Crops up from time to time on Film4.
The only crime movie (that I’ve seen…) by William Dieterle, Weimar actor (in Murnau’s Faust) and, later, Hollywood director, famed for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939, with Charles Laughton) and Portrait Of Jennie (1948). This was towards the end of his career; later in the 50s he went back to Germany.
William Holden is the cynical but crusading journalist from the wrong side of the tracks who is best mates with the DA (Edmond O’Brien) but uncovers secrets involving the DA’s veteran policeman father. (Holden and O’Brien we’re together again in The Wild Bunch, 17 years later…)
The triumvirate is completed by Alexis Smith, as the DA’s Girl Friday who transitions from O’Brien to Holden. She’s Canadian and a bit like Jane Greer, only classier. You might just remember her from Night And Day (1946), as the ‘wife’ of Cary Grant/Cole Porter. What happened to her? She went back to the theatre and made a hit of Stephen Sondheim ‘s 1968 musical Follies, and also appeared in Dallas.
The story is pretty good, from an original by the great Horace McCoy, who wrote the novel of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and the screenplay for The Lusty Men (also 1952; clearly a good year…), among others.
It builds to a climax at a boxing match which shows Dieterle hasn’t lost his touch – and ends (appropriately for him) in tragedy. The hitman is played by Neville Brand, a mainstay of this sort of movie (Riot In Cell Block 11, 1954).