nora, would you talk?’

If there ever was a deterrent for philandering, this is it. The film is filled with a tragedy of errors from beginning to end. Dr. Talbot’s fall from grace is truly astounding. His impulsiveness at throwing caution to the wind, as one would say, shows the stupidity of one man on his ability in screwing up his life big time. It really leaves one chanting over and over again, `I’m glad I’m not this guy!’


Not exactly film noir, but excellent thriller

28 March 2006 | by krorie (Van Buren, Arkansas) – See all my reviews

Though labeled a film noir drama, this film doesn’t really qualify for that genre. For one thing, the femme fatale, Nora Prentiss, is not really a femme fatale. She is a thoughtful, caring woman, who truly loves the good Doctor Talbot and earnestly tries to do what is best for him. She is played to perfection by the wonderful actress Ann Sheridan. Though Talbot loves her too, it is a more selfish, possessive kind. The one who sincerely loves her is her manager, Phil Dinardo, played with knowing skill by Robert Alda, but Nora does not return his love. He is more of a helpful long-time friend who is always there for her, even if she usually does not reciprocate.


Unfortunately, two of the main parts are given rather perfunctory readings by two ho-hum actors of the period, Kent Smith as Dr. Talbot and Bruce Bennett as his partner, Dr. Merriam. Too bad more capable Thespians were not assigned those roles, especially the key one of Dr. Talbot. Rosemary DeCamp is excellent in her cold hearted portrayal of the good doctor’s nondescript wife. The viewer wonders how Dr. Talbot has tolerated her for all those years.

The story is exceptional, very complex yet realistic. Most of us have had one little event, at the time seemingly insignificant, drastically alter our workaday lives, sometimes for the good, other times for the bad. In this film it is an accident that occurs right in front of Dr. Talbot. Being a physician, he rushes to the aid of a pretty young nightclub singer, has her taken to his office, and proceeds to treat her. From that time on, the entire fabric of his life is changed. What twists and turns until the denouement! Director Vincent Sherman permits no cop out at the end.


This is one of those pictures where everything counts, including the music and the photography, to accentuate the main theme. Listen to the music and to the lyrics of the songs Nora Prentiss sings, in particular “Who Cares What People Say?” Cinematographer James Wong Howe blends San Francisco photography and crisp black and white interior shots into the story settings to emphasize the mood and the importance of a particular scene. Note for example how what look to be bars on Nora Prentiss’ sweater in the lodge sequence indicate the happiness the two lovers are enjoying may be short lived.

The title is not a good one. Automatically one thinks of “Nora Prentiss” as a chick flick. It is not. There is little melodrama and not much sentiment. It is brash and harsh most of the way.


The Sellout (1952)


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…


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.


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

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.


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….


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.


No Stool Pidgeon

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


Losing Momentum

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.

Verkauft und verraten
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.


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.
1932713,USRl9PVeI7QWIZtqAMqbYUvGb3E1iy8JfZOimaMDohNDSw+R32tqutyus6divaR3IZ7qdecLr_HfAQpDtTKPkA== (1)

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. The supporting cast features Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson‘s 1939 play of the same name, which played on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.

The script was adapted from a 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson. In the play, the gangsters are Mexican bandidos, the war in question is the Spanish Civil War, and Frank is a disgraced deserter who dies at the end.


Robinson had top billing over Bogart in their four previous films together: Bullets or Ballots (1936), Kid Galahad (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) and Brother Orchid (1940). For this movie, however, Robinson’s name appears to the right of Bogart’s, but placed a little higher on the posters, and also in the film’s opening credits, to indicate Robinson’s near-equal status. Robinson’s image was also markedly larger and centered on the original poster, with Bogart relegated to the background. In the film’s trailer, Bogart is repeatedly mentioned first but Robinson’s name is listed above Bogart’s in a cast list at the end.



Exterior shots of the hurricane were taken from stock footage used in Night Unto Night, a Ronald Reagan melodrama which Warner Bros. also produced in 1948.

The boat used by Rocco’s gang to depart Key Largo, with Bogart’s character at the helm, is named the Santana, which was also the name of Bogart’s personal 55-foot (17 m) sailing yacht.

Phoenix: The Hero Reborn From His Ashes

29 June 2015 | by garthbarnes-83945 (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

The film is about Frank. He returns from the war disillusioned and depressed both from the horrors he has endured and the lies he was told. Remember why he is here, he has come to tell his best friends’ relatives how he died. If you do not understand Frank, his actions will seem bizarre and inexplicable.


Once Rocco’s gang takes over, and everyone realizes they are prisoners there, Nora looks to Frank to save them. Frank gives a little speech, the point of which is, he went through hell trying to rid the world of Johnny Rocco’s and here is another one right in front of him. James tries to tell Nora that no man who went through what Frank did could possibly be a coward. Nora snaps, and unleashes a tirade on him about what a pathetic coward he is. Rocco will tolerate no challenges not even verbal. His reaction is to try and bait him into letting Rocco shoot him. Nora tries to convince herself Frank knew the gun was empty. When she discovers he didn’t that is when she goes postal on him. The movie follows Frank learning to care again. As Rocco, becomes more and more cruel to everyone around him. Frank begins to hate him and the old Frank is on his way back.


The scene where Rocco makes Gaye sing for her drink is one of the saddest scenes on film. This is the fate of the moll who has outlived her usefulness, now she is discarded like garbage. When Johnny says,”You stink,” Faye answers,”Johnny you’re as mean as can be.” It won Trevor the Oscar; she earned it what a powerful scene. There is a parallel here to Treasure of Sierra Madre, watch as the storm grows, like the fire in Madre, how Rocco gets more and more frightened. Mr. Temple starts praying for divine retribution and almost gets shot by Rocco. Gradually, the film builds to the decision point. They all urge Frank to run; it is a death sentence for sure. Frank hesitates, you can see the anguish on his face, he is through running. He climbs aboard with the gun Gaye gave him secreted away. He is not the same docile, nihilistic Frank who gave that speech at the beginning. He has decided no more Johnny Roccos. The cruelty and evil of the man brought Frank back to his senses.



Huston pulls no punches, Frank is almost killed several times, and gets a serious wound for his trouble. Rocco is portrayed as a mendacious, cowardly, cruel monster. This was before villains were heroes like in today’s movies. See how strong the normative structure of the country was back there. When Frank returns, with the fog dissipating and the sun rising behind him, both beautiful existential metaphors, the message is unmistakable; the hero has returned. What gives the movie its power is the struggle within Frank to find the hero buried under all that suffering and disillusionment. As the music ascends, and Nora rushes to meet him, his nobility reminds all of us that it is within each of us. It just has to be brought up and out with courage. A GREAT MOVIE.


shock value

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
2 April 2004

My favorite Bogart movie is also Key Largo. Even before Edward G. Robinson and his hoods take everyone hostage in Lionel Barrymore’s hotel there is a tension that does not let up for one second. Movie goers had to be on the edge of their seats in 1948.


There is one scene however that I don’t think viewers today can fully appreciate. Lionel Barrymore had been acting from a wheelchair for 10 years and movie audiences were used to that. When Robinson and his goons goad him to a futile gesture of bravado, Barrymore rises from that chair and moves slowly towards the snickering Robinson. He swings and misses and falls down and Bogey and Bacall pick up Barrymore and bring him back to his wheelchair. The shock value of that scene for 1948 audiences would have a dimension that can’t be appreciated now.

Robinson’s Johnny Rocco is based on Lucky Luciano who had been deported a few years back. He’s evil incarnate and Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud is the jaded, cynical former idealist who redeems himself and becomes the countervailing force for good. They play well against each other in a reverse from the 1930s Warner gangster flicks where Robinson was usually the good guy.

Who could have known this would be the fourth, last, and best of the Bogey and Bacall teamings.


Edward G. Robinson at this best

Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
21 June 2004

Key Largo is just one of John Huston’s many memorable films that somehow always seem to transcend the intention–the Hollywood intention being to make a few bucks–and to this day still plays very well and indeed appears as something close to a work of art. It features what I think is one of Edward G. Robinson’s finest performances as Johnny Rocco, a sociopathic gangster holding the off-season personnel of a seaside hotel hostage as he concludes a counterfeit money deal.


The story begins as Major Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) pays a visit to the family of one of his G.I. buddies who was killed in Italy during WWII. He finds the welcome from the hotel’s only “guests” chilly except for Gaye Dawn (a funny and perhaps prescient Hollywood stage name) played by Claire Trevor who is drunk and befriends him. After a bit McCloud discovers that the hotel’s owner Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her invalid father-in-law James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) have been tricked into allowing Rocco’s gang to stay and now, as a tropical storm begins to blow, are being held at gunpoint. McCloud’s delicate task is to keep the megalomaniac and murderous personality of Rocco under some control so that he doesn’t murder everyone.


Note that this is a splendid cast, and they all do a good job. Note too that Huston adapted this from a play by the versatile American playwright Maxwell Anderson. So the ingredients for a good film are clearly in place; and aside from some self-conscious mishmash with the Seminoles of Florida, this is a success. Anderson’s desire to explore the psychopathic personality (some years later he adapted William March’s novel The Bad Seed into a stage play) finds realization in Huston’s direction and especially in Robinson’s indelible performance. The utter disregard for the lives of others and the obsessive love of self that characterize the sociopath reek from the snares and callous laughter of the very sick Johnny Rocco. I especially liked the crazed and thrilled grin on his face when he emerges from the hold of the boat in the climactic scene, gun in hand, imagining that he has once again fooled his adversaries and is about to delightfully shoot Humphrey Bogart to death.


What I loved about this scene was that Huston did not think it necessary to contrive a fight in which the good guy (Bogart) beats the bad guy by fighting fair. What happens is exactly what should happen, and without regard for the fine points of Marquis of Queensberry-type rules. Also good is Rocco beginning to sweat in fear of his life as the storm moves in while Bogey gives us his famous laugh and grin as he assesses the essential cowardice of the petty gangster.

Lauren Bacall, in one of her more modest roles, does a lot without saying much, and Lionel Barrymore is very good as the cantankerous old guy in a wheelchair. Claire Trevor actually won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her work, and she was good as the alcoholic moll with a heart of gold. Robinson won nothing, but he really dominated the picture and demonstrated why he was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.


Bottom line: watch this to see the gangster yarn meld into film noir with overtones of the psychoanalytical drama that characterized many of the black and white Hollywood films of the forties and early fifties.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book “Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can’t Believe I Swallowed the Remote!” Get it at Amazon!)

Key Largo (1948)

One of Bogart’s, Bacall’s & Robinson’s best.

Author: Paul Browne from Oldham, England.
5 February 2005

Basically this film is almost like a play. The whole story is more or less (apart from the ending) shot in a rustic Florida hotel. A great location and setting, a real credit to John Huston.


In short, Frank McCloud (Bogart) an ex war hero and living at no-fixed-address, visits (by request) his dead war buddy’s father (barrymore) & widow (Bacall). As he arrives, it doesn’t take long for Frank to work out the Hotel is temporarily hostage to a big mob gangster – Rocco (robinson) and his cronies.


The film instantly grabs you, it looks beautiful, there is a lot of substance and well thought out scripts, nothing glamorous or smart, just very good story telling. A good side line to the story, are the Native American clan, who due to an approaching hurricane need to find shelter, their plight is placed nicely into the story. There is a scene in which Bacall introduces Bogart to the oldest member of the clan, a 100 and something year old Native woman which is just so genuine, I still don’t believe this woman was an actress, Huston must have improvised this into the script.

Not only is Bogart superb in this, but also the whole cast. It goes without saying Edward G Robinson’s performance was second to none as to was – his right hand man (Harry Lewis I think), Bacall & Rocco’s girlfriend – Ziggy..pretty much the entire cast.


The whole thing ties up well, without Spoilers it does have a great ending. This is a must not just for Bogie fans but for anyone who can appreciate an intelligent film.

-Paul Browne.

Enduring Warner Gangster Melodrama.

Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
5 June 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the finest of the great gangster melodramas KEY LARGO is still a firm favourite with fans and cultists alike. Produced by Jerry Wald in 1948 for Warner Bros.

Alberto Morin (in hat) in Key Largo (1948)

it was based on the stage play by Maxwell Anderson and was beautifully written for the screen by Richard Brooks and John Huston. Stunningly photographed in low key black & white by Karl Freund it was expertly directed with his customary flair by Huston. The cast assembled couldn’t be better with Humphrey Bogart delivering one of his very best subdued performances and arguably being almost eclipsed by a riveting Ed. G. Robinson. The rest of the small cast is fleshed out with Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Thomas Gomez. And complimenting the on screen proceedings is the splendid music by the tireless Max Steiner who provided one of his best forties scores.


It is 1946, the war in Europe is over and a returning GI (Humphrey Bogart) arrives at The Largo Hotel in Key Largo. Asked who he is Bogart coolly replies “McCloud, Frank by John out of Helen”. He is here to meet with the hotel owner John Temple (Lionel Barrymore) to talk about the death of his son George Temple and how he lost his life in combat in Italy saving his unit. But McCloud notices that also staying in the hotel are a undesirable crowd of sinister looking characters. It’s not long before he learns that they are a gang of mobsters led by an abrasive deported racketeer – the infamous Johnny Rocco (Robinson). When McCloud reveals who Rocco is and lists his many illegal and crooked enterprises the aging wheelchair bound John Temple gloweringly chides him “You Filth” which elicits little more than a snigger from Rocco. Then the gang declare themselves and display their violent ways (they murder the deputy sheriff) and make known their intention to force McCloud to sail them to Cuba. However after Rocco’s moll (Claire Trevor) slips McCloud a gun he takes them on in a surprise move out at sea which makes for an intense and exciting sequence. The picture ends with McCloud’s dispatch of the baddies and turning the boat around he heads back to Key Largo and The Largo Hotel where a new life awaits him.


With some remarkable ensemble playing performances are top notch. Bogart gives one of his best portrayals in a likable reserved manner. Here proving yet again that he remains one of the most enduring icons of the silver screen. But there’s little doubt KEY LARGO is Robinson’s picture! His snarling and totally mean spirited Rocco is the best thing he has ever done. Good too are those in support especially Lionel Barrymore as the irascible aging hotelier, Lauren Bacall as Nora his daughter in-law and Claire Trevor giving a great turn as Rocco’s moll in her Acadamy Award winning best supporting actress performance.


And holding the whole thing together is Max Steiner’s great score. His main theme is a lovely gentle anthem-like cue which points up the sadness of George Temple’s death in the war and the loneliness now felt without him by his father and widow Nora. Also heard are some great action cues and an appropriate swirling piece for the Hurricane sequence. 1948 was a bumper year for the busy composer. In twelve months the man scored an unprecedented eleven films which included such amazing classics as “Treasure Of The Sierra Madre”, “Johnny Belinda”, “Silver River” the exceptional “The Adventures Of Don Juan” and of course KEY LARGO.


KEY LARGO remains a memorable and enduring classic from Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the tradition of the great noirs it exudes an engaging dramatic thrust throughout and an all encompassing intensity rarely felt in movies today. John Huston demonstrated yet again his prowess as one of film’s outstanding directors and with his inspired casting in KEY LARGO the movie will forever maintain its appeal as long as there are movies and a place to screen them..

Footnote: It is interesting to note that the boat used in the final sequence was Bogart’s own boat “The Santana”.


The Big Knife (1955)

Cinematography Ernest Laszlo

The Big Knife is a 1955 film noir directed and produced by Robert Aldrich from a screenplay by James Poe based on the 1949 play by Clifford Odets. The film stars Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters, Ilka Chase, and Everett Sloane.


Slightly better than average melodrama

20 November 2002 | by funkyfry (Oakland CA) – See all my reviews

A charged, stage-bound melodrama, with Palance as a movie star in servitude to the studio boss (Steiger) who’s blackmailing him. His wife (Lupino) won’t agree to live with him until he’s his own man again, which means not renewing his 7 year contract.

Palance does his best, but he’s not the kind of actor who can show a character going through real transitions and hold the audience’s attention for an entire film. Steiger is allowed to go over the top a few too many times, but Corey provides some of the film’s best moments as his more ruthless, and at the same time gentlemanly, henchman. Sloane provides an unusual characterization as a somewhat sissified agent.


Ultimately, too cramped in its one room location (which may have been done deliberately to show the character’s isolation from the world, but still produced a stagey effect that bind the film too tightly).

Tremendously powerful movie

Author: inframan from the lower depths
24 July 1999

Jack Palance gives an amazing performance here in a part that so many other actors must have been dying to play. You can picture a lot of actors of the time – Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Marlon Brando – as Charlie Castle, but I can’t picture anyone as good as Palance. It’s a riveting movie from start top finish with one great line after another. Almost Shakespearean in breadth, depth & power.


Inside Hollywood

Author: sol1218 from brooklyn NY
9 October 2003

A truly memorable film with tough and rugged, but hardly handsome, Jack Palance as Charlie Castle playing of all people an actor who’s always playing matinée Idols and great lovers. As Charlie’s boss and studio owner Stanley Hoff,Rod Steiger, says of him throughout the film :”He makes all the women of America heart’s swoon”. “The Big Knife” is worth the price of admission just to see how and if director Robert Aldrich can pull it off and make the film both entertaining and believable.


You see Charlie is getting tired of playing all those roles over the years as a heart throb to the women of America and wants to get out of his contract with the Hoff Studios and go independent; That was a big thing for actors back in the 1950’s. Charlie wan’t to do films that are worthy of his extraordinary talents as a serious and Shakespearian actor. It’s that Charlie’s off the wall and possessive boss Stanley Hoff, the Big Knife, doesn’t want his meal ticket to leave and take his fans with him! So Stanley rolls out the heavy artillery and plays his trump card. It seems that Charlie has a dark secret that the studio has been covering up for years and if Charlie leaves that secret won’t be a secret any more! Get It Charlie!


The film “The Big Knife” can really be described as one of the most multi storied soap operas ever put on film with the audience needing score cards just to keep up with the story and even then they’ll get lost. Whoever coined the phrase “Seeing is believing” must have based it on the the incredible performance of Rod Steiger’s Stanley Hoff which goes from a Saturday Night Live impersonation shtick of a big Hollywood producer to an Oscar winning interpretation of Hamlet all at the same time! It’s really incredible to watch and believe what your seeing in Steiger’s over the top performance.


And Jack Palance, determined not to be shown up his co-star, really did pull it off in him Playing a role so out of character and yet evoking real and genuine sympathy from the audience that he should have, but didn’t, won the 1955 Academy Award for best actor hands down! As the tortured soul with a dark past who only wanted to do Art Films and get away from playing debonair and charming movie parts that make women go ape all over him. In the end of the film when Palance went all out, or was it underwater, in the final few minutes of the movie he was so convincing that I just couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks!


No matter how much people criticize Robert Aldrich’s “The Big Knife” and with good justification this is one movie where you can really say that the acting actually overwhelmed the script!

For collectors only…

Author: Mike Conrad (conono) from London
12 June 2007

Wow…overwrought, overacted, over-the-top melodrama trying ever-so-hard to be *about* something. But it’s really not about much, despite the putative ‘Corrupt-Hollywood’ theme. Just a series of intermittently-entertaining, scenery-chewing set pieces in a Bel-Air living room.


A whole lot of talent wasted here–acting, writing, not so much directing. Fans of the film’s several excellent actors will survive this viewing more readily than others. Everyone’s finest chops–and then some–are on display, over and over, desperately in search of significance. Even the music is ridiculously overdone. “Pay attention! This is wrenching drama!” Only, it’s not.

“The Big Knife” reminds me of nothing so much as a lame stage play where shouting and noisemaking take the place of genuine dramatic tension. This whole mess was generously forgotten in a couple years, thanks to 1957’s vastly superior “Sweet Smell of Success” –check that one out instead.