Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1946. Mark Hellinger Productions, Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Anthony Veiller, from the story by Ernest Hemingway. Cinematography by Elwood Bredell. Produced by Mark Hellinger. Music by Miklos Rozsa. Production Design by Martin Obzina, Jack Otterson. Film Editing by Arthur Hilton. Academy Awards 1946.
Ernest Hemingway’s atmospheric, short story, basically a conversation between two bad men, is expanded into a film noir classic by Robert Siodmak. After two hoods kill a boxer who had seen better days (Burt Lancaster in his striking film debut), an insurance man (Edmond O’Brien) sweeps into town looking to find out why he was killed and why he left his policy to a sweet and kindly maid. The investigation leads him to various players in this sad man’s life, including former friends from his pugilist days and a gorgeous femme fatale (Ava Gardner‘s breathtaking entrance into stardom as well) who was his ultimate undoing. Siodmak’s steady direction and the terrific writing contribute to a rich, unforgettable experience with all the shadows and dirty diners you want from the genre, a high point in filmmaking that Hemingway himself really enjoyed (he didn’t need a single drink during the screening!)