Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Scene Of The Crime (1949) Shootout at the L.A. Corral

Directed by Roy Rowland Witness to Murder (1954), Rogue Cop (1954), The Girl Hunters (1963). The film was Produced by Harry Rapf, It was written by Charles Schnee and based on the story "Smashing the Bookie Gang Marauders" by John Bartlow Martin. The great cinematography was by Paul Vogel (Lady in the Lake (1946), High Wall (1947), A Lady Without Passport (1950), Dial 1119 (1950), The Sellout (1952), The Money Trap (1965)). Music was by André Previn.

The film stars "bland" Van Johnson in his only Film Noir as Mike Conovan, Arlene Dahl (No Questions Asked (1951), Slightly Scarlet (1956), Wicked as They Come (1956)) as Gloria Conovan, Gloria DeHaven as Lili the stripper, Tom Drake (Sudden Danger (1955)) as rookie Detective "C.C." Gordon, Leon Ames (the father in Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), as Captain A.C. Forster, John McIntire (seven Classic Film Noir) as Detective Fred Piper, Donald Woods (13 Ghosts (1960)) as Bob Herkimer, Norman Lloyd in Noir since Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) and Spellbound (1945), also in M (1951), He Ran All the Way (1951), and then off into a lot of TV work, plays Sleeper the stool pigeon, Jerome Cowan one of the earliest Noir actors (The Maltese Falcon (1941), Moontide (1942), Street of Chance (1942), Deadline at Dawn (1946), The Unfaithful (1947), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), The Fat Man (1951) who then also segued into early TV, ) as Arthur Webson, Tom Powers in films since 1911, who played Phyllis Dietrichson's husband in Double Indemnity (1944), and in The Blue Dahlia (1946), The Velvet Touch (1948), Chicago Deadline (1949) The Steel Trap (1952), I, the Jury (1953)) as Umpire Menafoe, Richard Benedict as Turk Kingby, Anthony Caruso as Tony Rutzo, Robert Gist as P.J. Pontiac, and Romo Vincent as Hippo.

This is one of the rare Film Noir to feature an actual prolonged machine gun battle.

Conovan (Johnson)
Lieutenant Mike Conovan (Van Johnson), head of an LAPD homicide detective squad is assigned to the murder investigation of an off duty cop who is a member of his squad, Ed Monigan. The only clues they have to go on is the three eye witness accounts of what happened. Two teens smoochin' in the alley, and the owner of a all night place that makes book on the side. Their story: a guy looking to knock over the book joint, had a twisted left hand and blotchy face. The other hoods in the getaway car called him a "crazy lobo" after he shot the cop. Then he jumped in their sled and they burned rubber.  A search of Conovan's body reveals that he had a G in his pocket. Was he on the take?

Monigan (G. Pat Collins)

 All Conovan has to work with are a rookie detective named CC, and Piper,  his oldest squad man who's coasting along with failing eyesight. Plus, Conovan's wife Gloria (Arlene Dahl), is putting pressure on the other end by getting anxious and upset over his dangerous line of work.

Conovan, Piper (McIntire), Captain A.C. Forster (Leon Ames)

He's trying to both solve the murder and prove that Monigan wasn't on the take. He finds out from an informer named Sleeper, that there are a pair of downstate "lobos" knocking over bookie joints in L.A. trying to muscle in on the book racket. They call themselves the Royalty Brothers. The local mob is also understandably looking for them too.

Gloria (Arlene Dahl)

Sleeper (Norman Lloyd)

More tips from Sleeper take him to the Fol-de-Rol a night club with a burlesque act. A stripper named Lili knows the "Brothers" one of them is her ex-boyfriend Turk Kingby (Richard Benedict) the other Lafe Douque  (William Haade). They are the ones knocking over the book joints. But neither of them has a twisted arm. Lili said they split up, and don't know where they are holed up yet. Conovan figures that one of the other will contact Lili eventually.  Lili and Conovan hit it off, even though she knows he's pumping her for information. She lets Conovan know that Lafe came down to the club. Conovan asks Lili to lead Lafe on, get him good and drunk, get him to take her to his flop for a little "in and out."  As soon as Lafe passes out he tells her to call him and give him the low down on where he's at, so that he can toss his flop.

Lili (Gloria DeHaven)

Hitting it off

Sleeper is killed and his body is found standing, hooked to street pole with both his legs and his arms broken. He's got a dead pigeon in his jacket pocket. No more tip offs.

Sleeper  hanging around
Conovan gets the call from Lili, she tells him the name of residence hotel and a room number. Lafe's record shows that he's a guy who's a known hoarder, and Conovan thinks he may have some evidence in his room from the holdups that will connect to Monigans murder. Conovan tosses Lafe's room while he's three sheets to the wind passed out on his bed. He finds a .38 caliber revolver and a single dark latex glove, Monigan was shot with a .38. Lafe wakes up and after a brief fight is arrested by Conovan. Out on the street they catch a drive by, Conovan is wounded and Lafe is shot dead.

Drive by

Dead Lafe (William Haade)
Gloria flips out and makes Conovan resign from the department. His separation doesn't last long.

Lili calls Conovan's phone. Piper picks it up. Lili tells Piper to give Conovan the address where Turk is holed up. Piper doesn't tell her that Conovan resigned, and he goes out there solo to the address. It was a trap. Piper gets gunned down.

Of course Conovan gets his job back and and the shit hits the fan in Noirsville.


Arthur Webson (Jerome Cowan)

You can see why Van Johnson never made any more Noirs. He just doesn't seem quite hard boiled enough, another song and dance man who was trying to harden his image, sort of like Dick Powell, although Powell easily made the switch Johnson didn't.  He's too vanilla. The rest of the cast are quite adapt in their rolls. Arlene Dahl is fine but wasted in the good girl role though she does look stunning. Gloria DeHaven is an eye opener. She's another refugee from musicals and she's quite believable as the stripper.  In fact, she would have been good in Noir but she never appeared in another. However since this was 1949 her strip act is pretty tame. McIntire is doing a variation of his his usual shtick, and Norman Lloyd is very entertaining as Sleeper.

The battle between the police and Turk's armored car is unusually detailed and quite drawn out. It is an interesting sequence that would be more at home in a 30s gangster flick, check it out. Screen caps are from a DVDr. 7/10.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote about the movie a while ago and agree. This is MGM trying to be tough. Doesn't quite come off despite the good cast. Both Dahl and DeHaven are gorgeous, but letting Dahl play her usual bad girl role would have been better.

    Of course the striptease was tame, but I'm sure even in 1949 there were more risqué ones outside of MGM.