Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Gangster 1947

                 This little ‘B’ pebble in my shoe film noir gangster movie came as a complete surprise to me.  It has a great cast including several actors cast against type. Barry Sullivan who usually played nice put upon guys is the gangster with a scar on his cheek no less who runs some rackets out in Neptune Beach, which stands in for Coney Island.
                      Sullivan is being pushed and learned on by a bigger gangster rival played by Sheldon Leonard who is trying to take over the rackets that Sullivan runs with Akim Tamiroff who owns a local soda fountain joint. Sullivan is hotly involved with a nightclub singer played by Belita a ice skating star who did some 2nd and 3rd rate movies including some ice skating musicals, think of a lower rent Sonia Henie and you have Belita.
               Also cast against type was John Ireland who was known for his many tough guy roles but here is playing a down on his luck loser gambler in trouble and in debt to his brother in laws who run a garage and who Ireland scammed for $1,300 and they want it back. There are other assorted losers and gangsters all out to make it big, but the real attention grabber thing about this film is how imaginative and well done it is for such a low budget Pooper Scooper.
                       Set in and around a make believe amusement center and beach in Brooklyn which is never named, it has a dreamlike surreal quality. Especially good are the street sets and the subway el along with the boardwalk, which are all right and rich with details. Towards the end there is a thunderstorm with a lot of movement among the beach goers as they rush to get out of the storm, giving off a nice ash can school Reginald Marsh feel.
                   There is also a full nicely appointed finely detailed soda fountain shop and various apartments, hotels and restaurants. Noticeable is the same checkered floor covering that is used in practically every set, which makes one think why? Does it have some secret meaning or did they just run out of money. The beautiful cinematography (looking very fine in this nice transfer from Warner Bros. Archives) is by the great Paul Ivano whose credits go back to the silent era and includes uncredited camera work on “Greed” and the cinematography for Queen Kelly along with many forgotten and unknown ‘B’ and noir films along with many early tv shows.  The screenplay credits are also intriguing. Credit is given to Daniel Fuchs who based it on his short story, and although not proven many say that Dalton Trumbo also worked on the script, which has a sharp political slant to it with regards to the little guy getting it in the neck from the crooked and violent gangsters no doubt standing in for the politicians of the day. 
               The direction is by a former art director Gordon Wiles who actually won an Oscar in 1932 for his work on “Transatlantic” which explains the beautiful and imaginative look of the film. Wiles  then went on to make such films as “Hat Check Girl”, “Bottoms Up” and “Broadway Bad” all of which I would love to see. Also in the cast is Joan Lorring, Harry Morgan, Fifi D’Orsay, Virginia Christine, Elisha Cook Jr. Leif Erickson, Sid Melton, Jeff Corey, Charles McGraw and in a brief shot an uncredited Shelley Winters. This is a hard nut to find since its only available from Warner Bros. Archive. I got it from my library. Almost   one of the ten best films of 1947.  


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