(director: Leonide Moguy; screenwriters: Philip Yordan/from the novel by Maritta M. Wolff; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Gregg Tallas; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: George Raft (Kenny Veech), Ava Gardner (Mary), Victor McLaglen (Gitlo), Tom Conway (Lew Lentz), Jorja Curtright (Fran), Jane Nigh (Josie Veech), Florence Bates (Molly Veech), Charles Judels (Sam Veech), Charles Drake (Ernie), Jimmy Conlin (Al, the Barber); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Seymour Nebenzal; Reel Enterprises; 1946)

The wannabe film noir is dumber than dumb.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A low-level B film on the seamy side-of-life, that revolves around a bitter love triangle. It’s directed without too much skill by Leonide Moguy (“Paris After Dark”/”Two Women”/”Diary of a Bad Girl”). It’s based on the novel by Maritta M. Wolff and is written by Philip Yordan. The wannabe film noir is dumber than dumb. The convoluted storyline has about as much going for it as the risible loser performance does by a miscast George Raft, who never looked quite as stiff as he does in this stinker. All the main characters are unsympathetic, and the plot is brainless. It’s one of those somber films about the human condition that has nothing important to say about the human condition, but is unintentionally funny when it tries to be the most serious.

After two years living in Chicago, Mary (Ava Gardner) returns to her Midwestern hometown of rural Ashbury wearing a mink coat but flat broke (we’re never told more than that about her Windy City experience). Mary returns to sell her house (which we never see her try to do) and because she missed her old flame, the idler, boozer, womanizer, gambler named Kenny Veech (George Raft). Why a looker like Mary would miss an overweight creep like Kenny, is one of the film’s many mysteries. Kenny’s clueless mom (Florence Bates) and drunken pa (Charles Judels) and self-absorbed sister Josie (Jane Nigh), along with the unemployed Kenny, are freeloading in Mary’s place under some kind of arrangement the filmmaker neglected to tell us about. When Mary sees that her man hasn’t changed, she turns her love to Kenny’s hated rival–the smug and urbane nightclub owner Lew Lentz (Tim Conway).

Annoyingly Kenny has an off-again, on-again relationship with Mary throughout the film. Mary keeps coming back to the unpleasant and grumpy Kenny no matter how crudely he treats her, as she seems to be stuck on the shiftless character. In the meantime, the oily Lew tries to make hay with Mary and succeeds in getting Kenny jealous. This leads Kenny to get talked into robbing Lew by the nightclub owner’s hateful bartender Gitlo (Victor McLaglen), who lets his pal know that Lew will be carrying with him $15,000 he raised by sponsoring a local carnival when he goes to the railroad town’s whistle stop. Lew discovers the plot and avoids the heist, and he gets his revenge by framing both Gitlo and Kenny for murder.Somehow a happy ending is tacked on, as all of sudden Kenny reforms and wins over his bimbo girlfriend.

Whistle Stop Poster