Monday, April 27, 2015


Nick (John Garfield) has just been discharged from an Army hospital in New York City and goes to see his pre-war girlfriend Toni (Faye Emerson), a nightclub singer; he left her $50,000 but she gave it to her new boyfriend Chet to bankroll his club where she's the main attraction. Understandably pissed, Nick threatens Chet with physical violence, gets the money back, and takes off for Los Angeles where he renews contact with old Pop Gruber (Walter Brennan), a veteran con man who hooks him up with slimy crook Doc Ganson (George Coulouris) and his gang who want Nick to bankroll their "project": fleecing rich widow Gladys (Geraldine Fitzgerald) out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by getting her to invest in a phony salvage business. Nick agrees, but also takes control of the plan by romancing the widow and getting in good with Manning, her business advisor. But soon complications arise: 1) Nick finds himself falling for Gladys; 2) Doc Ganson gets itchy and wants to take control of the plan back from Nick; 3) Toni shows up in L.A.

This film noir is impressive primarily for its acting; basically every actor but one is firing on all cylinders. Garfield is fine as always as the little tough guy with the soft heart who desperately wants to redeem himself—I like that we can see him slowly change over the course of the film; Brennan (pictured with Garfield) is excellent playing against type as a formerly sly con-man who is now over the hill and getting by the best he can; Coulouris, always underrated, is sweaty and twitchy and thoroughly unlikable—which in this case is a compliment. Emerson is good in what would usually be the femme fatale part, though here she's mostly a minor nuisance. Even Doc's thugs (James Flavin and Ralph Peters) make good impressions. The lone problem is Geraldine Fitzgerald who is too passive and ethereal to seem attractive to Garfield, but even she's basically OK. Not terribly noir in look or style, more so in its themes. [Warner Archive streaming]

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