Release Date: July 28th, 1949 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roy Rowland
Written by: Charles Schnee
Based on: the article Smashing the Bookie Gang Marauders by John Barltow Martin
Music by: Andre Previn
Cast: Van Johnson, Arlene Dahl, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake
Loew’s Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes
“I’m no Humphrey Bogart. He gets slugged and he’s ready for action; I get slugged and I’m ready for pickling.” – P.J. Pontiac
I like Van Johnson. Seeing him in a film-noir is a treat. Although, this was his only one, as MGM put him back into comedies and musicals because they didn’t feel that the public could buy Johnson as a harder, more serious character. Honestly, I don’t think that he’s unconvincing here but this really isn’t his normal forte.
Additionally, being that this was put out by MGM, was a rare thing, as they didn’t really care about making crime pictures like a lot of the other studios. However, in 1949, after a change of the guard, MGM went crime heavy and thus, created some memorable films that embody the noir style.
While this fits within the stlye, it is less noir and more like a simple police crime drama. It lacks the gravitas of most noir pictures and the ride isn’t as turbulent or shocking. But it was still a good attempt at MGM trying to contribute to a trend that they tried to work around for the majority of the ’40s.
This film deals with a detective investigating the death of a fellow detective, who was apparently working security for a bookie on the side. He uncovers that something larger is afoot, as all the bookies in town are being robbed. He must traverse through the noir styled twists and turns of the criminal underworld while trying to balance his personal life.
I thought that the film was pretty average overall. It’s far from incredible and hardly memorable in a vast sea of 1940s film-noir and crime dramas but it was still entertaining and engaging.
The acting was mostly good, the direction was above par but the cinematography and look of the film were pretty standard.
Still, it was cool seeing a great talent like Van Johnson get to stretch his legs and do something else for 94 minutes.
Pairs well with: He Walked by Night, Raw Deal, Side Street and T-Men.