The Bribe


1h 38m 1949
The Bribe

Brief Synopsis

A sultry singer tries to tempt a federal agent from the straight-and-narrow.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Action
Mystery
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 1949
Premiere Information
New York opening: Week of 3 Feb 1949
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Bribe" by Frederick Nebel in Hearst's-International Cosmopolitan (Sep 1947).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,779ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

Rigby, a government agent investigating an arms surplus racket on the Central American fishing island of Los Trancos, falls in love with one of his suspects, café singer Elizabeth Hintten. While considering his affair with Elizabeth, Rigby recalls the day in Washington, D.C., when his boss, Gibbs, first briefed him on the case: Gibbs tells Rigby that a group of racketeers have been diverting war surplus items and airplane motors to Central America, where they are refitted and sold for profit. Assigned to locate the motors and raid the racketeers' headquarters, Rigby is told that the government suspects Elizabeth and her alcoholic war veteran husband Tug. After arriving in the Los Trancos town of Carlota, Rigby, posing as a sportsman, finds Elizabeth singing at Pedro's nightclub and befriends her. Rigby and Elizabeth soon strike up a romance, though Tug is either too drunk or too busy to notice. One night, at a bar, Rigby is approached by J. J. Bealer, a waterfront thief, who, after telling Rigby that he knows about his investigation, offers him $10,000 to leave the island. Rigby rejects the bribe, and soon comes to suspect that a man named Carwood, who is posing as a mine owner, is somehow associated with Bealer. The following day, in order to learn more about Carwood, Rigby joins him on a fishing trip. The fishing expedition nearly proves fatal for Rigby when Carwood deliberately causes the fishing boat to lurch forward while Rigby is standing near the edge. Rigby is falls into the water, but Emilio Gomez, the boatman, jumps into the water and saves him. Emilio, however, is killed by a shark while trying to swim back to the boat. A short time later, Emilio's father Pablo confirms Rigby's suspicions that Carwood is the mastermind of the smuggling operation, and, angered by his son's death, volunteers to help Rigby investigate the men responsible. As Rigby comes out of his reverie, he is still torn between his love for Elizabeth and his obligation to investigate her. His decision is to save Elizabeth from prosecution by accepting Bealer's bribe and fleeing from the island with her. However, before Rigby can tell Elizabeth his plan, Bealer convinces Elizabeth that her husband is a criminal and that Rigby is an investigator who intends to put him in prison. In the hope of saving Carwood's illicit operation, Tug enlists Elizabeth's help in drugging Rigby long enough to allow all those involved in the smuggling ring to flee. Rigby loses consciousness soon after drinking a cocktail tainted with a heavy sedative, but Elizabeth immediately feels remorse for what she has done. Carwood, meanwhile, murders Tug for talking too much, and makes preparations to flee. Rigby regains consciousness sooner than Carwood had anticipated, and sets out in search of his suspects. When Rigby tries to arrest Carwood, Carwood shoots Bealer and escapes into a crowded carnival. After killing Carwood, Rigby resumes his romance with Elizabeth, whom he now knows to be innocent.

Photo Collections

The Bribe - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from MGM's The Bribe (1949), starring Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Bribe - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for MGM's The Bribe (1949). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Action
Mystery
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Mar 1949
Premiere Information
New York opening: Week of 3 Feb 1949
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Bribe" by Frederick Nebel in Hearst's-International Cosmopolitan (Sep 1947).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,779ft (9 reels)

Articles

The Bribe


MGM produced its share of film noir classics despite Louis B. Mayer's aversion to subject matter he deemed downbeat and sordid. Thus in 1949's The Bribe, a potentially interesting "small" story is given a deluxe production and an all-star cast. Rugged government agent Rigby (Robert Taylor) has come to the Central American island of Los Trancos to stop a racket smuggling Army airplane engines. Who might be in on the scam?

Dockside rat J. J. Bealer (Charles Laughton) offers Rigby a hefty bribe to walk away. Is the gorgeous club singer Elizabeth Hintten (Ava Gardner) really interested in Rigby, or is she part of the conspiracy too? The big local industrialist Carwood (Vincent Price) may or may not have tried to dump Rigby into shark-infested waters during a fishing trip. Rigby seems set to betray his mission and run off with Elizabeth, but her alcoholic husband Tug (John Hodiak) makes the first move, drugging the agent so the conspirators can make their escape. Robert Taylor pouts his way through a tough-guy narration and an explanatory flashback, but we never doubt that Rigby will do the right thing. Meanwhile, various minor players are eaten by sharks, etc.

Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg lays on the mysterioso lighting and Miklós Rósza's dynamic music must work hard to generate tension. The Hollywood Reporter was not impressed by Vincent Price and Charles Laughton's outsized performances. Behaving like Charles Dickens' Uriah Heep and complaining about his sore feet, Laughton's Bealer is too sleazy to bribe anyone. Not yet established as a film villain, Price nevertheless lays on the insincere manners and arch allusions as Carwood. Going against the noir grain, Ava Gardner is revealed to be a concerned wife, not a femme fatale. Newsweek thought the film looked overblown, especially the spectacular nighttime finish in which the un-touristy town of Los Trancos puts on a fireworks show as impressive as a Manhattan Fourth of July.

Film critics revisiting the blacklist years have rediscovered The Bribe's screenwriter Marguerite Roberts. Her burgeoning career was cut short in 1951 by HUAC, with her credit removed from MGM's superlative Robert Taylor movie Ivanhoe (1952). Seventeen years later, Roberts' fine screenplay for True Grit (1969) gave John Wayne his only Oscar win.

By Glenn Erickson
The Bribe

The Bribe

MGM produced its share of film noir classics despite Louis B. Mayer's aversion to subject matter he deemed downbeat and sordid. Thus in 1949's The Bribe, a potentially interesting "small" story is given a deluxe production and an all-star cast. Rugged government agent Rigby (Robert Taylor) has come to the Central American island of Los Trancos to stop a racket smuggling Army airplane engines. Who might be in on the scam? Dockside rat J. J. Bealer (Charles Laughton) offers Rigby a hefty bribe to walk away. Is the gorgeous club singer Elizabeth Hintten (Ava Gardner) really interested in Rigby, or is she part of the conspiracy too? The big local industrialist Carwood (Vincent Price) may or may not have tried to dump Rigby into shark-infested waters during a fishing trip. Rigby seems set to betray his mission and run off with Elizabeth, but her alcoholic husband Tug (John Hodiak) makes the first move, drugging the agent so the conspirators can make their escape. Robert Taylor pouts his way through a tough-guy narration and an explanatory flashback, but we never doubt that Rigby will do the right thing. Meanwhile, various minor players are eaten by sharks, etc. Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg lays on the mysterioso lighting and Miklós Rósza's dynamic music must work hard to generate tension. The Hollywood Reporter was not impressed by Vincent Price and Charles Laughton's outsized performances. Behaving like Charles Dickens' Uriah Heep and complaining about his sore feet, Laughton's Bealer is too sleazy to bribe anyone. Not yet established as a film villain, Price nevertheless lays on the insincere manners and arch allusions as Carwood. Going against the noir grain, Ava Gardner is revealed to be a concerned wife, not a femme fatale. Newsweek thought the film looked overblown, especially the spectacular nighttime finish in which the un-touristy town of Los Trancos puts on a fireworks show as impressive as a Manhattan Fourth of July. Film critics revisiting the blacklist years have rediscovered The Bribe's screenwriter Marguerite Roberts. Her burgeoning career was cut short in 1951 by HUAC, with her credit removed from MGM's superlative Robert Taylor movie Ivanhoe (1952). Seventeen years later, Roberts' fine screenplay for True Grit (1969) gave John Wayne his only Oscar win. By Glenn Erickson

The Bribe


If there is an anomaly within Robert Z. Leonard's extensive filmography, it would have to be The Bribe (1949), a stylish suspense thriller that was not at all typical of Leonard's usual output for MGM. Lavish costume dramas, soap operas, and musicals were his specialty and The Bribe, with its sleazy setting and slippery characters, was far removed from the high-class settings of Pride and Prejudice (1940) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941), signature films for Leonard which were also huge successes at the box office. Not surprisingly, The Bribe was not a hit with critics or the public. Its convoluted plot - a Federal agent (Robert Taylor) infiltrates a ring of criminals trafficking in contraband war surplus materials - confused some with its periodic flashbacks. The tone of the film, which wavers between unintentional camp (check out those over-the-top performances by Charles Laughton and Vincent Price) and grim melodrama, also posed problems for viewers. But seen today, The Bribe is enormously entertaining and the final shootout sequence which takes place in the midst of an elaborate fireworks display is stunningly photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg. Some of the film may even appear familiar to you: Steve Martin lifted numerous sequences from it in his amusing homage to the private eye genre, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).

The Bribe was the first of three films at MGM which teamed Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner (The other two were Ride, Vaquero! and Knights of the Round Table, both 1953). It was an arrangement that pleased Ms. Gardner enormously, as recounted in her biography, Ava: My Story: "Set on some fictitious island off the coast of Central America, which looked suspiciously like Mexico on MGM's all-purpose backlot, The Bribe had me tangentially connected to a nasty plot to smuggle surplus American aircraft engines into South America. I was excused from my usual slinky black dress and put into Mexican huaraches and fetching native blouses to match the climate. And though I seemed to be happy singing and dancing at the local cantina, my main job was to take one quick look at Mr. Taylor....and fall into his arms. This time, it not only happened on screen, it happened for real. There's no rhyme or reason about a love affair. In those days, I was in constant proximity to some of the most handsome, romantic figures on earth, and they didn't move me the slightest bit. Not that I didn't adore men. I did....But I was a one-man woman. I did not want a string of lovers. I had to like a man one hell of a lot to let him disturb my sleep. But since Howard Duff and I had split by that time, I was available. And Bob Taylor surely fit the bill for me, and I did the same for Bob...Our love affair lasted three, maybe four months. A magical little interlude."

While Gardner didn't win any prizes for her performance as the deceptive Elizabeth Hintten in The Bribe, almost everyone agreed she looked ravishing, despite her heavy partying off-camera. On the other hand, Robert Taylor, long stereotyped by MGM as their reigning matinee idol, was finally developing into a first rate actor who would go on to give his best performances in film noirs like Rogue Cop (1954) and Party Girl (1958). The Bribe was an important step in this direction, establishing Taylor as a hard-boiled, cynical hero but he wasn't at all fond of the film. He confessed to Gardner that he thought it "was one of the worst movies he'd ever made."

Ironically, the tough dialogue and sleazy underworld characters of The Bribe - usually the province of macho mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett - were created by Marguerite Roberts, who usually wrote screenplays specifically for MGM's major male talent like Clark Gable. Unfortunately, Roberts was very much the bohemian radical and her politics got her into serious trouble in the fifties. She was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in September 1951 and refused to cooperate. Consequently MGM terminated her contract and her name was removed from the screen credits of Ivanhoe, her final film for the studio

Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: Frederick Nebel (story), Marguerite Roberts
Art Direction: Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Costume Design: Irene
Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero
Original Music: Nacio Herb Brown (song), William Katz, Miklós Rózsa
Principal Cast: Robert Taylor (Rigby), Ava Gardner (Elizabeth Hintten), Charles Laughton (J.J. Bealer), Vincent Price (Carwood), John Hodiak (Tug Hintten), Tito Renaldo (Emilio Gomez).
BW-98m. Closed Captioning.

by Jeff Stafford

The Bribe

If there is an anomaly within Robert Z. Leonard's extensive filmography, it would have to be The Bribe (1949), a stylish suspense thriller that was not at all typical of Leonard's usual output for MGM. Lavish costume dramas, soap operas, and musicals were his specialty and The Bribe, with its sleazy setting and slippery characters, was far removed from the high-class settings of Pride and Prejudice (1940) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941), signature films for Leonard which were also huge successes at the box office. Not surprisingly, The Bribe was not a hit with critics or the public. Its convoluted plot - a Federal agent (Robert Taylor) infiltrates a ring of criminals trafficking in contraband war surplus materials - confused some with its periodic flashbacks. The tone of the film, which wavers between unintentional camp (check out those over-the-top performances by Charles Laughton and Vincent Price) and grim melodrama, also posed problems for viewers. But seen today, The Bribe is enormously entertaining and the final shootout sequence which takes place in the midst of an elaborate fireworks display is stunningly photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg. Some of the film may even appear familiar to you: Steve Martin lifted numerous sequences from it in his amusing homage to the private eye genre, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). The Bribe was the first of three films at MGM which teamed Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner (The other two were Ride, Vaquero! and Knights of the Round Table, both 1953). It was an arrangement that pleased Ms. Gardner enormously, as recounted in her biography, Ava: My Story: "Set on some fictitious island off the coast of Central America, which looked suspiciously like Mexico on MGM's all-purpose backlot, The Bribe had me tangentially connected to a nasty plot to smuggle surplus American aircraft engines into South America. I was excused from my usual slinky black dress and put into Mexican huaraches and fetching native blouses to match the climate. And though I seemed to be happy singing and dancing at the local cantina, my main job was to take one quick look at Mr. Taylor....and fall into his arms. This time, it not only happened on screen, it happened for real. There's no rhyme or reason about a love affair. In those days, I was in constant proximity to some of the most handsome, romantic figures on earth, and they didn't move me the slightest bit. Not that I didn't adore men. I did....But I was a one-man woman. I did not want a string of lovers. I had to like a man one hell of a lot to let him disturb my sleep. But since Howard Duff and I had split by that time, I was available. And Bob Taylor surely fit the bill for me, and I did the same for Bob...Our love affair lasted three, maybe four months. A magical little interlude." While Gardner didn't win any prizes for her performance as the deceptive Elizabeth Hintten in The Bribe, almost everyone agreed she looked ravishing, despite her heavy partying off-camera. On the other hand, Robert Taylor, long stereotyped by MGM as their reigning matinee idol, was finally developing into a first rate actor who would go on to give his best performances in film noirs like Rogue Cop (1954) and Party Girl (1958). The Bribe was an important step in this direction, establishing Taylor as a hard-boiled, cynical hero but he wasn't at all fond of the film. He confessed to Gardner that he thought it "was one of the worst movies he'd ever made." Ironically, the tough dialogue and sleazy underworld characters of The Bribe - usually the province of macho mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett - were created by Marguerite Roberts, who usually wrote screenplays specifically for MGM's major male talent like Clark Gable. Unfortunately, Roberts was very much the bohemian radical and her politics got her into serious trouble in the fifties. She was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in September 1951 and refused to cooperate. Consequently MGM terminated her contract and her name was removed from the screen credits of Ivanhoe, her final film for the studio Producer: Pandro S. Berman Director: Robert Z. Leonard Screenplay: Frederick Nebel (story), Marguerite Roberts Art Direction: Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg Costume Design: Irene Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero Original Music: Nacio Herb Brown (song), William Katz, Miklós Rózsa Principal Cast: Robert Taylor (Rigby), Ava Gardner (Elizabeth Hintten), Charles Laughton (J.J. Bealer), Vincent Price (Carwood), John Hodiak (Tug Hintten), Tito Renaldo (Emilio Gomez). BW-98m. Closed Captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Look, why don't you stop acting like you're alone in the jungle?
- Rigby
I'm not?
- Elizabeth
OK, so you are, but you'd be surprised how nice the birds and the beasts can be if you'll only give them a chance.
- Rigby
Tell me, Rigby, do you fly, walk on all fours...or crawl?
- Elizabeth
I never knew a crooked road could look so straight.
- Rigby

Trivia

Notes

An April 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that M-G-M paid $10,000 for the screen rights to Frederick Nebel's short story. An early October 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that because of a preview audience's reaction to the film, M-G-M ordered threre days of reshooting to bolster the love scenes between Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor.