Starring: Jean Hagan, Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Marilyn Monroe
Director: John Huston
A group of men plot the perfect crime, but it all goes wrong when they heist comes off and they start to double cross each other.
Perhaps at this stage in film history it wasn’t really acceptable to show criminals getting away with the perfect crime (Google the Production Code, for early censorship and for what you could and couldn’t show in a film before the ratings system). Which is sad, because there’s something very likable about all the characters here, as they all fall, one by one.
Each character is carefully delineated, individual, with their own reasons for being there. The film focuses on the interrelationships between them, then the carefully orchestrated jewel robbery, and then the characters as they are undone, and try to cheat each other. Perhaps my favourite is a man called Dix (Hayden), who wants the money to buy back the horse farm that his family lost during the Depression. His loyal girlfriend sticks with him as it all falls apart, and tries to save him right up to the tragic end, when he’s injured and a wanted man.
The other notable actor here is Monroe, finding her feet as a soft, vulnerable blonde cared for by an older man, Emmerich, who needs her to lie for him to give him an alibi. It’s one of her earliest roles, and of course she sparkles, though her part is only small.
No one here is a hero, but they’re almost all very likable and desperate men, and Huston manages to make you feel for them, and hope they get away with it, though their defeat is inevitable.
See It If: one for Monroe fans who wish to see her early work, but a fine crime film with strong performances.