LARCENY. 1948

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A good cast let down by a drawn out plot which would have been sharper at 70 minutes rather than 90 plus.
Dan Duryea (Silky’) heads a gang of con men including John Payne (‘Rick’),Richard Rober (‘Max’) and Dan O’Herlihy (‘Duke’).
Having just completed a scheme in Miami, Silky has the next job already planned. This time it is in Mission City and involves conning a rich war widow,Joan Caulfield (‘Deborah’) into believing Rick knew her husband and convincing her that the town should buy a plot of land and build a youth centre as a memorial to her late spouse.
It all goes far too smoothly – Rick seems to a magnet for any woman around him! Even ‘Tory’ (Shelley Winters), who is Silky’s girl, is crazy about him and doesn’t seem to care if Silky knows.
She throws a spanner in the works by turning up in town,having followed Rick from Miami.

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Silky has made it clear to Rick that he should steer clear of Tory and admits Tory’s like a high tension wire. Once you grab on, you can’t let go.”
Finally Silky apologies to Rick who maintains he has no interest in Tory ( though it’s clear they were having an affair behind Silky’s back).
Silky says to Rick,”I said I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna write it on the blackboard a hundred times.”
Other snappy dialogue lines: Rick is getting fed up taking orders from Silky and says to him, “You’ve got no lease on my blood supply.I’ll quit any time I feel like it.”

He’s falling for Deborah and doesn’t want to take her money (she’s decided she’ll use her own money to build the centre)

Tory won’t give up on Rick but he makes it clear what he thinks of her, “If you could find a cheap horse,you’d rent your mother out as Lady Godiva.”
There’s a too sudden wind up to the story.
The cast are good. I like Richard Rober more and more,one of the best gangsters. Shelley Winters probably had the best part as the stop- at- nothing moll. Poor Joan Caulfied has little to do except look at Mr Payne and sigh!
Even Dorothy Hart, in a small role as a secretary ( who also fancies Payne) is more lively than Joan.
Nice to see Percy Helton as the manager of the hotel Rick stays at.
This was one of John Payne’s first breakaway roles from musicals, and before he started making westerns in the 50s.

Worth watching for the cast and a story that is good,just stretched too far.

 

Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters.

Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters.

Shelley Winters,John Payne, Joan. Caulfield

Shelley Winters,John Payne, Joan Caulfield

AT THE TIME

With access online to the New York Times  records of their film reviews, it has been interesting to see how films were reviewed at the time of release . I’ve excerpted parts of these reviews to give a flavour of the critics’ opinions.

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In March,1938, BRINGING UP BABY was not well received. Part of the review reads: Have you heard the one about the trained leopard and the wild leopard who get loose at the same time……or the one about the Irishman who drains his flask and sees a wild animal which really is a wild animal…………”

May,1943.
LADY OF BURLESQUE moves at a snail pace,the dialogue is atrociously hackneyed…”
“Miss Stanwyck takes to scanty gowns like fish to water and proves in the dance numbers that she hasn’t forgot her early chorus training on Broadway……...”

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May 1952: MACAO.
It is remarkable how often Miss Russell,in an assortment of low-cut sweaters and gowns,is directed to lean towards the camera – and how often and casually Mr. Mitchum is surprised with his manly chest bared.For those who delight in such glimpses,MACAO is generous to a fault. Certainly the principal performers do not reveal much more……..”

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Sept.1956: THE LAST WAGON.
A familiar and unexciting journey across a plateau of western clichés is made by Twentieth Century-Fox,THE LAST WAGON, which rolled into the Globe yesterday,dragging a lot of Arizona scenery in color and Cinemascope………”

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October,1953:
99 RIVER STREET ,an Edward Small production that opened with a bill of vaudeville at the Palace yesterday under the banner of United Artists,is one of those tasteless melodramas peopled with unpleasant hoods,two-timing blondes and lots of sequences which purports to be every day life in the underworld.
In this stale rehash,John Payne is a cabbie seething with dreams of what he might have been in the boxing world. He is saddled with a wife who is as shallow,larcenous and amoral as an oyster………
To say that this film is offensive would be kind; to point out that it induces an irritated boredom would be accurate………..”

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June,1953: PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET.
“It looks very much as though someone is trying to out-bulldoze Mickey Spillane in Twentieth Century-Fox’s PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET which came to the Roxy yesterday. For this highly embroidered presentation of a slice of life in the New York underworld not only returns Richard Widmark to a savage,arrogant role,but also uses Jean Peters blandly as an all-comers’ human punching-bag.
Violence bursts in every sequence,and the conversation is slangy and corrupt. Even the genial Thelma Ritter plays a stool pigeon who gets her head blown off……..Sam Fuller,who wrote it and directed, appears to be more concerned with firing a barrage of sensations than with telling a story to be believed……..”

 

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PHOTO OF THE DAY: I REMEMBER MAMA

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The camera focuses on Barbara Bel Geddes and June Hedin walking down a street in San Francisco in I REMEMBER MAMA. I envy the man gazing out the window, getting a bird’s eye view!

White haired man in front,to left of camera is Nick Musuraca,director of photography.

Man behind camera with wide brimmed hat could be director George Stevens.