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STUDS LONIGAN (director: Irving Lerner; screenwriters: novel by James T. Farrell/Philip Yordan; cinematographers: Arthur H. Feindel/Haskell P. Wexler; editor: Verna Fields; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Christopher Knight (Studs Lonigan), Frank Gorshin (Kenny Killarney), Helen Westcott (Miss Julia Miller), Dick Foran (Patrick Lonigan), Venetia Stevenson (Lucy Scanlon), Carolyn Craig (Catherine Banahan), Jack Nicholson (Weary Reilly), Robert Casper (Paulie Haggerty), Katherine Squire (Mrs. Lonigan), Jay C, Flippen (Father Gilhooey); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Philip Yordan; United Artists; 1960)
To cheer things up, a contrived happy ending is attached.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The long popular trilogy classic book by James T. Farrell, written in the 1930s about life for overgrown troubled teens in the 1920s, is compressed and compromised but not enough to keep it from still being a fine literate film. Director Irving Lerner (“Murder by Contract”/”Cry of Battle”/”Suicide Attack”) creates a grim narrative. To cheer things up, a contrived happy ending is attached. Writer Philip Yordan works hard to keep his screen adaptation faithful to the book and succeeds.

We follow the aimless Chicago South Side-living disillusioned 18-year-old Irish lad Studs Lonigan (Christopher Knight) and his Irish wastrel pals (Frank Gorshin, Jack Nicholson and Robert Casper) hang out at a pool hall, chase the girls, drink a lot and goof around with many adventures. Though Studs is a decent sort, he’s lost in not finding himself. Studs develops a chaste relationship with nice girl Lucy Scanlon (Venetia Stevenson), a girl he idolizes, but she wants a better future and sees herself attending an out-of-town college while holding out no plans in the future for him.

We follow Studs for ten years, and when the stock market crashes in 1929 it leaves the 28-year-old bachelor jobless as dad’s (Dick Foran) business goes under.

The period piece details are well-handled. Dick Foran and Frank Gorshin are naturals for this story and elevate the dramatics greatly. However newcomer Christopher Knight doesn’t have the full emotional range to draw the best out of his complex leading role.

It became the basis for a 1979 TV miniseries.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”