“That’s New York for you: put you on a Christmas tree, and then in the alley.”
An alcoholic, has-been playwright (Thomas Mitchell) offers valuable jewelry to a suicidal embezzler (John Qualen) who has joined forces with a con-artist (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) and an aspiring performer (Rita Hayworth) in pulling off a gambling grift — but will their elaborate ploy work out or cost them their lives?
Ben Hecht wrote and directed this compact, humanistic thriller about a quartet of down-and-out individuals finding each other one evening and conspiring to pull a fast one on fate. Memorable character actor John Qualen (a long-time fixture in John Ford films) is given a meaningful leading role, albeit one which is quickly rivaled by Mitchell’s likeably boozy wordsmith. The series of events that unfold move quickly, and, as Bosley Crowther wrote in his glowing review for The New York Times: “…it is beautifully compact. Between dark and dawn [Hecht] has set a spare and enormously suspensive story that is as neatly fitted as an O. Henry fable.” Lee Garmes’ cinematography is appropriately atmospheric, highlighting the unique sets and claustrophobic setting within which this tale plays out.
Note: Hayworth sounds eerily like Marilyn Monroe at times — though perhaps the comparison is an apt one.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine performances by the small ensemble cast
- Lee Garmes’ cinematography
- Atmospheric sets
- Ben Hecht’s screenplay
Yes, as a nifty little flick.