Cast & Crew
In league with her boyfriend Los Angeles attorney Vincent Mailer, socialite Brandy Kirby investigates the background of Michael "Lefty" Farrell from his beginnings in an orphanage to a Chicago reformatory to his troublesome stint in the Navy during World War II. Discovering that Mike now lives in Los Angeles, Brandy travels to California to update Mailer on her search. The day after her arrival, Brandy seeks out Mike in the gambling club where he works and, in cahoots with another associate, Todd, has Mike arrested for brawling. Mike is startled to discover Brandy has bailed him out of jail and accepts her ride back to town. Brandy confesses to Mike that she has been looking for him and reveals the possibility of his earning a large sum of money if he agrees to her proposal. Although initially uninterested, Mike agrees to the mysterious proposal due to his strong attraction to Brandy. Mike is taken aback, however, when Brandy discloses that he is to impersonate someone who had the top of his pinky finger severed. When she suggests that he voluntarily smash his finger in the car door to injure his finger, Mike recoils, then when Brandy reiterates how much money is involved, reluctantly goes through with the mutilation. The following evening, Brandy has Mike move from his shabby one room apartment to a beach house, where he can recover and age his wound by soaking it in salt water. Over several weeks, Mike, supervised by Todd, heals and spends time with Brandy. Finally when his hand is healed, Mike meets Mailer, who details his plan with Brandy to have Mike impersonate the long-lost son of wealthy industrialist William McIntyre. Mailer explains that Will and his wife Maida lost their young son twenty-five years earlier in Chicago. Mailer reveals that he is the McIntyres' attorney and has led a fifteen year search for their missing child, who would inherit ten million dollars at Will's death. A few days later, Brandy takes Mike to the McIntyre estate, knowing the elderly couple is out of town. There she relates several personal details learned from Maida about her son's brief life there. Later, Mailer informs Mike that due to Maida's fragile health, they have devised a plan to introduce him to the family through young cousin Kathy McIntyre. Brandy introduces Mike to Kathy, who appears completely indifferent to him. When a second meeting fails to illicit her interest, Mike rashly visits Kathy at home late one evening, only to learn that she harbors a schoolgirl determination to reform him, believing him to be mildly crooked. Mike playfully fosters the relationship with the naïve Kathy, prompting Brandy's jealousy and, in turn, Mailer's. Mike remains deliberately mysterious to Kathy, however, only responding to her personal questions slowly and with great reluctance. When Kathy eventually learns of his past and links that to his severed pinky, she determines to introduce Mike to her uncle Will. When Mike meets Will, he candidly admits that he cannot be his long-lost son and does not wish to give the McIntyres false hope. After Mike also acknowledges his shady past, however, Will is impressed enough by his frankness to ask Mike to move onto the estate while Will has him investigated. Soon after, Mike spends a day with Maida and manages to utilize the personal details with which Brandy coached him earlier. Maida is convinced that Mike is her missing son, and Will agrees, partly because he wants to placate his wife and partly because he has grown fond of Mike. Brandy and Mailer celebrate Mike's acceptance, but Mailer receives a shock when Will tells him that he does not intend to leave any of his money to Mike as it would be corrupting. Mailer later informs Brandy and Mike about Will's statement, them stuns then by detailing his plan to murder Will as soon as Mike is declared his legal heir to insure the inheritance will go through. Later, Mike asks Brandy to run away with him, but she fears Mailer will pursue them wherever they go. Disappointed, Mike determines to try and save Will, provoking Brandy to wonder whether he is really interested in the inheritance after all. Mike separately arranges to meet Brandy and Mailer at the estate just before the McIntyres return from another trip. When Mike informs them he will continue playing the son and foil Mailer's plans, Mailer responds by threatening to summon the doctor who tended to Mike's injured finger. Mike insists he will not allow Mailer to murder Will, but the attorney scoffs and departs. Brandy pleads with Mike to be careful, then follows Mailer down to the pier in time to overhear him informing Todd he means to murder Mike. Hoping to stall for time and knowing that Todd believes Mike cannot swim, Brandy suggests they make it appear like an accidental drowning and pretends to lure Mike outside, where Todd attacks him. Mike fights him off underwater, just as the McIntyres return and Mailer informs Will of Mike's impersonation. In turn Mike describes Mailer's involvement, then produces a dictaphone recording he made of Mailer's earlier murder plan, which he plays for Will. Afterward, Will reveals he long knew of Mike's phony identity because of a full set of fingerprints he found in Mike's Navy records. Will then declines to prosecute Mailer, content to fire him instead. He asks Mike to continue pretending to be the McIntyre heir for Maida's sake, but when Mike admits his feelings for Brandy, Will is content to have Mike visit occasionally. Mailer flees and Brandy and Mike are happily reunited.
J. M. Kerrigan
Louis Jean Heydt
James Edward Grant
Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 1 - BAD GIRLS OF FILM NOIR, Volume 1 From Sony Pictures
Sony's 2-disc set Bad Girls of Film Noir Volume 1 shows Columbia filling marquees with name stars in titles promising sex and murder, even when little of either is on display. The "Bad Girl" name does fit, as each movie features a bona fide noir icon: Evelyn Keyes, Lizabeth Scott and Gloria Grahame. The films chosen also demonstrate how noir thrillers formerly concerned with psychological states and existential dilemmas, were broadened to promote progressive social ideas ... in a manner unthreatening to the status quo.
1950's The Killer that Stalked New York looks suspiciously like an attempt to replay Elia Kazan's arresting noir from earlier in the same year, Panic in the Streets. In both pictures a criminal carries a deadly disease into an American metropolis, forcing the police and health experts to find the malignant carrier. Diamond smuggler Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) is the luckless vessel for smallpox, infecting everyone she meets: a mailman, a cute child, a randy nightclub owner (Jim Backus) and jewel thief Matt Krane, her duplicitous husband (Charles Korvin). Sheila has personal problems with a disapproving brother (Whit Bissell) and a vindictive landlady and is crushed to discover that she has been betrayed not only by Matt but also by her own sister, Francie (Lola Albright). One out of three who contract the disease dies a horrible death. The trail of extremely sick people is traced by a dedicated doctor and nurse (William Bishop & Dorothy Malone). Before the cops and the medical authorities finally compare notes and locate the source, Sheila has forced the mayor to begin a crash program to immunize the entire population of the city.
The script by Harry Essex has been redirected into a feature-length public service message. A stentorian narrator (Reed Hadley) breaks in frequently to explain how Sheila is spreading death by actions as simple as using a water fountain in a children's park. The real-life threat in th actual 1947 incident on which the film is based was quickly stopped because the carrier was identified and quarantined early. Yet a gigantic immunization program was put into effect, just as shown in the movie. As in many films from this period about political threats, the voice-of-doom narration promotes the idea that an epidemic may strike anywhere, at any time. Because Sheila remains unaware of her killer status, the interior drama of her situation is not allowed a chance to develop. Instead, the impersonal narrator treats her only as a menace to be eliminated.
The beautiful Evelyn Keyes breaks out in a sweat but never takes on severe, disfiguring smallpox symptoms. The Energizer Bunny of disease carriers, she keeps right on ticking even after many of her casual contacts have perished. With so much time given over to Public Health scare tactics, the film shortchanges the personal side of the story. Noir perennial Art Smith has a good bit as an "ethical" fence, but the talented Lola Albright, after a promising scene, is dropped from the picture without even a farewell.
Earl McAvoy's good direction is lost in an editorial puzzle of stock shot montages. Even the finale is fudged, with downtown L.A. standing in for New York City when Sheila Bennet is cornered atop a tall building.
1951's Two of a Kind could well have started life as a radio play. The stock characters and pat ironies of its storyline are instantly forgettable, and the mostly talented cast marks time. Despite an instance of perverse self-mutilation and the presence of not one but two potential "bad girls", there's really nothing very noir here. Henry Levin's direction is anonymous but Burnett Guffey, the camera talent behind Columbia's best films noir, gives the film a fine polish.
Ambitious schemer Brandy Kirby (Lizabeth Scott) connives with crooked lawyer Vincent Mailer (Alexander Knox) to cheat a rich, elderly couple, the McIntyre's (Griff Barnett & Virginia Brissac) out of a fortune. The McIntyres have been searching all their lives for their son, lost at the age of three in Chicago. After extensive research, Brandy locates the perfect shill to pass off as the grown McIntyre boy: Lefty Farrell (Edmond O'Brien), a shady gambler raised in a Chicago orphanage. The plan is to arrange a "coincidental" family reunion by introducing Lefty to the McIntyres' niece, Kathy (Terry Moore). But Lefty must first have two joints of one finger amputated: the lost boy had already sustained such an injury in an accident.
The rather lightweight Two of a Kind generates sparks early on as noir icon Lizabeth Scott seduces the suspicious Lefty into taking part in a highly unlikely con game. The problem is that the film insists that they become a conventional hero and heroine. Little tension develops because we know all will turn out fine. Any noir possibilities evaporate with the introduction of Terry Moore's flighty niece, an eccentric who reforms "bad men" through romantic means. The character is more suited for a screwball comedy and Ms. Moore's acting is wholly inadequate. Although the con escalates into a murder attempt, the film wraps up as an inconsequential farce. The only really memorable moment comes when Lefty nonchalantly allows his little finger to be crushed in a car door, and then strolls into a medical clinic as if to have a splinter removed. He impresses the cool blonde Brandy by barely registering the pain. If Two of a Kind were a serious noir this odd, masochistic moment might have offered an insight into a twisted relationship. As it plays now, we wonder if Japanese audiences considered the unlucky gambler Lefty to be some sort of American yakuza.
The previous picture may be borderline noir but the laughable drama Bad for Each Other has nothing whatsoever in common with the noir style. Horace McCoy contributed to this utterly unoriginal tale of medical ethics, along with the prolific Irving Wallace.
The pure soap plotline sees Army Medical Colonel Tom Owen (Charlton Heston) returning to his small Pennsylvania mining town to face a moral dilemma. Should he become a rich city practitioner, pushing pills at wealthy hypochondriacs? Or should he put his talent to work studying miner's diseases with his old mentor, the poor but dedicated Dr. Scobee (Rhys Williams)? Lured by Helen Curtis (Lizabeth Scott), a champagne socialite eager for more money to spend, Tom becomes an associate of a doctor with the richest clientele in the city. But Tom's ethical nurse Joan Lasher (Dianne Foster) objects when Tom willingly performs "ghost surgeries" for his partner, who has been coddling his customers so long that he's neglected his professional skills.
Tom directs his old army buddy Jim Crowley (Arthur Franz), now a socially minded young doctor, to help Dr. Scobee up at the mines, and Joan quits in disgust to join him. Seduced by Helen and his growing bank account, Tom doesn't see reason until a mine disaster strikes compels him to rush back to his hometown to help in the rescue efforts.
Bad for Each Other could be a story from a Women's Magazine of the fifties, minus the sexuality. The real entertainment value here is seeing Charlton Heston's consistent overacting. A supposedly experienced and principled Army doctor, Dr. Tom is easily steered toward the easy money. He shuns the True Path offered by Nurse Joan as if he were Moses just prior to enlightenment. All of Heston's gestures are big and broad -- he almost knocks people down when he makes a dramatic exit from a cocktail party.
The film promotes the somewhat insulting notion that wealthy people don't need medical care, and that a doctor from a mining town is betraying himself if he doesn't bury himself in poverty treating the poor. Dr. Tom's rare surgical skills will be going to waste in Coal Town. Why doesn't he continue his lucrative practice while using his money and influence to fund a clinic in his hometown and supervise its research efforts?
Irving Rapper can't do anything with Bad for Each Other, which over-uses stock shots of a mining disaster. Naturally, Arthur Franz's second-string ethical doctor should have checked his billing before going down in that rickety mine shaft. His abrupt exit opens a romantic opportunity for the humbled Dr. Tom.
Classic noirs about immigration problems deal with gangsters sneaking into the country, or other notorious adventurers trying to return to the land of their birth. 1953's The Glass Wall is a rather forced attempt to express a Big Liberal Message, in this case to create sympathy for Displaced Persons who want U.S. citizenship. The well-intentioned issue picture marks an attempt to import Italian star Vittorio Gassman (Bitter Rice) for American audiences. The film's trailer urges us to welcome this new personality -- his wife Shelley Winters loves him!
Hungarian refugee Peter Kaban (Gassman) smuggles himself to America, only to be stopped at the New York docks by the immigration authorities. Kaban tells skeptical investigator Bailey (Douglas Spencer) that he saved the life of a wounded American G.I. named Tom, and thereby qualifies for immigrant status under an article of the law. As he has no proof, Peter is told he'll be returned to Europe, where he claims he'll be murdered by the new Hungarian regime.
Peter jumps ship, breaking a rib in the process, and searches Manhattan for "Tom", who identified himself as a clarinetist in a New York nightclub. Hunted by the authorities, Peter stumbles through Time Square until he's befriended by Maggie Summers (Gloria Grahame), an unemployed factory worker on the edge of desperation. Peter's picture has made the evening papers; little does he know that Tom (Jerry Paris) is in town and has seen it. But Tom puts off informing the authorities because he's fixated on an audition for a top swing band.
A desperate man on the run is a recurring noir theme, and Peter Kaban is definitely under a great deal of strain. But The Glass Wall is too interested in making grand humanistic gestures to realize that it undercuts its own premise. Millions of foreigners seek the opportunity of a better life in the U.S.A. but simple reason indicates that few can be allowed in. Peter Kaban is held up as a deserving individual who qualifies under a law extending possible immigration to "those who fought with our troops" in key areas of the war. I doubt that such a law applied to thousands of partisans and others who gave aid to our troops, and in fact it sounds like a loophole designed to sweep "special cases" through Ellis Island red tape, most likely individuals nominated by the Pentagon. To be thoroughly cynical, what's to prevent a foreigner and a G.I. from inventing an incident that would qualify?
The Glass Wall ends with a big dramatic scene at the new United Nations building, to emphasize the theme of humanitarianism across national boundaries. Yet we can't help feel that Peter is just a special case really representing only himself. Gloria Grahame's sympathetic working girl comes to his aid, along with a Hungarian-American stripper (Robin Raymond) who takes him home to momma. Character actor Joe Turkel has a nice bit as the stripper's streetwise brother.
Peter's fate ultimately lies in Tom's hands. The musician's girlfriend Nancy (Ann Robinson) doesn't see why he should make the effort, but the grateful ex-G.I. wants to repay Peter for saving his life. The sentiment that "we're all in this together" doesn't change a thing -- policing immigration is a necessary function.
Although film boasts that it was filmed on location in New York, many scenes are accomplished through rear projection. Mr. Gassman stumbles through Times Square in footage filmed from a hidden truck, but it's obvious that doubles for the main cast members are used in the finale at the U.N.. Alfred Hitchcock was refused permission to shoot at the U.N. for North by NorthWest; perhaps this is the film that precipitated the filming ban.
Vittorio Gassman plays the entire picture with the same pained look on his face. Three films later, he was back in Italy to stay. Gloria Grahame is quite good as the penniless Maggie, trying to steal a coat from an automat. The coat belongs to the young actress Kathleen Freeman, who is identified in the cast crawl as "Fat Woman". So much for the film's overall sensitivity.
Each of the films in Sony's Bad Girls of Film Noir Volume 1 is a spotless B&W transfer with solid audio and English subtitles. Original trailers are also included for each title. An unusual extra is The Payoff, a 1956 Ford Television Theater drama written by Blake Edwards and starring Howard Duff as a private eye picking up a mystery envelope for dangerous Janet Blair. It plays like a warm-up for Edwards' TV show Peter Gunn. Accompanying Two of a Kind is a new career interview with actress Terry Moore. A second volume of "Bad Girls of Film Noir" is being released concurrently, featuring Night Editor, One Girl's Confession, Women's Prison and Over-Exposed.
For more information about Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 1, visit Sony Pictures. To order Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 1, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. 1 - BAD GIRLS OF FILM NOIR, Volume 1 From Sony Pictures
The working title of this film was Lefty Farrell. Hollywood Reporter production charts include Rick Jason in the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.