Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1950. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Ben Maddow, John Huston, based on the novel by W.R. Burnett. Cinematography by Harold Rosson. Produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.. Music by Miklos Rozsa. Production Design by Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Joan Joseff. Film Editing by George Boemler. Academy Awards 1950. Golden Globe Awards 1950.
Genre-defining heist movie that is as memorable for its rich characters and sharp writing as for its glinty black-and-white cinematography and cool, jazzy style. Sam Jaffe arrives in town fresh from his jail sentence with thievery on his mind. He hooks up with a crack team of jewel thieves (including Sterling Hayden and James Whitmore) under the guidance of a financially burdened lawyer (Louis Calhern), all of them conspiring to rob a store of its precious gemstones. The actual heist goes without a hitch, but little surprises and accidents that follow the theft lead to a more dubious climax than the bad boys had planned. Later the inspiration for Jules Dassin’s even more impressive Rififi, this film also features a terrific performance by Jean Hagen as Hayden’s girlfriend and an early appearance by a still young and dewy Marilyn Monroe. It’s film that directors often look back to when making this kind of movie, and very few have duplicated its easy finesse since.