Edward Arnold, Dorothy Morris, and Tom Trout in Main Street After Dark (1945)


(director: Edward L. Cahn; screenwriters: story by John C. Higgins/John C. Higgins/Karl Kamb; cinematographer: Jackson Rose; editor: Harry Komer; music: George Bassman; cast: Selena Royle (‘Ma’ Dibson), Tom Trout (Lefty Dibson), Edward Arnold (Lt. Lorrigan), Hume Cronyn (Keller, pawnbroker), Dan Duryea (Posey Dibson), Audrey Totter (Jessie Belle Dibson), Dorothy Ruth Morris (Rosalie Dibson), Dick Elliott (McBain); Runtime: 57; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Bresler; MGM; 1945)
“This snappy crime B film was made by the same people who made MGM’s Crime Does Not Pay series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This snappy crime B film was made by the same people who made MGM’s Crime Does Not Pay series. Edward L. Cahn (“Experiment Alcatraz”/”Jet Attack”/”Destination Murder”) keeps the same warning tone against crime as the Crime Does Not Pay series, as he tells of matriarch Ma Dibson (Selena Royle) running a family of bunco artists who specialize in stealing wallets from military personnel on leave in their unnamed big city. The story is by John C. Higgins, who cowrites it with Karl Kamb. Famed film noir femme fatale Audrey Totter makes her film debut; Selena Royle goes against type to be cast as the baddie mom, when she’s usually the nurturing mom as she was in The Fighting Sullivans. The great cast for this low budget film also includes the likes of Edward Arnold, Hume Cronyn and Dan Duryea. But the film is let down by a weak script.

Ma Dibson (Selena Royle) is delighted that her eldest son Lefty (Tom Trout) has been paroled from prison after three years for armed robbery and returns home where he finds his faithful wife Jessie Belle (Audrey Totter) rolling servicemen returning on leave from combat, his ex-con brother Posey (Dan Duryea) teaching the girls about the pickpocket trade and young sis Rosalie (Dorothy Ruth Morris) working the bars to roll servicemen. Ma fences the stolen goods with sleazy pawnbroker Keller (Hume Cronyn).

On the night that Lt. Lorrigan (Edward Arnold) kicks off a campaign against bunco artists and has the police cooperate with the MP’s to arrange a series of traps, Lefty follows the owner of Barney’s bar, McBain, as he makes a night deposit and in the botched robbery attempt kills him. The gals in the family are busy that night stealing wallets from the troops in the dumpy bars. It ends with the family destroyed, as they either go to jail or are killed. In the end the pic disappoints, because it seems too much like a public service announcement to have any dramatic impact. But it’s worth checking out to see the stellar cast.