A war hero turned girlfriend-smacking drunken lout. A girl who loves him and hates him, stands by him and takes up with another guy, all in 24 hours. A hothead abusive detective with a heart of gold. A by-the-book Inspector who nevertheless knows full well that the only way to get anything done is to do it the dirty way. A hardened crook who’s also easily the most intelligent and reasonable person in the whole movie. Everyone and everything in this tightly-wound, beautifully-shot noir really is equal parts good and evil, and the fine (if sometimes a shade overwrought) acting by Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews kept me engaged and sympathetic from start to finish.
Bummer about the ending, where everyone suddenly gets all one-dimensionally virtuous. It would have been amazing to see Andrews walk off knowing he was going to have to be tormented by his dirty little secret for the rest of his life. If you listen very carefully, you can hear some studio executive muttering about the movie needing to have a moral message. Ugh.
Nice moments in Ben Hecht’s fat-free script, which manages to be both debonair and hardboiled:
Gene Tierney, the girl: Shouldn’t we call the police?
Dana Andrews, the cop: I suggest we leave the police out of this.
One of Tierney’s girlfriends, offering advice in a Joisey accent thick as Sunday gravy: “So he won the war and freed the slaves. Does that entitle him to spend the rest of his life drinking barrels of whiskey and punching girls in the nose?”
Tierney: But if he’s innocent . . .
Andrews: That doesn’t always help.
And, most quotable of all: “How was I supposed to know he had a silver plate in his head?”