(director: Joseph Newman; screenwriters: Irwin Gielgud/William Bowers; cinematographer: William Daniels; editor: Edward Curtiss; cast: Raymond Burr (Kerric), Frank Cady (City Editor), Jeff Chandler (Chief McRae), Dennis O’Keefe (Mark Sitko), Gale Storm (Paula Considine), Meg Randall (Dottie Jensen), Will Kuluva (Little Guy DeCola), Marjorie Rambeau (Mrs. Donner), Jeanette Nolan (Major Ross), Mike Mazurki (Hoppe), William Page (Scoop), David Clarke (Harry), Bert Conway (Delaney), Perc Launders (Dowd), Clifton Young (Eddie), Ruth Sanderson (Mrs. Spence), Earl Smith (Sammy, Shoeshine boy), Edwin Max (Morrie, The Bookie), Virginia Mullen (Nurse Sully); Runtime: 78; Universal-International; 1949)
“The film’s pulse is taken from the shock stories that appear in the daily newspapers.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Abandoned” is a melodramatic noir story that shows the dark side to Los Angeles and what happens to those who come there from a small-town and get absorbed in its sordidness and can’t escape from their own hidden vices. It is especially noteworthy for the beautiful work of the cinematographer, William Daniels, who gives this film a great sinister look while the script records the cynicism of the perpetrators, the news media, and the police. The film’s pulse is taken from the shock stories that appear in the daily newspapers. This story about the baby broker racket is told in an almost documentary expose style.
Paula Considine (Gale) has recently come to L.A. to locate her missing sister and baby girl. She is met at the police desk by a reporter looking for a story, Mark Sitko (Dennis), who takes an interest in the case mainly because he is attracted to Paula. He decides to help track her sister down, even though Paula is reluctant to have him help because she is afraid that this will appear in the newspaper and that might embarrass her family.
When followed by a corrupt private investigator named Kerric (Burr), Sitko realizes there might be something more to this story than meets the eye. When he catches up with Kerric, he is told by him that he has been hired by Paula’s father to trail her and get the location where her sister is. Sitko’s classical noir line to him is, “You going legitimate, is like a vulture turning vegetarian.” It is never explained how Kerric was hired by the father. The only thing that was explained was that the older sister ran away because she didn’t get along with the father and their relationship became worst when her mother died.
Through Sitko’s skills as a reporter it is learned that Paula’s sister has been killed by carbon monoxide while in a stolen car, and that her death is ruled as a suicide. But Paula can’t believe it, especially, since her sister doesn’t drive. Sitko asks his friend Chief McRae (Chandler) for help. The chief tells him that if he can come up with something to back up his story of babies being sold illegally as a reason for her death, he will use his police powers to help him.
When Kerric is spotted by Sitko trailing them they try to lose him, as they are busy tracking down a number of sources that will lead them to where her sister might have gone to sell her baby.
At a Salvation Army Home, they discover that her sister stayed there and was friends with another pregnant girl, Dottie (Meg). She tells them that an elderly lady with a cane visited them and paid for her sister’s expenses and made arrangements to buy the baby from her, but your sister changed her mind and that was the last she heard from her.
Sitko and Paula cook up a scheme to entrap the baby brokers, as the police set-up a stakeout. Dottie volunteers to have the lady with the cane, the head of the baby selling organization, Mrs. Donner (Marjorie), think that she is willing to sell her baby. Sitko poses with Paula, as the couple who will buy the baby.
This typical crime story moves into film noir territory and takes a more forlorn look at how the baby racket operates. Fake niceties are not allowed in this highly charged atmospheric B&W film. The cub reporter under Sitko is told to work on his day off, it would be good for him. Kids in the park playing “Cowboys and Indians” are given a dollar by Sitko to tie-up Kerric as an Indian, which they do without any questions. A nurse becomes part of the baby broker operation, forgoing her nursing duties without any concern.
Little Guy DeCola (Kuluva) is the one responsible for killing Paula’s sister with the help of his violent underling, Hoppe (Mazurki). Knowing how violently the gang operates and with the police closing in Kerric is getting nervous and decides to double-cross the organization and sell the sister’s baby to Paula, planning to flee the country with the money. But, he is soon found beaten to death before the deal goes through.
The film’s aims are conservative. The reporter and his soon-to-be wife, share the same middle-class values most of their fellow postwar American citizens shared at the time. He advances on his job by having good contacts with the police force, and then he marries the nice small-town girl before she is corrupted by the big city. He will then, in all probability, take her to the suburbs and live happily ever after. Sitko has no vices such as the bottle, womanizing, and gambling. He’s about as clean-cut as a noir protagonist gets in these sort of films. The only thing that makes him a noir character, is his cynicism and willingness to do anything to get what he wants. He’s a wise guy with a pronounced dark side, but one that is hidden because he is supposedly on the side of the good guys.
The ones who imbue the film with its usual noir credentials are the heavies: Burr, whose only thought about being involved with murder was: “I should have stuck to blackmail and petty larceny.” Kuluva, a sadist who enjoys burning his victim’s armpits. Mazurka, whose sneer fits the noir heavy to a tee; and, Rambeau, whose aim is to destroy family life by her greed and malevolence.
REVIEWED ON 1/9/2000 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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