DARK CORNER, THE
(director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: Jay Dratler/Bernard Schoenfeld/story by Leo Rosten; cinematographer: Joe MacDonald; editor: J. Watson Webb, Jr; music: Cyril Mockridge; cast: Lucille Ball (Kathleen), Clifton Webb (Hardy Cathcart), Mark Stevens (Bradford Galt), William Bendix (White Suit, Stauffer, alias Fred Foss), Constance Collier (Mrs. Kingsley), Kurt Kreuger (Tony Jardine), Cathy Downs (Mari Cathcart), Reed Hadley (Lt. Frank Reeves), Raisa (Little Girl in the Hallway); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Fred Kohlmar; 20th Century Fox; 1946-UK/USA)
“A superb film noir in every way possible.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A superb film noir in every way possible, especially under the crisp direction by Henry Hathaway bringing into play bits and pieces from other film noirs and the fine location black and white photography by Joe MacDonald giving the film a menacing look. It’s taken from a story by Leo Rosten, while the taut screenplay is by Jay Dratler and Bernard Schoenfeld. The film’s title comes from the Sam Spade-like private eye whose tough-guy persona is cracking as he tells his nurturing secretary “There goes my last lead. I feel all dead inside. I’m backed up in a dark corner and I don’t know who’s hitting me.” Perhaps the quote that comes from the Clifton Webb character best sets the film’s dark mood “I hate the dawn. The grass always looks as though it has been left out all night.”
Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.
Mark Stevens is private eye Bradford Galt, just released from a San Francisco prison where he was framed for a manslaughter rap and served two years in prison. Galt was framed by his shady ex-partner in the detective agency, Tony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger), a shyster lawyer and a womanizer who is not only a blackmailer but stole money from the firm. Galt is now a NYC private eye, who is being kept tabs on by a suspicious Lt. Frank Reeves. While spending a night out with his new adoring and loyal secretary Kathleen (Lucille Ball), Galt observes that he’s being followed by a man in a white suit (William Bendix) for no apparent reason. We will later learn the muscleman was hired by an effete art dealer, Hardy Cathcart, played by Clifton Webb in an almost duplication of his cultured smarmy role in Laura. Hardy has learned that his beautiful trophy wife Mari is having an affair with Jardine, a close business associate, and before she can run away with her lover Hardy schemes to have Galt kill Jardine. White Suit secretly arranges for Galt to come to Jardine’s pad after it has been established that Jardine put a tail on him, but instead of killing his nemesis Galt only gives him a beating. Hardy then has his San Francisco hit man, White Suit, kill Jardine in Galt’s apartment with a fireplace poker and make it look like Galt did it for revenge as he plants the poker in the knocked unconscious P.I.’s hand. When Galt wakes up, he hides the body underneath his bed. It’s discovered later in the week by the cleaning woman. Running from the police, the perplexed private detective is helped by Kathleen. They track down where White Suit lives after figuring out Jardine had no reason to tail Galt, but White Suit would certainly know who put the tail on him and probably would know why they did it. But before Galt can catch up with White Suit, the sleaze meets his Maker when pushed out of the 31st floor window of the Grant Building by the double-crosser Hardy. Through another puzzling clue offered by a little girl who heard White Suit on the hallway phone, Galt goes to the Cathcart Gallery on 5th Avenue. Here, in this world of high culture, proletarian Galt confronts the sophisticated villain and his grief-stricken wife over the death of her lover. The stoical Galt shows resolve, as the situation is settled when an embittered Mari pumps her hubby full of lead while he’s gabbing away with his heater pointed at the detective slob.
The talented cast all gave superb performances: Lucy shunning her later comic fame for a likable straight romantic lead part that goes with some amusing wisecracking, Bendix makes for a scary and oily thug, Kreuger as a snake-like Teutonic demon creeping around the shadowy rooms of the wealthy, Webb is perfect as the obsessed hubby and art collector taken over by his dark side and becoming the purveyor of a warped culture and love, and Stevens gives a finely tuned performance as the vulnerable hard-boiled noir hero grateful to be coddled by his good gal secretary in his moment of greatest need.
REVIEWED ON 11/5/2004 GRADE: A