(director: Nicholas Ray; screenwriters: story by Leo Katcher/George Wells; cinematographer: John McSweeney, Jr.; editor: Robert J. Bronner; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Robert Taylor (Thomas Farrell), Cyd Charisse (Vicki Gaye), Lee J. Cobb (Rico Angelo), John Ireland (Louis Canetto), Kent Smith (Jeffrey Stewart), Corey Allen (Cookie); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; MGM; 1958)
“It’s a honey of a film, never mind the superficial flaws.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This Nicholas Ray (“Knock on Any Door”/”On Dangerous Ground”) film noir is set in Prohibition Chicago. Ray does wonders with George Wells’ slight script through his masterful use of the camera to evoke the characters’ alienation and vulnerability, and by also including exotic dance numbers and diverting costumes he creates some stunning visuals that have an eye-catching surreal look.
Thomas Farrell (Taylor) walks with a limp and is a mob lawyer, representing Rico Angelo’s (Cobb) 1930s Chicago gang. Farrell meets nightclub dancer and party girl Vicki Gaye (Cyd Charisse) at a celebration Rico throws for his recent court victory, and the lawyer gets hot watching her sexy dance in the penthouse. After taking her home and finding that her roommate committed suicide, Farrell consoles Vicki. This leads to romance, as these two wounded souls who have prostituted themselves to survive find a new happiness together as soulmates.
Rico has Farrell lawyer for a mobster named Cookie. Farrell insists this is his last case he’ll do for the mob, which comes on the urgings of Vicki that he make a clean break and go legit. But Cookie jumps bail. The prosecutor (Kent Smith) arrests Farrell for bribing a juror and when he won’t rat out the mob, the prosecutor plays dirty and gets word out on the street that Farrell spilled his guts. Farrell panics, worried Rico will either get him or Vicki, and decides to work with the prosecutor. It leads to Vicki being kidnapped by Rico and threatened with disfigurement for Farrell’s betrayal. But it all ends on an optimistic note, as the hurt couple are given a new lease on life.
The film’s most amusing scene has Rico shoot up a portrait of Jean Harlow after learning about her marriage.
It’s a honey of a film, never mind the superficial flaws.
REVIEWED ON 1/4/2004 GRADE: B