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COME ON, THE (director: Russell Birdwell; screenwriter: from the book by Whitman Chambers/Whitman Chambers/Warren Douglas; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Maurice E. Wright; music: Paul Dunlap; cast: Anne Baxter (Rita Kendrick), Sterling Hayden (Dave Arnold), John Hoyt (Harold King, alias Harley Kendrick), Jesse White (J.J. McGonigle), Walter Cassell (Tony), Alex Gerry (Larry Chalmers), Paul Picerni (Jannings, assistant D.A.), Theodore Newton (Detective Capt. Getz); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lindsley Parsons; Allied Artists; 1956)
“Baxter’s lively performance nearly saves this sinking ship.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A minor film noir that is mildly interesting but laden with a trite story, a convoluted plot line and Sterling Hayden sleepwalking through his role of a nice guy lover to bad girl Anne Baxter, who puts on quite a performance. Baxter’s lively performance nearly saves this sinking ship. Russell Birdwell directs this cheapie production that is based on the book by Whitman Chambers.

Warning: spoiler in next paragraph.

Sexy Rita Kendrick (Anne Baxter), clad in a bathing suit, steps out of the surf in the isolated gorgeous beach at La Paz, Mexico, and stranger Dave Arnold (Sterling Hayden) hits on her with the corniest come-on line imaginable — rattling on about, at last, he’s met the love of his life. They exchange small talk, with fisherman Dave telling her about his boat, ironically called Lady Luck, and the blonde temptress saying she’s down here for a few days on a vacation from California. That night, she meets with Dave on his boat, and since it’s a 1950s film we can only guess what they did when the conversation stopped. Later that evening, Dave goes into the local hotspot and is surprised that she’s sitting with two elderly men. He goes over to her table and introduces himself and asks, if the drunken man, that she introduces as Harley Kendrick (John Hoyt), is her father? Harley says he’s her husband, which catches Dave off-guard, and then hubby slaps wifey hard across the face. Dave responds by knocking the dude out. Back in their hotel room, it becomes apparent that the two are con artists working a blackmail racket. The other gent with them, Larry Chalmers, gives Rita a $2,000 check to meet him the next day in LA. Harley, who was pretending to be out cold in the next room, compliments Rita on hooking the sucker and then goes to Larry’s residence with the check to shake the businessman down for $25,000. In the meantime, Rita goes to Dave’s boat and confesses that she’s a con artist shaking down married men so she can enjoy an elegant lifestyle and lays on him a sob story about how she was tired of being poor, so when Harley came along three years ago she was willing to be his new partner. She says they are only business partners and not married. Rita then goes into a swoon and tells Dave that she fell in love with him and will quit the racket, but first she wants her share of the money that Harley is holding for her. But Harley refuses, and forces her to accompany him in his yacht back to California. Rita manages to sneak a note by messenger to Dave, who responds by selling his boat and following her to California. Together again, Rita talks Dave into killing Harley by dynamiting his boat and then they can live together high off the hog with the money she’ll collect as the beneficiary of Harley’s will. Harley hires crooked private detective J.J. McGonigle (Jesse White) to follow his wife, suspicious that she’s seeing Dave. The gumshoe takes pics of Rita buying the dynamite. Meanwhile Harley tries to buy Dave off with $10,000, which Dave takes and then roughs him up saying he can’t be bought off. Dave then tells Rita he can’t go through with the murder scheme, that they can be just as happy being together without the big money. In a surprise development, Captain Getz informs them in the police station that Harley blew up in his boat but they are not suspects because the private detective, who was following them, provided the alibi that they were far away at the time of the explosion. From here on the plot line gets more tacky and less believable, as McGonigle shakes them down for the $10,000 and Rita goes after him and shoots him, but not before he mails an incriminating letter to the police. The couple flee the police by going to La Paz, Mexico, where she’s startled to find Harley only faked his death. When Harley tries to get control of her again, she plugs him. But before Harley finally dies, he returns to find Rita at the same beach spot renacting her first meeting with Dave. When Harley tries to shoot Dave, Rita takes one for him. The film ends with the dead bodies of the con artists lying on the beach.

The finale was hardly convincing; there were too many plot twists and poorly devised dying scenes with corny final speeches that bordered on being risible.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”