The Good Die Young (1954)

An excellent Brit film noir, directed by Lewis Gilbert, screened on Talking Pictures (the stroke victim’s friend…).
Based on a novel by Richard Macaulay (screenwriter of Born To Kill/Lady Of Deceit, 1947, and The Roaring Twenties, 1939), moved from America to England, hence the large amount of Americans in the cast (USAF etc).
The (equally excellent) screenplay was by Vernon Harris, who had a long-lasting relationship with Gilbert, writing Cosh Boy (1953) and Carve Her Name With Pride (1958), among others, and being script editor on Gilbert’s not-very-good Bond movies The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). The idea being – presumably – that a spot of script editing would improve on Gilbert’s 1st and WORST Bond movie, You Only Live Twice (1967), which in Sean Connery’s Japanese impersonation post-dated even Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) – surely the WORST PERFORMANCE OF ALL TIME!
(Gilbert’s quite good as a director, tho, in Damn The Defiant, 1962, for instance…)
The Good Die Young’s based on 4 couples, the men of whom meet in the pub.
Laurence Harvey (who’d already made 2 Lewis Gilbert quota-quickies) plays the homicidal, gambling-addict, ‘war hero’ (tho it’s all been faked) son of Sir Robert Morley, and is married to heiress Margaret Leighton, who just wants to start again in Keeeenya. Harvey’s role eerily prefigures – in the medal that was wrongly given, and in his utter hatefulness – his best role, the would-be assassin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
John Ireland (Red River) plays a USAF serviceman who’s married to unfaithful starlet Gloria Grahame (at 30, on fab form, before her strabismus got too much…).
Stanley Baker, on his way out of the ranks, plays an ex-boxer who gets his left hand amputated (NOT his right. Lucky him! But still, as a disabled man he just HAS TO DIE FIRST!) and is married to someone who defiantly remained unfamous (Rene Ray, who doesn’t even have a photo in IMDb!).
And Richard Basehart (who the same year starred in Fellini’s La Strada) is another American married to Joan Collins (who had starred the previous year in Cosh Boy and was Gorgeous, at the age of 21…), who’s torn between him and her leech of a mother (Freda Jackson, of A Canterbury Tale fame).
Apart from anything else, it acted as a calling card for Hollywood, for its British stars (or Lithuanian in the case of Harvey). The following year, Collins was in Land Of The Pharoahs, and the year after that, Baker was in Helen Of Troy AND Alexander The Great…
It’s a great picture of male/female relationships, c1954.
It’s a bit like Heat (1995) in this respect: showing the heisters’ relations with their partners. And in another: during the raid, it’s Harvey’s trigger-happy behaviour that undoes them. (Did Michael Mann see The Good Die Young? Maybe he went to the NFT while he was at the London International Film School…?)
The climax, involving pursuit down the tube tracks, is good. And for an ending – involving money blowing away at Heathrow Airport (while Margaret Leighton, oblivious, boards the plane for Keeeenya…) – is a direct precursor of The Killing (1956).
Which begs the question: is The Good Die Young the missing link between Stanley Kubrick and Michael Mann?


Published by


I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s