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Sunday, February 20, 2011


This sharp, fairy tale noir was the sole Hollywood credit for Broadway’s Harold Clurman, a longtime critic, director & all-around theater sage. The twisty story comes from Cornell Woolrich, a prime writer of noir source material, and the fabulous, lightly self-mocking script is from Clifford Odets who rarely let down his guard with such abandon. ‘If she cut off her head, she’d be pretty,’ says one tough guy. It’s an all-thru-the-night tall tale about a sailor (Bill Williams, a naïf with moxie) who’s got a morning bus to catch, 1,400 unexplained bucks in his pocket and a strangled dame he’s left in an apartment. He’s pretty sure he’s not the guy who killed her . . . but who did? Williams manages to enlist the aid of dance hostess Susan Hayward (in her heyday & an absolute knockout) and taxi-driver/philosopher Paul Lucas to sort it all out. (Don’t worry, he’s a sort of goofy philosopher.) Plus, there’s a slick gang of Gotham mugs (like Jerome Cowan & Joseph Calleia) to remind you that Odets co-wrote SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS/’57. The film has a great artificial, studio-backlot NYC look to it, and with Nicholas Musuraca as lighting D.P., each and every shot is a midnite gem. Like a lot of newbie helmers from the stage, the editing & pace have their bumps, but there’s lots of personalty and noir DNA in it. Right at the end, the film takes a serious turn that Clurman (or Odets) isn’t quite able to accommodate, but don’t let that stop you. Great unheralded fun. How’d everybody miss it for seven decades?

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