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FALLEN SPARROW, THE (director: Richard Wallace; screenwriters: from the novel The Fallen Sparrow by Dorothy B. Hughes/Warren B. Duff; cinematographer: Nick Musuraca; editor: Robert Wise; music: Roy Webb; cast: John Garfield (John “Kit” McKittrick), Maureen O’Hara (Toni Donne), Walter Slezak (Dr. Skaas), Bruce Edwards (Ab Parker), Patricia Morison (Barby Taviton), Martha O’Driscoll (Whitney Parker), John Banner (Anton), John Miljan (Inspector Tobin), Sam Goldenberg (Prince Francois de Namur), Hugh Beaumont (Otto Skaas), Eric Wilton (Henry, Butler), Nestor Paiva (Jake); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert M. Fellows; RKO Pictures; 1943)
“If the plot wasn’t so vague, this could have been a lot better psychological thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hot Warner Brothers star John Garfield was traded to RKO to make this postwar film noir espionage melodrama. Richard Wallace effectively directs from a screenplay by Warren B. Duff. It’s adapted from the novel The Fallen Sparrow by Dorothy B. Hughes.

John “Kit” McKittrick (John Garfield) fought with the Lincoln Brigade against Franco in the Spanish Civil War and remained in a Spanish prison for two years after the war, where he was tortured for refusing to reveal information (it’s never revealed exactly what Kit has that the Nazis want). Kit’s NYC policeman friend Louie Lepetino secured his release through the efforts of society contacts he made in NYC. While recouping in Arizona, Kit learns that Louie took his own life. Not believing this for a NYC second, Kit returns to Manhattan and marches into the office of homicide Inspector Tobin (an old friend of his deceased policeman father’s) asking for help, but is rebuffed. Kit insists his best pal was pushed from the 16th floor of an apartment building by the mysterious killer and he aims to track down who did it, believing it’s connected to his prison release.

Kit’s sleuthing leads him to three beauties, his childhood acquaintance the blonde nightclub singer Whitney Parker–her brother Ab is a close friend of Kit’s, society brunette Barby Taviton–an ex-girlfriend, and the redhead Toni Donne (Maureen O’Hara)–someone Kit spotted at a refugee party where she was posing as the granddaughter of the Franco supporting Prince Francois de Namur. Walter Slezak is chilling as the villainous Dr. Skaas, leading Kit into a deadly trap. While other creepy characters in the Nazi spy ring include enforcer Otto Skaas, Whitney’s new assassin piano player Anton, and the new butler for Ab who acts as a snoop.

Though the plot is dubious, the suspense mounts as Garfield goes after the heavies and finds himself enmeshed in a fight for survival with the ruthless Nazis. If the plot wasn’t so vague, this could have been a lot better psychological thriller. Garfield is grand as the intense war vet, who has been psychologically scarred by the war.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2004 GRADE: B –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”