Not-Quite Noir, But All-Fun With Mitchum & Greer.

The script’s by Daniel Mainwaring and his novelist pen name Geoffrey Homes (which is a neat trick), the names behind the source novel and Jacques Tourner’s infamous film noir Out Of The Past from two years earlier. But, it’s also credited to Gerald Drayson Adams, the writer for James Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning. I mention all this not to suggest that postwar film noirs were made in a creatively incestuous community (they kind of were) as much as to give the often overlooked 1949 RKO crime thriller The Big Steal its well-deserved cred. Since it also re-teams noir icons Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, it ought to be a must-see.

The Big Steal isn’t the dark, provocative and soul-searching kind of noir that Tourneur’s Out Of The Past was. This is more of twisty-turny thrill ride. Here Mitchum’s a soldier wrongly accused of a payroll theft. Greer’s the screwed-over ex of the real thief, and they reluctantly team up to track down the culprit, with Mitchum’s superior officer hot on their trail. Good guys turn out to be bad guys (which keeps the viewer wondering about our two stars as well) and all is resolved through lots of fast-paced chases, abductions, fights and shoot-outs, managing a lot of story and action in just a little over an hour.

A B-movie? Yes, it is. But it’s put together by crime and noir pro’s, stars Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer (never looking lovelier with her bouncy short hair) and the bottom line is, The Big Steal is 100% fun to watch. 

Noir Princesses.

RKO’s 1951 The Company She Keeps probably doesn’t belong at the top of any of the key players’ resumes. Still, it was directed by James Cromwell, who helmed one of my favorite postwar film noir classics, Dead Reckoning (1947), with Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott. And Scott stars here, alongside fellow film noir icon, Jane Greer. 

Greer plays a check forger just released from prison, while Scott is her helpful parole officer. Generosity is repaid when Greer steals Scott’s boyfriend, which could be a nifty setup for a nasty revenge tale. Instead, there’s some business with a workplace theft frame job and things working out just fine (more or less) in the end. A deep, dark or hard-boiled film noir this isn’t. A well-done crime melodrama led by two of noir’s best actresses? Oh, it’s that, all right.

But, it is an opportunity to watch two of film noir’s best-known actors paired together on screen. Lizabeth Scott is credited with starring in more postwar films noir than any other actress. And if Jane Greer’s iconic femme fatale performance in Jacques Tourner’s 1947 Out Of The Past was the only entry on her resume, it’d still be impressive. So, look for this one for the two stars, if not for the story.

A side-note: Brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges (sons of actor Lloyd Bridges, who appeared in a noir-ish B-movie or two himself) appear in the film as an infant and toddler. 

Solo Chi Cade Puo Risorgere.

Dead Reckoning 2

There are few postwar era crime melodramas and films noir that I adore more than John Cromwell’s 1947 Dead Reckoning with Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott. Much as I like the various U.S. theatre posters and lobby cards for that film, these foreign posters for “Solo Chi Cade Puo Risorgere” are particular favorites, even if the one above doesn’t quite capture Lizabeth Scott at all.

Dead Reckoning 3

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑