Cast & Crew
Raiken Ben Ari
In a small Southern California city, bank robber Jack Martin, who caused the death of two policemen while escaping from police custody, hides out in a small hotel, planning his next job. Seeing a sign on the United States National Bank indicating that there is office space available, Jack poses as a prospective tenant and learns that the bank has no security system but relies solely on its time-locked vault. Later, Jack calls police headquarters and, pretending to be with a film company, asks for some police officers to appear in the movie they are shooting at the National Bank. The next morning, Jack calls the bank's manager, Palmer, to report a break-in at the bank. He then tells the enthusiastic police officers that he is filming a bank robbery and that Palmer, who has long been a frustrated actor, will soon drive up and act as if he is very agitated about a robbery. When Palmer arrives, the police think he is acting out his part and tell him to go inside, just as Jack had directed. Once inside, Palmer soon realizes that Jack is a real bank robber. At eight o'clock, Jack forces Palmer to open the time-locked vault, as usual, and steals a large sack of money. He then locks Palmer inside before exiting the bank in front as the unwitting policemen look on. After the robbery is reported, local gang leader Earl Dawson is furious and orders one his lieutenants, Adolph, to find out who the thief is because the police are blaming the robbery on them. A short time later, two of Dawson's henchmen go to the racetrack, certain that Jack will be there to launder the marked bills from the bank robbery. They locate Jack and start to chase him, but Jack escapes into the parking lot, where he hijacks a car. After eluding the henchmen on the highway, Jack doubles back into town and walks into the local public library. There he flirts with librarian Carol Logan, telling her that he is a bank robber on his way to Mexicali but also does odd jobs. After she coolly offers him work at her citrus grove outside town, he leaves the library, obscuring his face with a large stack of books to avoid Dawson's henchmen. Some time later, Jack is working for Carol, as well as having an affair with her, unaware that Dawson's men are in town posing as FBI agents, hoping to find him. When they get a lead, they wait outside the grove, observing Jack while Carol goes to the post office, where she sees Jack's picture on a wanted poster. While she is gone, the two henchmen capture Jack and start to beat him, demanding to know where the loot is. After Jack pretends to pass out, he is able to overpower and kill one of the men and escape. The other henchman reports this to Dawson, who suspects that his two underlings were trying to get the money for themselves, and shoots the second one. Meanwhile, Carol has come back home and is dressing Jack's wounds. When Jack starts to confess what he has done, she says that she knows but asks "What have the police got to do with us?," then kisses him. A short time later, Dawson drives up to the house and, after identifying himself, tells Jack that he wants him to work for his organization. Although reluctant to relinquish his independence, Jack agrees to the plan when Dawson assures him that his first job will net him $35,000 and that the law will never touch him because of Dawson's influence. After Dawson leaves, Carol tells Jack she wants to go with him. Soon, with Dawson's help Jack commits large robberies from Seattle to San Diego. The police are unable to catch him, even though Jack has killed two more people during one of the robberies. His next job, which Dawson says is worth $500,000, is to rob the safe at the Meadow Lark Country Club, where the Gordon Bookmaking Syndicate will be storing cash to cover bets placed over a weekend marked by major sporting events. With Jack posing as a golfer and Adolph a furniture deliveryman, they are able to steal the club's safe but the robbery is reported so quickly that the police set up a roadblock for the delivery truck used in the theft. After the truck stops, a shootout ensues between police and Jack and Adolph's gang, during which men on both sides are killed. Jack is able to escape but waits for Adolph before driving off. As they flee, Adolph thanks Jack and tells him he will not forget his help. The next morning, Carol tells Jack that she is leaving because she can no longer deal with the fact that he is a murderer. After telling her that he loves and needs her, Jack promises to give up his career if she will come with him to Mexico. She agrees to go with him if he tells Dawson that day that he is quitting. Later, Dawson tries to talk Jack out of leaving, even promising to split their next job fifty-fifty, but Jack is adamant. Although they shake hands before Jack departs, immediately after, Dawson tells Adolph to call the FBI. Adolph suggests that he could "take care" of Jack, but Dawson insists on letting the FBI handle Jack. After calling in an anonymous tip to the FBI, Adolph quickly calls Jack to warn him. Jack quickly drives away with Carol, but tells her to take him to Dawson's house, then meet him later in Mexicali. Meanwhile, Dawson has called the police to ask them to come to his house. Moments later, Jack enters the house and confronts Dawson. Although Dawson tries to negotiate, Jack refuses, saying that in the field he takes care of his men, like Adolph, who appreciate it and pay him back. Just then, the police storm Dawson's house and a shootout ensues in which both Dawson and Jack are killed. A short time later, as she is driving toward the Mexican border, Carol is listening to the radio in the car and hears a news report that Jack has been killed in the shootout. She then turns her car around.
Raiken Ben Ari
V. J. Rhems
A straightforward crime drama, Gangster Story traces the rapid rise and fall of Jack Martin (played by Matthau), an escaped criminal who works alone masterminding bank robberies in small towns. His bank heists not only command the attention of the local police and FBI agents, but brings unwanted attention and harassment from law enforcement officials to the criminal gang that controls the territory. At first gangster boss Earl Dawson (Bruce McFarlan) attempts to have Martin killed but when he outwits his pursuers Dawson is sufficiently impressed and invites him to join his operation. Martin reluctantly agrees but is soon placated by huge financial gains and the benefit of Dawson's wide-ranging connections. After scoring a series of major bank robberies from San Diego to Seattle, Martin and Dawson set their sights on an exclusive country club which houses a safe containing a large sum of syndicate money. Martin plans to escape with his girlfriend Carol (Carol Grace) to Mexico after they pull off the heist but Dawson has something else up his sleeve.
Matthau reputedly agreed to direct and star in Gangster Story on a dare and was said to be so unhappy with the script by Paul Purcell that he rewrote scenes on a daily basis. The film was shot in and around Anaheim and other parts of Los Angeles, utilizing the homes of various crewmembers. Matthau also cast his wife Carol Grace opposite him as the small town librarian who becomes Jack's confidante and lover. Carol was previously married to the acclaimed American novelist William Saroyan and was said to be the inspiration for Holly Golightly in Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Gangster Story marked the only time Matthau and his wife appeared together in a film but Carol previously had a bit part in Stage Struck (1958) and later had a minor role in Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky (1976). For Matthau, however, Gangster Story proved to be a one-shot attempt at directing even though the film is an efficient, tightly-paced B-movie thriller.
The Hollywood Reporter, in its review, even intimated that Gangster Story would do well at the box office: "Judging from past market reactions to Al Capone et al, it's apparent that Gangster Story will draw an encouraging quantity of patrons in the type of theatre for which it is destined. Paul Purcell's hard-ringing screenplay has stressed a minimum of characterization study and a maximum of fast-moving action, a combination that spells box-office." Unfortunately, Gangster Story received sporadic distribution at best across the country but with its modest $75,000 production costs, it managed to out-gross the big-budget Gary Cooper-Charlton Heston vehicle, The Wreck of the Mary Deare, at the box office.
Some additional trivia of note: The theme song, "The Itch for the Scratch", performed by Ted Stanford with lyrics by Ronald Bloomberg, was composed by Leonard Barr who is credited in some sources as a vaudeville comedian and cousin of Dean Martin (he appeared on the singer's television show and had a cameo in The Sting (1973). The film editor on Gangster Story was Radley Metzger who would soon move into directing with a particular talent for soft core erotica (Therese & Isabelle , The Lickerish Quartet ) and adapting racy European features for the American market (Soft Skin on Black Lace , Sexus ). In 1975, Metzger began directing hard-core adult features under the pseudonym Henry Paris beginning with The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann.
Producer: Jonathan Daniels
Director: Walter Matthau
Screenplay: Richard Grey (story), V.J. Rheims (story), Paul Purcell
Cinematography: Max Glenn
Film Editing: Radley Metzger
Music: Leonard Barr
Cast: Walter Matthau (Jack Martin), Carol Grace (Carol), Bruce McFarlan (Earl Dawson), Garry Walberg (Adolph), Raikin Ben-Ari (Hood).
by Jeff Stafford
Walter Matthau by Hunter
The script was worse than the film - 'Walter Mathhau' had to rewrite each day.
Shot with a five-person non-union crew, at the homes of crewmembers in Anaheim.
Production costs were about $75,000, yet the movie is said to have outgrossed _Wreck of the Mary Deere, The (1959)_ , releaseda at about the same time.
All dialog voices were looped.
The onscreen credits incorrectly spell actor Clegg Hoyt's surname as "Hoit." The Filmfacts review states that the film was shot on location in New York City, but internal evidence within the film confirms that it was shot at various locations in and around Los Angeles. Other internal evidence confirms that many interiors were shot in actual houses and other buildings within the Los Angeles area. Gangster Story was the only film directed by actor Walter Matthau, and the only release of Swen Productions, Inc.
The film also marked the only onscreen pairing of Matthau and his wife, stage actress Carol Grace (1925-2003). Although the onscreen credits for Gangster Story read "And introducing Carol Grace," the actress had a bit role in the 1958 RKO release Stage Struck (see below). Her only other film was the 1976 John Cassavetes picture Mikey and Nicky. Previous to her 1959 marriage to Matthau, Grace had been married to notable American novelist William Saroyan. According to many modern sources, author Truman Capote, who was a longtime friend of Grace, stated that she was the inspiration for the character "Holly Golightly" in his short story "Breakfast at Tiffany's," which was made into a film of the same title in 1961.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960
The only film Walter Matthau has directed.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960