John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald in Nobody Lives Forever (1946)


(director: Jean Negulesco; screenwriter: From the book I Wasn’t Born Yesterday by W.R. Burnett; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson; editor: Rudi Fehr; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: John Garfield (Nick Blake), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Gladys Halvorsen), Walter Brennan (Pop Gruber), Fave Emerson (Toni), George Coulouris (Doc Ganson), George Tobias (Al Doyle), Robert Shayne (Chet King), Richard Gaines (Charles Manning), James Flavin (Shake Thomas), Dick Erdman (Bellboy), Ralph Peters (Windy Mathers), Ralph Dunn (Ben); Runtime: 105; Warner Brothers; 1946)
“A melodrama directed by Jean Negulesco with film noir style.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A melodrama directed by Jean Negulesco with film noir style. It raises the question of how the returning servicemen from the war copes with the postwar back home. It also indicates how disillusioned a big-time scam operator becomes when he sees how far from the top his mentor has fallen.

The 34-year-old Nick Blake (Garfield, he was 32 at the time) returns to New York from wartime service and is met by his underling Al Doyle (Tobias). They are both scam artists and gamblers. Before he left for the army Nick gave his attractive singer girlfriend, Toni (Emerson), the keys to his lush apartment and $50,000 to hold for him. But he finds she opened up a successful nightclub with her new boyfriend, Chet King (Shayne), and has swindled him out of the dough. Nick responds by working King over and getting the money back with interest.

Fed up with New York, Nick takes Al to L.A. to see his mentor, an old con-man named Pop Gruber (Brennan). He was once a big-time operator but now a small-time hustler. Nick is weary and seeks to grab a needed vacation from the war and schemes and dames. Through Pop he learns of a swindle setup by an old nemesis of his, someone he detests who is now down on his luck, the crooked gambler and scam artist Doc Ganson (Coulouris) — also included are his two henchmen Windy and Shake. They spotted a wealthy widow, Gladys Halvorsen (Fitzgerald), living alone in a luxury hotel and plan to get close to the lonesome widow to steal her inheritance money.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

Blake initiated the ruse with his own money and begins dating her while making a good impression on her honest business adviser Manning (Gaines). When he sees how sweet and attractive his mark is, he falls in love and can’t go through with the scheme — he even pays off the gang’s share with his own money. In the conclusion, Blake’s conversion to do the right thing came about when he visited a church in Capistrano with the innocent Gladys. But complications arise when Toni pays a surprise visit to California and tells the psychotic Doc that Nick is double-crossing the gang and planning to marry the widow and keep all the loot for himself. This results in Doc’s gang kidnapping Alice and taking her to a desolate cabin at the end of a foggy pier; but Nick, Al and Pop go after them and rescue the nice widow.