Monday, May 26, 2014

The Crooked Way 1949

I came across this little chipped rhinestone of a noir that was directed by Robert Florey the other night on YouTube and although far from great I can recommend it because it has a good cast and superb noir cinematography by the great John Alton. The story line is familiar but still has legs even though they're somewhat arthritic.  A war vet played by John Payne has a wound to his head, which has given him amnesia. The doctors tell him to go back home to Los Angeles there’s nothing more they can do and maybe he will run into someone who will jar his memory back. No sooner does he arrive at Union Station then he is indeed recognized by two cops and it turns out that in a previous life Payne was a no good gangster who snitched on his partner in crime that sent him to the big house while Payne high tailed it into the army leaving behind a wife. Convoluted to say the least and most of the cast including Payne, who was a pretty boy in all those Betty Grable-Alice Faye Technicolor 40’s musicals were on the way down the ladder. Ouch, but like Dick Powell another soft male lead of the 30’s and early 40’s he landed in some good hard-boiled pictures. Playing villain bad guy supreme is Sonny Tufts (yes that Sonny Tufts), and Ellen Drew as the left over wife who has since joined ranks with Tufts to help run his gambling casino. Standout in the supporting cast is the great Percy Helton as a stoolie and Rhys Williams as a cop. There are also many recognizable character actors scattered all over the film like bits of dandruff including the wonderful Esther Howard. The ending is soft and gooey, I would have preferred a more downbeat close but the transfer is surprisingly good which pleased me to no end and if you are a collector of lost L.A. the on location footage will make you purr like Helton’s cat. 


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