The seductive Andrea King was born France Georgette André Barry on February 1st, 1919 in Paris before her mother relocated them to the United States.
Eventually, she settled in Queens, NY. King eventually found her way to Broadway at the age of 13 where she performed between 1935-36 in Fly Away Home with Montgomery Clift. At the age of 18, she went to Chicago and worked in the Lilian Gish company’s Life with Father for two years. It was in 1944, that Warner Bros. signed Andrea King to a contract, her first bit part was as a nurse in a scene with Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington, then she appeared in The Very Thought of You whereas Molly Wheeler – she had to be bitchy to Eleanor Parker, which she joked she hated doing “Wait a couple of months baby and you’ll be making double dates with me just like we used to!” King was cast in small roles during the war. The Warner Bros. studio photographers voted Andrea the most photogenic actress on the lot for the year 1945, the year she starred in God is My Co-Pilot. Jack Warner who liked to name his new stars had wanted to change her name to Georgia King to Andrea’s horror she ran to friend director Delmer Daves and cried telling him it was awful, and sounded like a Mississippi burlesque queen!
Andrea King’s portrayal of the angelic and strong-minded Julie Holden in director Robert Florey’s Gothic horror The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) was perhaps my introduction to King’s beautiful persona. Co-starring with Robert Alda a year before they were to act together in The Man I Love (1947).
Sophie Rosenstein the acting coach had taken a strong liking to Andrea and when she left Warner Bros. and went to Universal, a lot of roles opened up for Andrea at Universal.
Andrea King’s first major role as Lisa Dorn whom Andrea in an interview with TCM said was a wonderful part, a real leading lady– “She was evil and she was kind. She was two people all in one” in Hotel Berlin (1945) afterward she played stylish often ‘mysterious’ leading ladies or supporting roles as the ‘bad girl.’
Finally, King got bigger, glamorous lead parts and appeared in a cross-section of genres throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. She is remembered for five significant film noir roles, Shadow of a Woman (1946), The Man I Love (1947) with the legendary Ida Lupino, Ride the Pink Horse (1947) starring and directed by Robert Montgomery, Dial 1119 (1950) with Marshall Thompson and the even lesser known Southside 1-1000 (1950) with Don DeFore, that I decided not to cover at this time.
In 1965 she appeared in The House of the Black Death, Prescription Murder (1968) tv movie and Daddy’s Gone A -Hunting 1969. Andrea King made the transition to television, most notably she appeared in the original 1953 broadcast of “Witness for the Prosecution” for Lux Video Theatre (1950) co-starring Edward G. Robinson. She worked well into the 1970s, (appearing in genres- horror & exploitation- where so many beautiful starlets inevitably roam-a subject I plan on writing about extensively in my piece “From Glamour to Trauma: Deconstructing the Myth of Hag Cinema in the not-so-distant future here at The Last Drive-In) including appearing in the exploitation film Blackenstein 1973.
Directed by Joseph Santley with a screenplay by Whitman Chambers and C. Graham Baker based on the novel “He Fell Down Dead” by Virginia Perdue. Cinematography by Bert Glennon (Stagecoach 1939, The Red House 1947, House of Wax 1953) Edited by Christian Nyby. Costume design by Milo Anderson.
The film stars Andrea King as Brooke Gifford Ryder, Helmut Dantine as Dr. Eric Ryder, William Prince as David G. MacKellar, John Alvin as Carl, Becky Brown as Genevieve Calvin, Richard Erdman as Joe, Peggy Knudson as Louise Ryder, Don McGuire as Johnnie, Lisa Golm as Emma, Larry Geiger as Philip, Monte Blue as Mike, J. Scott Smart as Timothy Freeman.
The fan mail poured in about the pairing of Helmut Dantine and Andrea King together in Hotel Berlin 1945 so they tried it once again in Shadow of a Woman.
Shadow of a Woman (1946) is an essentially creepy suspenseful film noir, at the center of the narrative is a small boy that is being starved to death in order for his father to gain the boy’s fortune. It predates the superior film noir chiller The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) directed by Robert Wise, but the moodiness and the storyline are faithful to a familiar trope.
The film is Andrea King’s second leading role under Warner Bros. after her debut as Lisa Dorn the hapless German actress in Hotel Berlin (1945) which unites King with her good-looking Austrian co-star Helmut Dantine who had played the enigmatic wounded Nazi soldier who terrorizes Greer Garson in Mrs.Miniver in 1942.
The role of Brooke was originally turned down by Alexis Smith, so Jack Warner offered the role personally to Andrea King who does a knock-out job as the new bride who has been duped by a psychopath to fit into his nefarious plans. Brooke never becomes hysterical and doesn’t buy into her controlling husband’s insistence that she is just ‘tired’ or close to a ‘nervous breakdown’. It also doesn’t take her long before she rebels against him.
Andrea King stars as Brooke Gifford who marries an unorthodox doctor who passes himself off as a natural healer. Eric Ryder (Helmut Dantine) treats his patients with strict dietary restrictions and a dash of hypnotism as an extra measure, including a frighteningly rigid diet for his young son Philip, who is only allowed to drink orange juice. (Well… he won’t have to worry about scurvy but he might die of starvation, poor lamb.)
Eric begins to exude a more sinister nature. His son looks properly ghostly and malnourished, so Brooke tries sneaking him toast with jam just to fatten him up a bit and put color and a smile on his cherubic face. It was the end of WWII and Brooke was lonely, as she relates in flashback the story of her threatening mistake. The film deals with the backlash of women who needed to be independent during the war and then was quickly pulled back into the security of domesticity. The irony of the story is how the lonely Brooke winds up with the wrong man, divorced from his wife and obsessed with controlling his son’s eating habits, hinting at the evil motive of starvation in order to gain power over his son’s financial legacy.
“I met him in Monterey four weeks ago, our family physician Dr. Norris had sent me there to avoid a nervous breakdown. I just lost my parents and having been with them through their long illnesses… well I was in a bad way, both mentally and physically… Perhaps you’re wondering why I happen to marry Dr. Ryder on such a short acquaintance… But he wasn’t like most men, he was solicitous and charming. I never asked questions who or what he was.”
Shadow of a Woman opens with Brooke relating the story in flashbacks to the police. It takes place in Post-War California. Andrea King plays the lovely Brooke Gifford Ryder who seeks the American Dream of marriage and a happy home life. She marries Dr. Eric Ryder (Helmut Dantine) after a quickie whirlwind romance. Until the shine of wedded bliss wears off and she begins to suspect that he is hiding a dark side of himself.
Ryder worked in a carnival as a hypnotist and passes himself off as some kind of nutritionist /holistic healer who treats his patients with rigid diets and hypnotizes them not to feel pain when it’s there to alert the body that something is wrong. Ryder considers conventional doctors to be butchers. His regiments include a frighteningly stringent diet for his young son which leaves the boy weak and looking like death is hovering. A few of his patients have apparently already died because they failed to seek outside medical care when Ryder’s treatments make it too late to save them.
There is a moment of premonition when the newlyweds Brook and Eric ask a Gypsy Fortune Teller to read their palms, She smiles while reading Brooke’s future and she quickly recoils telling Eric she has nothing to tell him.
The newly married couple argue about doctors, especially the doctor who cared for Brooke’s parents who have recently died. There are so many cues that alert us to Eric’s malevolent scheming. When Brooke has written to the family physician Eric takes the letter and puts it in his pocket, telling her he’ll mail it. But we already get the sense that he has no intention of letting her seek outside consultation from another doctor.
At the opening of the film, while the couple are honeymooning, they noticed two men trailing them. Also, Eric is almost killed when a boulder drops down and nearly hits him.
When Brooke recognizes the dog from the beach where the rock almost killed Eric, he calmly tells her, “Oh dear, you’ve been closer to a nervous breakdown, than I’ve realized.” He quickly gives her instructions to pack her things and leave at the back exit of the hotel. He decides that they should Honeymoon at his cabin in the mountains where it is more secluded.
Brooke and Eric’s whirlwind romance of a week feels like a baffling eddy, and from the beginning, once she marries this mysterious handsome doctor, someone tries to kill him, and they are followed around by two men with a dog who are trying to snap photos of them. Eric’s ex-wife Louise has hired her lawyer and his photographer friend to try and catch Eric doing something that would help her custody case.
Only after they get married does Eric decide to mention on their honeymoon that he’s been married before and is in a nasty custody battle over his son Philip (Larry Geiger) with his ex-wife Louise (Peggy Knudsen –The Big Sleep 1946, Humoresque 1946, A Stolen Life 1946) What Brooke doesn’t know yet is that he has only married her in order to convince the court that he’s the better parent for his son.
Brooke realizes that she is living in the shadow of Eric’s ex-wife Louise who is trying desperately to gain custody of their little boy Philip. The romance between Brooke and Eric feels so impulsive and we wonder why such an apparently intelligent, strong woman would walk into a marriage with a man she doesn’t even know. Granted, she is recovering from the loss of her parents and the lack of eligible men. But immediately after they wed, strange events emerge. Aside from the boulder that nearly crushes him on their honeymooning, while they now reach his cabin in the mountains, there is the matter of Timothy Freeman (J. Scott Smart) who’s wife died under Ryder’s care–who tries to put a hole in Eric with a shotgun.
They are once again followed in the car by the two men and the dog, while Eric drives recklessly fast in order to lose the tail. He manages to swerve around a construction vehicle up on the shoulder, the two men get stuck and blocked by it, Eric has thwarted them.
When they almost crash losing the two men who have been tailing them, she asks him who they are, he denies knowing them, she tries to suggest something, but he immediately questions her state of mind. Eric coldly turns it around and makes it about Brooke’s mental state. Though Brooke never acts vulnerable, and is always on her toes, no matter how suspicious and dismissive Eric behaves.
We experience the story as Brooke continues with her voice-over.
Brooke- “What ever it was that he had seen in the window, had made him change his mind quickly.”
On the road. Brook- “Why all the hurry?”
Eric “Am I going to fast dear?”
Brooke- “Oh no, flying too low.”
David (Louise’s lawyer)-“I wish that cheap quack would go to sleep on one of these curves, save someone the trouble of killing him.”
Eric and Brooke go to his cabin in the mountains hoping to elude Louise’s lawyer. While settling into her bedroom, Brooke opens up a drawer and finds an assortment of women’s brushes and hair pins. Brooke’s face relates the worry that washes over her, as the questions start piling up.
Eric “Why don’t you like it here darling?” Brooke-“Well I’m not a prude but I’d feel better knowing that I was the first woman you brought here.” Eric- “So that’s what’s been bothering you… I don’t know how you found out but it’s true. I did let my wife use the cabin after our divorce.” Brooke says in a startled whisper-“Your wife!… I didn’t know.” Eric- “But you saw it on our marriage application. I thought it was very tactful not to make a point of it.” Brooke-“I didn’t read the application.” Eric-“I’m terribly sorry I thought you knew. But it doesn’t make any difference to us does it, darling?” Brooke-“No, of course not… Would you rather not tell me about her?” Eric-“I’d like to forget that I ever met her. Her father was a patient of mine. A fine old gentleman. But Louise, (he pauses) Tell me, darling, you haven’t got a lot of money have you?”
Once Brooke and Eric arrive at his Gothic house in San Francisco, they are greeted by his sister Emma and his nephew Carl who are not welcoming at all. They act strangely toward Brooke as if she is an outsider.
Eric brings Brooke home and introduces her as his wife to Emma, who is resistant to shaking Brooke’s hand. Eric asks how his son Philip is and Emma hesitates a bit as if she is frightened to answer, then tells him that the boy’s stomach trouble is back. Eric replies-“There shouldn’t be anything wrong unless you’ve been feeding him solids again.” Emma-“I’ve kept him on liquids just as you ordered.”
Carl welcomes his Uncle home. Carl comments sarcastically to Eric-“What’s the matter you look upset. Did something you eat not agree with you?” Eric walks away from him and ascends the staircase-“Nothing I eat- disagrees with me!”
Emma introduces Brooke as Eric’s wife… Eric’s home at first is inhabited by seemingly hostile characters, Lisa Golm as Emma, Eric’s morose and cantankerous sister. His crippled nephew Carl (John Alvin) Emma’s son, who Eric refuses to allow to get the surgery that could correct his leg.
Bert Glennon’s cinematography creates a manifest antagonism of hostile shadows.
The somber Emma tells Brooke with a tone of doubt in her beleaguered voice that she hopes she’ll be happy. Brooke in voice over-“I wondered right then how long I could remain in a house where I was not welcome.”
Brooke gets a jolt of her new reality after she tells Eric that she can see why Philip’s mother wants the child so badly. Eric tells her that Louise is not going to get him, and asks if she’ll stand by him. Brooke says that she’ll do anything she can to help. When he informs her that she already has by marrying him, the awareness that comes over her face is acute as if her blood just turned to ice. Eric supposes, “Don’t you see the judge is much more apt to grant permanent custody of a child to a happily married couple than to a single man.” But he stresses that they must keep their marriage a secret until the court date so that Louise’s lawyer has no time to counter attack, allowing him to believe that he’s snapped photos of an illicit affair rather than of a newly married couple. “I understand, it’s a very clever plan Eric. When did you think of it?” Eric assures her that he loves her more than anything else in the world.
Carl- “Mother’s the cook tonight, you see servants don’t stay with us very long, neither does anybody else.”
Carl-“Pleasant little household we have here isn’t it.” Brooke-“We could make it pleasant if we try.”
Emma and Carl are at first an odd pair all seemingly living in fear, who appear to know family secrets with menacing looks and a lack of warmth right from the beginning. Maybe it’s their diet which only consists of small amounts of vegetables, while Eric gorges himself on the best steak at his local diner.
Carl-“What a life she’s going to lead.” Emma-“She has only herself to blame. She married him with her eyes open” Carl-“I doubt that… but I think we’re opening them.”
Eric is called out on an emergency to see his patient Mrs. Calvin. Brooke decides to go with him on his call. Eric warns her, “Brooke you’ll possibly hear stories about me. That I’m a faker. I want you to know that they’re not true. And I will prove it to you. Get your things.”
As Brooke and Eric leave, Louise and David MacKellar her lawyer pull up to the house. Louise is there to see her son, but they don’t know that Brooke is actually Eric’s wife yet. Not realizing that Eric was home now, she’ll have to phone Emma who has been secretly letting Louise see her son Philip.
David-“And he’s got the girl with him. How do you like that for nerve.”
Becky Brown plays Genevieve Calvin whose mother is dying. Eric passes Brooke off as his nurse. But Genevieve is obviously in love with Eric.
Leah Baird as Mrs. Calvin is in enormous pain. Eric essentially ignores her physiological illness and controls her pain by hypnotizing her. The result is that the poor old woman dies because she didn’t seek proper medical treatment.
It doesn’t take long before Brooke realizes that her husband is a fraud after all, who might even have a few deaths of his patients on his hands. Brooke finally comes to grips with the true horror that confirms Eric has only married the financially self-sufficient Brooke as a way to retain custody of his son, in order to steal his inheritance. Naturally being a sociopath Eric played it smooth at being romantic in the very first few days of their rushed courtship, but his true colors begin to emerge once Brooke is brought into the family home.
Brooke tells Eric’s nephew Carl that she has a very fine doctor friend whom she’ll set up an appointment with so he can look at his lame leg.
Like many good noir suspense thrillers, there is the moment of ‘reversal’ when the contrast between the light and promising beginning turns gloomy and sinister.
When Philip comes into Brooke’s room while she’s eating breakfast in bed, the cute little fella jumps up and sits with her telling her it looks good. Brooke asks him what he had for breakfast. He tells her orange juice. She asks what he had for supper the night before. He tells her orange juice. She spreads a lovely helping of jam on toast and hands it to Philip who has given himself a jam mustache. Carl comes in and tells him to wipe the jam off his face.
The art direction by Hugh Reticker and Bertram Tuttle is perfectly moody for the menacing atmosphere and quite the contrast from the opening scenes where Brooke and Eric are honeymooning on the bright sunny spaces of the beach. The Nob Hill mansion is dreary and uninviting.
Carl challenges Brooke asking her why she married Eric. She tells him that she married Eric because she fell in love with him. He gives her the total picture of the family’s finances. That Eric can’t touch Philip’s money until he’s 25, which gives her many years to butter up the kid.
Genevieve Calvin calls up telling Brooke that her mother is much worse. Brooke gives her the number of her own Dr. Nelson Norris (Paul Stanton) Brooke and Philip hit it off just swell, and she heads out to her house in Burlingame to keep up on the cleaning and maintain a link to her independence. Smart girl!
Dr. Norris meets Brooke at her house and informs her that Mrs. Calvin died on the operating table. Brooke can’t believe it because she seemed so comfortable the night before. “Her daughter called me in a little too later. She was being treated by this fellow Eric Ryder who’s the biggest quack in San Francisco” Brooke-“Are you serious?” Dr. Nelson-” Do you know him?” Brooke-“Yes, Yes I know him.” Dr. Norris-“Then for heaven’s sake don’t have anything to do with him. These quacks have a little superficial knowledge. They’re always very glib and persuasive and helpless people like Mrs. Calvin have to pay for it. This man was entirely responsible for her death. I did everything I could possibly do. But she was too weak. Too far gone.” Brooke-“that’s dreadful” Dr. Norris-“If you know anyone in his hands for heaven’s sake warn them against him. This man is a menace to the community.”
Andrea In voice-over “I refused to believe this terrible indictment of my husband. But a voice deep inside of me kept saying it’s true….”
Andrea King is brilliant as a woman who is not a wilting violet while her nefarious husband keeps revealing more unsavory parts of himself, Andrea King always manifests inner strength and intelligence in all her roles. In Shadow of a Woman, Brooke has the mindfulness to maintain her home in San Bernardino which is one way of getting out from under her bizarre marriage that she very quickly learns is a sham.
Eric is a murderer and not just a quack who inadvertently allows his patients to take his dietary course of treatments while ignoring danger signs of underlying illness. Genevieve Calvin (Becky Brown) comes to Eric’s house and threatens to go to the judge not only about his unethical methods but says she will make trouble for him so he won’t be able to maintain custody of his son after her mother (Leah Baird) dies from his malpractice.
Eric makes it appear as if the distraught Genevieve commits suicide, when he puts an overdose of pills into her drinking water, knowing that the maid Sarah is off for the night, the police won’t question the circumstances.
Eric’s ex-wife Louise wants custody of their son and her lawyer David G. MacKellar (William Prince) meets Brooke and they form a friendship. Eventually, Brooke works with them to expose Eric’s malevolent plans.
When David meets up with Brooke in a diner, he hands her a subpoena telling her she exhibits A in the custody hearing. That she spent that weekend with Ryder without the benefit of clergy. “Has Ryder been filling you full of diet theories and orange juice?… Joe (the short order cook), has Doc Ryder been in tonight?” Joe- “It’s a little early for him yet.” David-“Got his steak on ice?” Joe-“Yeah, I’m saving a nice one for him, the juiciest New York cut I’ve seen since Pearl Harbor. I wish I knew where he gets ’em I can’t find steaks like that.” David-“See Ms. Gifford, a phony. All those diet theories are sucker bait for his racket.” Brooke-“He has lots of patients and they keep going to him.” David-“Of course, people will go to anybody who promises to work miracles.” He tells her that carrots three times a day and fresh air is fine if you’re not really sick but if you need real medical help, and he keeps you from getting tests and treatment from a regular medical doctor then it’s plain murder! “Break it all down and what do you make of our Dr. Ryder, a second-rate hypnotist, and not even that? Did you know he used to work for the carnival before he went into the health racket?”
William Prince is wonderfully sharp tongues and amusing as Louise’s attorney David MacKellar with his witty cracks and his likable manner.
Brooke asks David why Louise is so interested all of a sudden in getting custody of Philip when she didn’t want anything to do with him before. David asks her “Who told ya that?” “My husband, Dr. Ryder.” They go back and forth with a humorous repartee until Brooke shows him her marriage certificate. David-“There goes my appetite and my case. Sister you sure had me fooled. Doc Ryder can turn on the charm when he wants to but marrying the guy for money. Well, I wish you luck, all of it bad…” “You’re pretty nervy Mr. MacKellar” She points out that he’s Louise’s attorney and aren’t they interested in Philip’s estate? Telling him from the picture that Eric painted she’s not the grieving mother she pretends to be. David, disgusted with this exchange flings some change on the counter for Brooke’s coffee, passes up his hamburger, and leaves.
Brooke’s voice over continues-“It was disloyal to Eric to tell of my marriage, but I no longer cared. I wanted to help Mr. MacKellar. I wanted him to respect me.”
Andrea King does not deliver the role of the vulnerable women-in-peril, but a strong-willed and energetic woman whose eyes are wide open as soon as Eric’s charming veneer loses its luster, which is immediate. She isn’t afraid to confront him, nor does she wait to seek out the answers to the mysteries surrounding her new life. She even rejects his kisses instead of accepting them as some women may. In some films, hearing their struggles through dire inner monologues as to why his embraces feel creepy yet she loves him. Brooke now knows why he makes her skin crawl and she doesn’t question her own imagination about it. From the edge of the story, she begins to hold him at bay and not become submissive.
At first, it had seemed that Emma and Carl would not warm up to Brooke, with Emma’s maudlin, grim expressions, and Carl’s sarcastic asides, but after Brooke takes a shine to sweet little Philip, and begins to earn the trust of the family, through her obvious kindness, they open up to her.
When she talks to Emma and her son Carl, she learns how Eric holds them hostage, by depriving them of a means of support to go anywhere else. He won’t let Carl get his leg fixed because it’ll prove he’s a fraud, and Emma hates the way he starves little Philip but she is afraid of her brother and what he’ll do.
Carl –“After all he’s Brook’s husband.”
Brooke-“And something could be done about that!.. Well I’m beginning to see how this household ticks and all the time I was thinking you were the most unfriendly people I have ever met.”
Emma- “I don’t blame you.”
Eric’s ex-wife Louise is desperate to protect her son and get him away from Eric, she and lawyer David G. MacKellar meet with Brooke who wants to help them protect little Philip And they form a friendship, as Brooke works with them to expose Eric’s malevolent plans. I’ll leave it there, so I won’t spoil the suspenseful conclusion of Shadow of a Woman.
There should be a law against knowing the things I found out about men!
“Ida and I apparently, supposedly looked alike, quite a bit and, Ida was a very interesting, interesting gal, a wonderful talent. She never thought she had talent, but she surely did!”- Andrea King
Ida Lupino and Andrea King on the set of The Man I Love (1947)
Normally, I would write about this film as a trademark of Ida Lupino’s outstanding legacy, but I wanted to include it for Andrea King’s special tribute, as King’s contribution to these few film noir gems, to me, is quite notably significant and memorable.
Directed by Raoul Walsh, screenplay by Catherine Turney, cinematography Sidney Hickox (All Through the Night 1942, Edge of Darkness 1943, To Have and Have not 1944, The Big Sleep 1946, Dark Passage 1947, Possessed 1947, White Heat 1949 and The Andy Griffith Show 1960-1968) And fabulous costume design by Milo Anderson.
The film is an explicit vehicle for the enigmatic & versatile Ida Lupino as the strong feminist protagonist Petey Brown who spins circles around Robert Alda’s calculating night club owner Nick Toresca a polished thug and notorious womanizer.
Andrea King is a standout player as Petey’s younger sister Sally Otis, who keeps the family together.
Co-staring Warner Bros contract players Bruce Bennett, Don McGuire, Alan Hale, Dolores Moran, Martha Vickers, John Ridgely, Warren Douglas, and Craig Stevens as a bandleader.
The Man I Love opens in a Manhattan Jazz night spot called the 39 Club, after hours while torch singer Petey Brown (Ida Lupino whose voice is overdubbed by Peg La Centra) sings the title song-Gershwin’s The Man I Love, while floating out sensual clouds of cigarette smoke from her pouty lips. The film leaves to our imagination that there was such a man, who might be the impetus for Petey to pack her bags and head out to California to spend time with her family. She’s homesick and wants to help out her younger sister Sally who slings spaghetti for a living.
Ida Lupino’s bold characterization of world-weary Petey Brown is the embodiment of the strong woman, resilient, empowered, and in control. She’s loaded with film noir quicksilver come backs, and hides her vulnerability well. But she does have that soft spot for her family. Petey leaves New York and comes home to Long Beach California from a lonely life as a cabaret torch singer, to find that her family is sullen and frustrated, they have fallen on hard times, the unseen casualties of Post-War America.
Though The Man I Love, can be seen as a straightforward melodrama, it contains the elements of film noir, with its nightclub milieu, radiating the sadness and vulnerability of its characters. The film deals with the after-effects of a Post WWII era, not only the damage inflicted on the servicemen who came back from the war but the problems that faced women in a Postwar world. All the women in the film, not only Ida Lupino’s strong characterization of Petey but also her two sisters, Sally (Andrea King) and Virginia (Martha Vickers), not to mention their neighbor Gloria who represents a reconfiguration of the role gender plays within societal frames. Most of all Petey, who has the courage and independence to look ahead and move forward even after her melancholy lover San (Bruce Bennett) leaves her behind in the end. Piano players, we’re a maudlin bunch, ha!
Sally’s son gets a black eye when he fights with a kid who teases him that his father’s in the loony bin.
The O’Connors are always coming over, mostly Johnny (Don McGuire) who allows his cheap, two-timing wife Gloria (Dolores Moran) a lot of freedom yet puts the burden on Sally and Virginia to help raise his two newborns. Johnny injured his hand and needs to see a doctor. He’s working like a dog on a second job so his tramp of a wife can go out and party. Sally is everyone’s caretaker, and Johnny is an idiot who enables Gloria (Dolores Moran) to always dump the twin boys or as Petey calls them the ‘daily double’ on Sally and Ginny. Sally wants him to let the doctor look at his hand, but that might mean being in the hospital for a few days, and Gloria doesn’t want to be alone for Christmas, All this she tells Sally while she is showing off the new fur stole, Johnny bashed his hand to be able to buy her. Dolores Moran does a superb job of tramping it up and playing it to the trashy hilt, I might add. Sally acts more concerned about Johnny than his own wife, and Johnny takes advantage of Sally’s kindness. The big ape.
Sally listening to the radio-“Christmas Carols… isn’t it lovely?”
Gloria “It’s so sad it gives me the willies, get some dance music.”
Sally- Well let’s just hear this one, Roy and I used to sing this together on Christmas Eve. We were always kind of silly about Christmas.”
Petey arrives and sees the twins. “Who hit the daily double?” Gloria without an ounce of maternal instinct and a pound of war paint replies “I did.”
Nick Toresca sends brother Joey (Warren Douglas) home with a dress for Sally, which infuriates her. She wants him to take it right back.
Petey takes a job at a nightclub owned by the sleazy womanizing Nick Toresca (Alan Alda) who’s got his eyes on Petey’s sister Sally played by our lovely and loyal Andrea King. Petey begins a romantic relationship with a down-and-out jazz pianist, the woeful San Thomas (Bruce Bennett) who is mournful about his marriage breaking up, has lost his gift for tickling the ivories and hey he is also AWOL from the Merchant Marines. But Petey’s main focus is trying to straighten out the family’s ongoing problems, the overworked sister, the shell-shocked brother-in-law, and the younger brother who’s becoming a two-bit hood for Nick Toresca.
They are poor and struggling, and her sister Sally Otis (Andrea King) does the best she can while her traumatized husband Roy (John Ridgely) who has become violent, suffering from a breakdown, he’s now in a VA hospital for shell-shocked veterans of WWII. Sally is working hard to raise money and care for her son Buddy and the rest of her siblings who depend on her. Petey decides to stay for an extended visit during the holidays to try to straighten things out. Petey takes her place as the matriarch of the Brown family. Martha Vickers is ideal as the sweet younger sister Ginny.
But as strong as Lupino is– exuding that dependable tough shouldered dame, Andrea King has got a quiet strength that is self-evident from running the household to standing beside her husband even after he attacks her in the hospital. Andrea King has a lot of dimensions to her, she’s not just a pretty face or just the most photogenic at Warner’s in 1945. She is a real and versatile star.
Andrea King as Sally works for Toresca and has to spend much of her time trying to fend off his lecherous advances while remaining stoic because of her poor husband’s state of mind.
Petey wants Sally to go see Roy even though the doctor advised her not to go.
When Sally does try to visit Roy he imagines that she is with another guy who is buying her hats and perfume and cigarettes. He attacks her. She tells Petey she just can’t go back there again.
The cutthroat Nicky Toresca is a smooth operator who sets his sights on Sally, she works hard waiting tables, and she’s got a little boy who gets black eyes because his dad is in a mental ward. He’s as sassy as his aunt Petey. Nick wants Sally to work in his club, so he can get his hands on her. Toresca’s uncle whose restaurant Sally works in, tells Nick to leave her alone, “She’s a good girl” and he knows that Nicky wants her to do more than work in his club.
Johnny asks Sally to cook him dinner. Petey frankly tells him-“Sal’s having dinner with me, she has enough people to cook for around here… Strikes me it’s up to Gloria to get the meals in your house.” Johnny argues about what’s wrong with Gloria having a little fun. Petey suggests he switches to the day shift. He gets steamed and asks if she’s implying that Gloria’s fooling around. Sally doesn’t like the way Johnny’s talking to her sister. Finally, Sally tells him that Gloria was at Nicky Toresca’s club with another man on New Year’s Eve. Petey tells Johnny to get it all off his chest, she’s not intimidated by his remarks. He insults Petey further and tells her that she’s the lowest. “Johnny I get a kick out of you calling her your wife. She’s not your wife, you never give her a chance to be. Well, she’s just a pretty little girl you like to spoil and walk down the street with, so the guys will turn and whistle. Make you feel important. Well come on, why don’t you grow up.”
Petey apologizes to Sally for mouthing off- “I can’t stand watching people walk all over ya.”
Ida Lupino brings a set of iron balls and the unyielding guts to the Brown family but Andrea King does one hell of a job bringing the poignancy, and the heart. People walk all over her, especially Johnny who looks to her as a surrogate wife, to cook his meals while his young floozy trophy wife goes out and plays around. Petey told him off, but Sally knows he needed to hear it.
Troubled brother Joe (Warren Douglas) is heading towards a life of crime. Joe has gotten himself mixed up with the sleazy Toresca who makes the kid try to clean up after his messes, one of them is… Gloria.
Petey finally tired of Johnny’s stupidity when he threatens to kill Toresca as revenge for Gloria- not to mention his tiresome dependency on her sisters, intervenes with the guts she’s always packing and slaps the stupid Johnny O’Connor silly on the stairs in front of the scared big shot, Nick Toresca. One of THE best film noirs slaps in history!
Petey is able to straighten everything out for everyone, except her own dilemma with the man she loves. She must try to clear her no-good nephew from a murder rap, she temporarily plays footsie with the slimy club owner Nick Toresca who as the nightlife impresario is a fixture of film noir. Nick Toresca (Robert Alda also co-starred with Andrea King in The Beast With Five Fingers 1946.) She has found love again in an alcoholic has been pianist San Thomas (Bruce Bennett) who decides to rejoin the merchant marines and hop a freighter to go find himself. Can’t say there’s a lot to love about the men in The Man I Love, but you gotta love the women, and they certainly hold their own…
One of the best of the last Film Noir – an existential journey of the noir man from nowhere going nowhere.
Directed by Robert Montgomery Screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer and an uncredited Producer/writer Joan Harrison who worked on Alfred Hitchcock’s television series in the 1960s. Based on the novel by Dorothy Hughes who also wrote In a Lonely Place. Cinematography by Russell Metty (Touch of Evil 1958, Imitation of Life 1959, Sparticus 1960, The Misfits 1961, Love Possessed 1961, The Omega Man 1971)
Stars Robert Montgomery as Gagin, Thomas Gomez as Poncho, Andrea King as Marjorie, Art Smith as agent Bill Retz, Wanda Hendrix as Pila the woman-child, Rita Conde as Carla, Iris Flores as Maria, Grandon Rhodes as Mr. Edison, Richard Gaines as Jonathan and Fred Clark as Hugo.
Robert Montgomery specifically asked for Andrea King to do this film. But she was torn between two scripts because Fox was doing Nightmare Alley. They both started on the same day, so she had a choice to make one or the other. She felt that Robert Montgomery was such a fine actor, so she chose Ride the Pink Horse.
I recently become enamored with Ride the Pink Horse after delving into this film because of my Andrea King noir tribute for Noirvember. I would like to be clear about something first, though, that struck me about the film. It’s important that I clarify how I feel about certain aspects of this otherwise, brilliant allegorical tale.
The film is a surreal moral masterpiece, despite Gagin who spouts vile racist remarks that attest to part of his flawed character. He is also a blatant misogynist. Gagin is not a likable noir anti-hero, but Montgomery creates and adapts to the screen through his direction and remarkable acting, a compelling journey. He brings to life a captivating despicable figure, who doesn’t need to be admired or cheered on, but has his place in the story. Pila and Pancho elevate the journey even though Gagin’s presence is essential, and runs through the center of the plot.
I asked myself — can I love a film that is tainted by offensive representations? A film like many of that time period, placed white female actresses in brown face for the role of a Mexican character, putting her in a direct line of racist and misogynistic rants. If taken in context, and seen unambiguously as a condemnation of Gagin’s worldview, then I feel that I can love the film and its stylized and beguiling construction. While many unlikable noir anti-heroes in the end find some redemption, certain characters’ trajectories are doomed to remain trapped within their ‘alienation’ and the existential burden they bring upon themselves and those in their sphere of influence.
The Mise-en-scène supports this loner image of Gagin (Robert Montgomery) who descends from the bus, as the lens witnesses his odd ritualized maneuver around the small bus terminal, deposits the envelope in a locker, and conceals the key. Gagin exits one scene and enters through another into the landscape of the town. Cinematographer Russell Metty (Touch of Evil 1958, The Omega Man 1971) uses one long take which sets up the suspenseful mood surrounding what would otherwise be simple actions. Through Gagin we look into his attentiveness as he methodically sets forth a series of moves that illustrate his tenacity through the concentrated staging of those moves. And as he is framed, within the confines of the bus depot, even when he walks out onto the dusty road of the town, his automatic isolation hints at an ultimate film noir fatalistic view of his narrow world.
From The Philosophy of Noir Edited by Mark T. Conard —Alain Silver —chapter Ride the Pink Horse: Money, Mischance, Murder, and the Monads of Film Noir.
Among the various portraits of weary veterans in postwar film noir Gagin is most literally devoid of identity. Since Lucky is an ironic moniker confined to the main title, he has no real first name. The surname Gagin is clipped, guttural appropriate to Robert Montgomery’s taciturn portrayal. Pancho gives him a sort of epithet when he and the villagers see him wander : “That’s the kind of man I like, the man with no place.” When asked his identity on his first visit to Hugo’s, Gagin says; “Just tell him Shorty’s pal called and will call again.” Gagin comes from nowhere in particular, has no stated destination, and as he succinctly and offhandedly remarks to the inquisitive Pila, is “I’m nobody’s friend.”
The Hero, the Heroine, and the Heretic…
Pancho the carousel owner tells Gagin the story of why they burn the effigy of Zozobra made of papier Mache and dirty sheets, who is the god of bad luck, anxiety, and gloom. The word luck is the only direct hint to his nickname “Lucky.”
Pila expounds a little further about good luck and bad luck and gives Gagin a charm, which is the small carving of Ishtam, which will ‘protect’ him. Gagin has come to town with his gun and that’s all the luck he feels he needs. “Best charm in the world. Keeps away the boogeyman” Of course, for Gagin, it is not Pancho’s boogeyman, the dark force they call Zozobra for him it is Frank Hugo who killed his pal Shorty and who will most likely try and kill him.
But Gagin is not frightened off by the prospect of violence, he is too fixated on money and revenge, this is the boundaries of the world that he understands. He believes that “you make your own luck.” For Pancho or Pila who philosophically remark. “It is a sign of good luck when you find a new bucket.” One should take what the world offers, and be happy with that alone. This is the moral tale’s warning and the foreboding of the dark fable that follows.
In the border town of San Pablo, the people are preparing for their annual ‘fiesta’ A stranger with only one name- Gagin steps out into the landscape a mysterious and terse figure. Is Gagin there seeking revenge? or blackmail? or lost love?
An ex-G.I. known only as Gagin comes to a small New Mexico town during its annual fiesta. Gagin’s intention is to confront and blackmail a mobster name Frank Hugo who betrayed and killed his friend Shorty and stole money due him. Gagin goes to Hugo’s hotel and is at first turned away by some of Hugo’s two-bit thugs, so he decides to wait around town a bit. Then Gagin is approached by Bill Retz (Art Smith), an FBI agent, who rightfully suspects that Gagin has some incriminating evidence on Hugo that could help him apprehend the criminal, and he asks Gagin to hand it over. As soon as Gagin stepped off the bus he puts a check in a locker and sticks the key behind a guide map with a piece of chewed gum. Gagin tells Retz that he’s merely a tourist and denies having any information that could trap Hugo. Retz follows Gagin around while he tours the town, spending a good portion of the day near an old carousel operated by Pancho (Thomas Gomez) and frequented by the mysteriously beautiful Pila (Wanda Hendrix) an indigenous girl who attaches herself to Gagin.
Montgomery’s performance as Gagin is at the opposite end of the spectrum from his role as the maniacally droll psychopath Danny in Night Must Fall 1937. In Ride the Pink Horse, his voice grumbles as if always set on simmer, nothing seems to startle him as he growls out his monotone wisecracks. But it’s not an affected performance, it’s as nimble in displeasure and brusqueness as a ballerina is with poise. Gagin manages to figure out which hotel room is Hugo’s and gets confronted by his secretary, whom he proceeds to knock out with a punch to his guts.
Also in town is FBI agent Bill Retz (wonderful character actor Art Smith Brute Force 1947) who is also looking to nail the elusive Hugo on a number of illegal activities. The town is alive with magic and celebration, one such character is the young Pila a beautiful and enigmatic young woman who is drawn to Gagin from the start and thus she begins to follow him around town. She has a premonition of his death. Andrea King as Hugo’s gal manifests the iconic femme fatale in Marjorie who has no allegiance to her lover Frank Hugo or Gagin whom she asks to help double cross Hugo and swindle him out of a quarter of a million dollars. At the center of this film noir which plays out like a fable, is the mystical set piece the tia vivo or carousel with the pink horse owned by the care-free, lovable, and imperturbable Pancho (Thomas Gomez) Like life, the carousel goes in circles always winding up where you started from.
Gagin throughout Ride the Pink Horse verbally taunts Pila with cutting remarks that are downright racist in sentiment, calling her Sitting Bull, telling her to go back and play with the buffaloes, and barking at her to fix herself up and “look like a human being.” Gagin as the antihero is not a likable character. Only Pancho and Pila have an identifiable soul. At Gagin’s suggestion at one point Pila does go to the beauty parlor but comes back looking ridiculously grotesque as she tries to put on an Americanization of being ‘dolled up’ which is out of sync with her own natural beauty, and since Gagin is consistently a lost and wayward entity his making value judgments about her, the one person aside from Pancho who sticks around to protect him, who doesn’t take from him, is telling about his bitter vision of humanity.
Montgomery’s character only goes by his one name. It is only listed in the main Title credits as “Lucky” Gagin. As the lead character, he doesn’t even try to offer an explanation about his nickname. He remains a man without an observable identity.
Gagin addresses Pila who is staring at him intensely- “What’s a matter with you? What are you lookin’ at?… Yeah, You!… I’m talkin’ to you…”
Pila tells Gagin she’ll take him to the Hotel. She walks right into a pole and he gripes at her, “Why don’t you look where you’re going.” This a purposefully ironic comment considering he has no clear direction in his narrowly fixed existential view of the world.
“You’ll have to wait downstairs.” Gagin-” I don’t like it downstairs.”
Marjorie notices Hugo’s secretary knocked out on the floor. “Did um, did you do that? Gagin-“He’ll be alright” Marjorie-” Oh I wasn’t worried. A lot of people would be very grateful to you. Jonathan can be awfully stuffy.” Gagin- “Yeah, I noticed.” Marjorie- “Do you mind my asking what you’re doing here?” Gagin-“Waiting for Frank Hugo.” Marjorie-“He oughta be here in a few minutes. I’m having dinner with him. Do you expect to join us?”
Gagin-“Look why don’t you just sit down and stop pumping, ha!” Marjorie-“I was just curious.”
One of the great things about this scene is that part of the time, we only see the back of Gagin’s head as he gives his terse answers to Marjorie. He truly is a cryptic figure. Marjorie begins to reach into her handbag. Gagin rises thinking she might be going for a purse gun.
Marjorie-“You don’t intend on shooting me do you?… Did you really expect to find a gun? You really did. You must lead a fascinating life. You’re not through with me, are you? Aren’t you going to frisk me?”
Gagin gives a quick look at her up and down, and just one word… “No…” She asks if she can have a light, and he tells her “Sure” there’s one right there on the table. He’s got no time to be a gentleman and no need for broads. When she asks who she should say was calling. He tells her “Just tell him Shorty’s pal, and will call again.”
Andrea King’s performance as the ruthless femme fatale is deliciously forbidding–a greedy double-crosser who doesn’t care about anything but what she can get for herself. She can’t be trusted for one moment. Although King only appears in Ride the Pink Horse for a small portion of the film, her presence is the perfect potion of femme fatale with that liquid gold voice of hers, a great comedic sense of timing, and those cheekbones and smile that relay inner confidence.
Next Gagin meets up with Federal agent Bill Retz who invites him to sit and have coffee with him.
Gagin “Government cop, my my how come you tailing me Uncle Sam?” Retz “Well, I’m not tailin’ you, I got in yesterday ahead of you” Gagin-“Maybe you come for the fiesta?”
Retz-“Well I didn’t know about the fiesta. You and the fiesta are both gravy.”
Gagin clams up and refuses to give Retz any cooperation on the matter of Frank Hugo.
While Gagin and Hugo are fixated on the idea that the only thing that matters is money, Pancho explains even in his first meeting with Gagin in the Tres Violetas bar, as he intervenes after Gagin pays with a twenty dollar bill making it impossible for the barkeep to make change, how to solve the problem. Pancho cleverly and diplomatically offers a solution to Gagin’s dilemma which will make everyone happy and present him as a friend to the locals. Pancho suggests that Gagin take ten dollars and that he and the others drink the rest of his change.
“You want to make everybody happy, right?” Later, after he offers Gagin his own bed to sleep in, Pancho refuses additional payment, ” Some people are only happy when they got money. Me, I’m only happy when I got nothing. Nothing and a friend… they can keep everything else. Keep the whole world.”
Pancho begins to impart his philosophy on life to Gagin in the small cantina -“Tell Panchito what you want… what! You have no place for sleep!…listen everyone!… That’s the kind of man I like. The man with no place.”
Pancho “What’s a matter you not Pancho’s friend?
” Gagin-“I’m nobody’s friend.” Pancho-“Somebody follow us”
Gagin-“I don’t hear nobody.” Pila is in the shadows. Pancho-“Yeah somebody walks soft. Oh, it’s a girl. Oh, she no good. Too skinny.” Gagin- “I told you once before tonight, no dice.” Pancho-“Oh she your girl eh” Gagin-“I don’t know her.” Pancho-“That’s alright you can tell Pancho” Gagin-“I don’t know her I tell you and I don’t want to know her. Now go on home and play with your buffalo’s beat it. Pancho-“Hey that’s right she too skinny No good. Ah them kids The fiesta bring em like honey they come for sing for dance for get fella. Have good time Then go home and pull plow for a year. Heheh that one pretty skinny you get much better one later on.“
”Some peoples only happy when they got money. Me, I’m only happy when I got nothing. Nothing and a friend… So long as Pancho he’s got somebody he can tell Amigo, I love you. That’s enough. they can keep everything else. Keep the whole world. Give Pancho, only Pancho. Buenos Noches Mi Amigo.”
After Pancho goes to sleep for the night, Gagin discovers Pila standing in the shadows watching him.
Gagin’ “What do you want. Ha? You want a ride?” Pila-“Yes” Gagin-“Wait a minute I’ll wake up fatso… Get up get up you gotta a customer.” Pancho “No more customers. I told you, she too skinny. Lots more better mañana.” Gagin-“Come on Pancho she wants a ride. Turn it on will ya.” Pancho-“No no rides. Tio Vivo closed Music wait for the peoples.” Gagin-“Okay no music but turn it huh.” Pancho-“I don’t give no free ride. Is rule.” Gagin-“Break it, break the rule.” Pancho-“10 centavos one ride.” Gagin reaches into his pocket and asks Pila if she’s ever ridden on one of them before. She tells him no. Gagin-“Well go on get going, go on.” Pila -“Which one?” Gagin uncovers one, “That one, ride the pink one.” Pila catches herself smiling and quickly turns serious again.
Pancho stops the carousel after one ride. Gagin sits down with the doll that Pila gave him, Pancho-“Ishtam the good Goddess.” Gagin-“What she good for?” Pancho-“It keep away death, very fine charm.” Gagin-“I got a better charm.” He pulls out a gun.
Gagin-“Best charm in the world. Keeps away the boogeyman.” Pancho laughs, and the two men get ready to sleep for the night in Pancho’s very ritzy digs. A dog starts barking and Pila runs over to Gagin on his cot. She tells him “Someone is here” Gagin-“Who’s here?”
Retz-“I got to thinking that maybe we oughta have a little talk.” Gagin-“We had a talk, Uncle Sam”
Retz-“Yeah but a new one, I gotta a couple a new ideas.” Gagin tells Pila, to go on beat it, scrambo. He waves his arms. “Go on over there, way over there.” Retz- “I told you I didn’t want you to remove Mr. Hugo from the scene. But I’m not worrying about that anymore. Not the way you’re handling it. Walking in there and telling him Shorty’s pal is looking for him. Playing it tough ha. They got a couple of bad boys out looking for you. This interest you?” Gagin-“Yeah, kinda” Retz-“Those mugs that Mr. Locke put on will be around at the Three Violetas when it opens. They’ll find out the same lead I did.” Gagin-” What time does it open?” Retz-“Around 9. I gotta an extra bed in my room. You’ll be a little more comfortable there.” Gagin-” No, I’ll stay here.” Retz- Kinda figured I was wasting my time.” Gagin-“Hey Retz, thanks.” Retz-“Don’t mention it.” Retz walks near Pila, stops and looks at her, then moves on. Pila pulls her scarf over her face and sits in one of the chariots on the carousel.
Pila finds a bucket. Pancho tells her it’s a very fine bucket. It’s a sign of good luck when you find a new bucket.
Pila is always staring at Gagin –“Why do you have to look like that?” Pila-“Like what?” Gagin-“Like you come out of a side show.” Pila-“What’s a side-show?” Gagin-“A place where they keep freaks.” Pila calmly asks him-“I look like a freak?” He tells her that her hair’s alright for mice to sleep in.
Gagin insists on giving her money to fix her hair and buys some new clothes. “Here make yourself look human.” Pila ask him-“You like me, if I look human?” Gagin-“Listen Sitting Bull, I’m not buying any trouble this trip. I got other things on my mind. Go on now, beat it.” Pila runs excitedly about the prospect of her shopping trip. Pancho tells him he’s crazy for wasting his money on a ‘stick’ he could get a princess. Gagin tells him, “Yeah, I’ve had princesses, all kinds. I got one now, back East.” Pancho asks why he doesn’t bring her to the fiesta. “She’s busy, with another guy.” Pancho says, “I don’t think I like him. That other guy.” Gagin-“Ah don’t say that. He’s okay. He’s got what it takes… dough.”
Gagin finally catches up with Frank Hugo in his hotel room. Hugo is hard of hearing and early in the film he holds the phone upside down so that the earpiece is next to an oversized microphone/amplifier clipped to his shirt pocket.
Hugo tells Gagin that he hears he’s been talking to Bill Retz. “What would I have to talk to him about?” Hugo- “I don’t know comrade in arms you’re both shooting at the same target aren’t you?” Gagin-“He’s no pal of mine.” Hugo-“So you’re Shorty’s pal.” Gagin-“That’s right” Hugo-“Shorty was a nice guy.” Gagin-“Yeah he was.” Hugo-“Say weren’t you in the same outfit together, Pacific area. I got a soft spot for ex-servicemen.” He points to his bad ear. “I tried to get in myself” Gagin-“Too bad they had to turn you down.” Hugo-“I gave Shorty a job when he got out. A good job.” Gagin tells him “Yeah I know.” Hugo-“Hundred a week just to see that people didn’t bother me too much. Should have solved all his post-war problems. Too bad your pal Shorty turned out to be a crook. Got himself all crumbed up reaching for easy money. That’s kind of funny talk coming from a guy who’s done rather well out of the government. Kind of like spitting in my own face. That’s what you’re thinkin’ isn’t it Gagin?” Gagin-” I’m thinkin’ Hugo-“Our friend Shorty was the kind of a crook that nobody likes not even me who I’m rather open-minded about such things. I’ll lay it on the line Gagin. Shorty took something from me and tried to sell it back. I don’t like blackmailers. So would you if you were in my business. They constitute a very bad industrial hazard. I wanted what Shorty had, he refused to give it to me. There was a fight.”
“Your pal Shorty wasn’t as tough as he thought he was” Gagin-“So you had him killed.” Hugo- “Let’s put it that he lost the argument “ Gagin- “To three guys with blackjacks.” Hugo-“Were there three? Gagin-“And three pretty stupid guys too” Hugo-” Were they stupid?” Gagin-“Yeah. they didn’t get what they were after.” Hugo-“They didn’t” Gagin-“No… I got it. A canceled check for $100,000 on a Mexican bank signed by you. And made out to a guy who was making patriotic speeches about the time I was getting a tan in a place called New Guinea.” Hugo-“You sound like a disillusioned patriot.”
Gagin proves that he’s got the check in his possession by citing the number and Hugo realizes that he wouldn’t be stupid enough to have the check on him. Hugo asks him how much he wants, and he tells him $30,000, but Shorty only wanted $15,000. “The extra $15,000 is on account of Shorty.” Hugo nods sarcastically-“A real friend. Don’t kid yourself you’re doing it for Shorty. You’re doing it for you, just like I did what I did for me.” He asks if he gets the money or does he turn the check over to Agent Retz. Gagin tells him that’s the way it’s gonna be.
Hugo even circles around Gagin -symbolic of the carousel yet with more menacing than joyfulness.
Hugo-“Look Gagin let’s hit it on the nose. You and me we eat out of the same dish. You used to think that if you were a square guy worked hard played on the level things would come your way. You found out you were wrong. All you get is pushed around. You found that people are only interested in one thing… the payoff.” Gagin-“That’s all I’m interested in.” Hugo-” That’s the idea. You know Gagin I like you. There are two kinds of people in this world. It’s gonna be a pretty hot $30,000 you sure you want it.” Gagin-“I’m sure” Hugo-“You know the spot you’re putting me in. I’d be a dope to pay blackmail.” Gagin-“What’ll you be if you don’t?” He tells Gagin he’s pretty tired of having that check haunt him. They negotiate on the price some more. “You want it in cash naturally?” Gagin-“ Right here in my hand.”
Retz spots Pila in the hotel lobby and asks her if she’s known Gagin long. Pila answers him with that elfin-like modest vocalization of hers “Yesterday.” He also tells her if she likes him, he could use her help- that he’s in trouble.
Gagin takes Pila out for a fancy lunch at the hotel’s Tip Top Cafe and proceeds to mock her reactions to the food and the formality of the experience. Gagin laughs- “What have you been living in a barrel?” Pila gets riled-“You going to laugh at me, I’ll go away.” Gagin tells her–“Nobody’s laughing at you. What a goon”
Marjorie-“Please Mr. Gagin I’m only asking for three minutes. But they’re very important minutes.”
Marjorie gives Gagin a proposes a complicated double cross involving an honest attorney they could find to help handle the money end of it. Gagin comes back at her with a skeptical reply “Hugo buys them all—even the honest ones.“
She tells him to be smart and asks Hugo for more money, that she will split it with him. Later on when Gagin is supposed to show up to meet Hugo to carry out their transaction, but the double-double cross is in play, and Gagin will step right into the trap.
Gagin-“She make you feel bad? I guess you’re not used to her kind of ladies.” Pila-” She’s very beautiful.” Gagin-“Yeah, they usually are.” Pila-” But she has very nice clothes and diamonds.” Gagin-“Diamonds… and a dead fish where a heart oughta be. I know a lot of them babies.” Pila-“She’s not a baby.” Gagin-“Babies is what you call dames. You understand that?” Pila-“No!” Gagin getting agitated-“Do you understand what a human being is?” Pila-“Yes” Gagin insistent-“Well, they’re not human beings. They’re dead fish with a lot of perfume on them. To touch em and you always get stung. You always lose.” Pila-“You do not like?” Gagin-“No!”
Pila relating a story chattering way too fast and excitedly-“My friend Maria’s like that. Jose bought her a new pair of shoes and she wouldn’t wear them in front of him. But tonight at a dance she’s gonna wear them in front of other men. And I told her she shouldn’t be like that because he saved up for them and she should wear them for him. Because a man doesn’t like for a girl to always go barefoot.”
Gagin drops his spoon the silver hitting the dish reveals his mood, looking exasperated–here he’s been trying to school Pila in the ways of the world, real life and dames, dripping of a lowbrow maternalistic less Henry Higgins/ Eliza Doolittle and more brash, ‘life’s tough kid’. He looks flabbergasted and just tells her to eat her lunch, he’s got business to attend to!
He goes to the bus depot and retrieves the check from the locker, and hears the parade outside in the streets, alive with the music of the celebration. The festival of Zozobra continues at night, as they bring the effigy of the unlucky god of menace down the streets. Gagin walks among the sea of people with instruments and torches, he does not seem to fit in, he is still an ‘alienated’ fatalistic figure in this quite surreal noir masterpiece.
Though she’s supposed to be Hugo’s girl Marjorie struts in and out of the double cross. With a self-assured smile and she never looks back.
Marjorie to Gagin-“Dancing will be better than sitting at the bar. I’ve been furious at you all day. You’ve cost me $50,000 by your bull headedness. $50,000 and freedom and fun…I don’t know why I feel this way about you. Oh I’m not making a pass at you, I’m just being stupid…” Gagin-“What’s on your mind?” Marjorie –“You” Gagin-“What are we waiting for?” Marjorie-“He’s watching us I’m afraid to talk. Come with me.” She takes his hand and leads him out back. “He isn’t going to give you the money.” Gagin-“no” Marjorie –“He’s figure out one of his typical tricks… I shouldn’t be telling you this, you certainly haven’t done anything to deserve it. But there isn’t any bank messenger coming. There’s someone else. “ Gagin-“Who” Marjorie –“I don’t Know.”
As an unseen arm grabs Gagin from behind Gagin scraps with two shadowy figures until he gets stabbed in the back. Literally by Marjorie’s betrayal. There is a cold and brutal blood thirst to her character who almost looks aroused while she watches Gagin get trounced by two men in the shadows and stabbed in the back. Even a greedy woman might run away once the violence started, but she stays and looks on with a queer satisfaction that washes over her face.
Of Robert Montgomery–Andrea King said in an interview with Turner Classic Movies, that he was a very inward person who didn’t talk much. But the film was very much like that “Dense and Dark” He was a nice man but a very difficult man.
One of the most powerful scenes is when Marjorie (once again, our actress of the day Andrea King) dances Gagin right out into the shadows to literally get almost beaten to death and quite literally knifed in the back. watching from the shadows witnesses the brutal encounter.
While the police, Hugo’s men, and Retz go looking for the wounded Gagin, it’s Pila who finds him near death bleeding in a clump of bushes. First, she rips a piece of her ridiculous new dress up to make a tourniquet for his knife wound, she manages to get him on his feet and guide him safely to Pancho’s place, the sanctuary of the tio vivo, where the Pink Horse is, where Pila and Pancho nurse the broken Gagin but still cannot convince him to leave Hugo alone. It is Gagin’s fate to come full circle with the malicious Hugo.
From The Philosophy of Noir Edited by Mark T. Conard —Alain Silver —chapter Ride the Pink Horse: Money, Mischance, Murder, and the Monads of Film Noir.
Gagin accepts the carousel as sanctuary. Conditioned as he is to living with alienation as part of the role that he feels compelled to take on, he still rejects the Tio Vivo or carousel in favor of another chance at Hugo. That rejection in itself represents a Truer choice than Gagin had previously made, and choice in the noir world, ultimately guarantees either annihilation or salvation.
The scene continues to unfold with suspense as Hugo’s men correctly think they have traced Gagin to Pancho’s carousel as they were seen in the bar together. While Gagin is concealed in one of the seats of the carousel by Pila’s blanket, as he lies bleeding, Pancho is confronted by the two thugs. He gives several children a free ride so they will help distract them away from Gagin’s hiding place. The camera frames a few young boys and a girl and then Pila covering Gagin. Pila sits eerily still in silent fear as Hugo’s men interrogate poor Pancho. He claims he doesn’t know this ‘Gagin’ the man’s name he met in the bar, and so begins a very brutal beating as the children and Pila listen to his cries of agony, their fists pounding away at Pancho rhythmically along with the music from the carousel. Finally, they let up, believing that he couldn’t possibly take that kind of beating and know anything.
Pancho cries-“You hurt Panchito” Thug one and two –“You think he’s holding out?” “Not that fat slob he don’t know from nothing.”
Russell Metty’s extraordinary cinematography in Ride the Pink Horse creates so many emblematic levels and layers of surrealist poetry — in particular the scene where Hugo’s thugs beat Pancho mercilessly while the shadow of the carousel moves across Pancho and the screen like vintage rotating shadow lamps, all while the children riding the carousel look on as Pancho withstands the vicious beating, as he cries out in pain set against the carnivalesque merry-go-round music. The disorienting way the scene is filmed makes it all the more brutal as we experience the clash of sounds and the look of terror on the children’s faces, Pancho is not at the lever to stop the carousel they must take the ride of fear.
Pancho –“They want to know where is Gagin. They hit me in the nose, I don’t know. Hit me in the mouth, I don’t know. I fall down, and I don’t know.”
Pancho retells his beating with a gleeful resolve to Gagin who symbolized the meaninglessness of striving for money when it really is at the core of all human suffering. Gagin clueless offers to cut Pancho into the money he’s trying to extort from Hugo. But Pancho has no need for $5,000. Pancho is not rattled by the violence he just experienced, he’s already made that clear to Gagin when he patched him up from the knife wound. “Knife is good. More easy to fix. I got knifed three times. When you’re young, everybody sticks knife in you” He is also not moved by the notion of money that he doesn’t feel he needs. “Lots of people gonna get lots of things, but they don’t.” Thomas Gomez is quite extraordinary as the beloved character of Pancho.
Gagin-“I’ll be alright as soon as I get my punch back…”
PIla and Gagin at the Three Violetas cantina. One of Hugo’s thugs and Marjorie have come looking for him, Pila breaks a bottle over his head and knocks him out, and then helps Gagin up from the table and out of the bar.
Alain Silver points out that there are existing contrasts in the film–of the ‘primitive and the sophisticated’ balancing the ‘willfulness and the suffering’ and ‘pessimism’ of Gagin are the suffering and kindness of Pancho. Balancing the ‘rationalism and evil’ of Hugo are the ‘morality and asceticism’ of FBI agent Retz. Transcending it all is Pila, whose deep instincts about life and stoic grace epitomize ‘selflessness.’ She is the heroine of the story.
Gagin is not a mere cipher. The typical qualities of the embittered loner in film noir, which the figure immediately evokes through this visual inscription, combine with the narrative development of his hatred for Frank Hugo to create a more complex character. The initial assertion of Gagin’s generic identity is grounded in understated conflict with both the environment, in which he is stranger, and the imminent clash with the unseen criminal presence, Hugo. San Pablo itself offers nothing other than the promise of finding Hugo within his confines, nothing to mollify the alienation that Gagin sports so visibly, no alternate reality to the naturalistic images of the bus terminal, the town, or the crowded hotel lobby. Only after Gagin’s quest to even the score for his dead pal, Shorty, is necessarily suspended because of Hugo’s absence does he discover Pancho, Pila and the Tio Vivo.
At the end of Ride the Pink Horse, when an injured and insulted Gagin is on the brink of cooperating with Retz, Hugo offers a last, disdainful assessment of guys like Gagin, who “Work all your lives and end up with enough money to buy yourself a hole in the ground.”
Hugo-“Go ahead Gagin, be a sucker, walk out on yourself.”
Though I was tempted to go into more detail about the final journey’s end to this fabulous film noir, there are so many glorious details that are planted throughout Ride the Pink Horse, but I decided to leave them for people to either re-experience or see for the first time on their own, as the film is too rich with sublime little moments and I don’t want to spoil the journey for anyone.
There are some incredible scenes in Ride the Pink Horse that make this a genuinely unique little film noir and possibly one of my new favorite unsung noirs. The setting of course which was partly done on a sound stage mixed with the real Santa Fe Plaza and the La Fonda Hotel. The night shots of the ceremony when they are parading Zozobra toward his pyre is very fantastical which blurs the lines of reality with noir’s symbolic unreality. The landscape of the small town and Gagin’s driven mission lures him to the Tres Violetas the very first night, where Pila is waiting in the darkness for him, his guardian angel. Pila later confesses to Agent Retz that she had a vision of Gagin lying dead.
Another great moment is while they are burning the effigy of Zozobra and the cross dissolve creating the superimposition of the demon’s face with Hugo’s –symbolizing the true identity of Gagin’s god of bad luck.
The carousel is the first place where Gagin found true friendship and safe haven, though Gagin is too detached to understand either the philosophical or emotional relationship it holds for the children, Pancho and Pila.
On the very first night there, he tells Pila to take a ride on the carousel, and she asks him which one. As he approaches it, he takes the cover away and exposes naturally, the pink one, telling her “Why don’t you ride the pink one?” The point is about choice. While it doesn’t make a bit of difference, all the horses are the same, they start off and end up in the same place. But to Pila, the fact that there is a choice is exactly the difference between them.
From A Panorama of American Film Noir by James Naremore
Montgomery abandoned his earlier research into pure technique and came up with a ‘fascinating opus’ Ride the Pink Horse, based on a script by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, and veered away from Hughe’s novel.
“The film was impressive, first of all, for its enigmatic situations. A man got out of a car in a small Mexican town. Who was he? Gangster, killer, cop or dabbler? The first shots, without dialogue described in detail his odd behavior with a key and a small suitcase in the bus station. Then the man got caught up in some bizarre goings on, suffered a severe, “going over” in a hotel room, barely escaping with his life, and encountered a few providential allies, a fat, bearded Mexican, the owner of a merry-go-round with wooden horses, and a petite Indian girl, the exquisite Pilar. The raucousness of the fiesta rounding the dormant echoes of the little town, and the miserable ambience of shadowy cantinas with their apathetic silhouettes whose eyes sometimes shone with a singular light were seized in their raw urgent poetry.”
A somewhat barbarous poetry, this at one with the chill violence of events; as in the punishment inflicted by two hoodlums on the old Mexican , in front of a whitewashed wall, while the wounded hero remained spread out on the merry go round that went on silently running. The face of the Indian girl introduced an additional note in the register of ambivalence however. This child-woman of limpid gaze and slender body, who would have charmed Andre Breton, instinctively awakened to love, and her attentions, her childlike astonishment, the endless devotion she surrounded the American with, made for an unstable emotional mix that lent interest to the scene of their goodbyes. Pila and her man friend have something important to say to each other, but after a few hesitant starts, the man keeps silent: the “words -that-would- have-made-a woman” of the Indian girl are not forthcoming. He brusquely leaves her, turns one last time, then quickens his pace, as if in a hurry to have done with it all. Disappointed, Pila reverts from womanhood to childhood. Surrounded by a clutch of young friends already oblivious she recounts her heroic adventures with ‘el Americano.”
I have to disagree with Naremore’s conclusion about Pila’s identity as reverting back to a child, she was always childlike yet Pila was always a woman. She didn’t need Gagin to validate this burgeoning spirit in her. She is the one who tried to make him a better man. She was always the stronger one. The one with purpose and compassion, who mended his near-fatal wound, and who cradled him to her breast when he felt the pain from the knife. It is Pila who is the real protagonist of the tale. Gagin had to leave because he was still lost in his narrow vision of the world. Which is way more open with possibility for Pila whose spirit is a pink horse. Also, their relationship was not one of sexual attraction, though there is an odd curiosity for both characters. It was more of a journey of very different people crossing paths and finding friendship. Both Pila and Pancho are more like mythical guides for Gagin through his journey.
In the passage of the narrative for Ride the Pink Horse, Pila’s totem Ishtam overcomes the bad luck god, as Gagin survives his encounter with Zozobra’s personification is the real devil Frank Hugo. In the symbolic and stylistic progression of the movie, Gagin leaves the same way as he began. He could not have made this journey of redemption and resolution without the sacrifices that Pancho and Pila made. Only after seeing them in this way, could he make a choice and reject his mission of revenge, saving himself in the end.
But in the end, from not only a philosophical perspective but an aesthetic one, Gagin still stares at Pila mystified as he turns back to see her face once more. It is Pila who owns the moment as she relates to the children, like a fairy tale, of the night she knocked out one of Hugo’s henchmen crashing a whiskey bottle over his head at the Tres Violetas. Pancho sits and smiles as he listens to his little friend transforms into the heroine of the story!
Dial 1119 is a true-life crime/noir about an escaped mental patient who while seeking out the psychiatrist who sent him to the mental hospital for 3 years, goes on a rampage and wreaks havoc when he holds 5 people in a bar hostage in Terminal City. The film is one of MGM’s low-budget B films and film noir shot in b&w in the early 1950s under the supervision of Dore Schary.
Directed by Gerald Fried, from a story by Hugh King and Don McGuire and a screenplay by John Monks Jr. Cinematography by Paul Vogel (Lady in the Lake 1946, High Wall 1947, A Lady Without Passport 1950, The Rack 1956, The Time Machine 1960) Film score by André Previn.
The film stars veteran of 1950s science fiction Marshall Thompson as Gunther Wyckoff, Virginia Field as Freddy the man-eater bar-fly, Andrea King as the repressed wallflower Helen, Sam Levene as Dr. John Faron, Leon Ames as the slimy two-timing Earl, Keefe Brasselle as busboy Skip the expectant father, Richard Rober as Police Captain Henry Keiver, James Bell as newspaper man Harrison Barnes and William Conrad as Chuckles the curmudgeon bartender and his big tv screen! The interesting set piece of the large screen for 1950, lent itself as a technological harbinger of things to come. Sensationalist news connects the escalating violent events inside with the mass social media swarming outside- the two intersect in an eerie premonitory way.
Andrea King had met director Gerald Fried and became friends. He told her about making the film. About the story that was in the newspaper. About the boy who went crazy and locked everybody up in this one tiny barroom in Illinois. And he said the characters were wonderful. The assorted characters at the bar, are a mix of archetypes, drawn to the flame of the story in order to show how fate picks people randomly to show up when it’s got something to say.
Freddy to Chuckles- “Look at all the nice people you meet.” Chuckles-“Crumbs, beer drinkers.”
So she told him ‘Absolutely I’d adore to, and it really got claustrophobic though because we spent about a month in four walls, which was sort of small… Gerry was a good director. And I did have one very exciting scene on a telephone. I have hysteria and I go bananas and I really climb the walls. I overdid a little but that was alright.‘ “Please a man’s just been killed, there’s 5 of us in here. He won’t let any of us leave. (screaming) I can’t stand it anymore!!!… “
From the opening of this gritty bit of realism, when Marshall Thompson boards the bus, sitting next to an older woman who is trying to be kind, he eyes the bus driver’s gun hanging on the front dash. We have the expectation of what will happen, and when they stop for a ten-minute break and Gunther Wyckoff doesn’t get off the bus, we know he’ll be going for that gun no matter who gets shot.
When the older Italian woman gets off the bus at the end of the stop she tells the driver that his gun is missing from the holster and he unwisely confronts Wyckoff who winds up shooting him down in cold blood. He takes off into the night, ducking into a bar to allude to the police who are now searching for him. From his fingerprints, they identify him as an escaped mental patient Gunther Wyckoff. At first, he tries to lay low and play it cool so as not to draw attention to himself but it’s hard not to see that there is an air of “something’s not right with this guy” about this guy. He gives the very small group of 5 people in the bar, only an hour for the police to find and bring Dr Faron the man who was responsible for him being deemed insane and sent to a mental hospital.
Though Andrea King once again only has a supportive role in this film, her contribution shows her versatility as an actress who really should have become more of a star than was given the opportunity.
The scene where Marshal Thompson calls her character Helen over to the phone is marvelous as she doesn’t want to move from her seat nervously she tells him no. Gripping the chair and shaking her head, you can see her terror and the building panic. Not even her sleaze ball of a date played by Leon Ames tries to intervene to protect Helen.
Helen seemed to be a different kind of role for Andrea King. In Dial 1119 she doesn’t play the captivating beauty who is in the spotlight, the more obviously alluring woman. Helen is sheltered and repressed, her whole demeanor is quite restrained and neurotic. So being held at gunpoint by a madman without a hero in her midst must have been a great performance for her to step into.
Andrea King as Helen packing while her mother is talking off camera. It’s an interesting effective scene choice to only use her mother’s voice without the benefit of seeing the interaction, merely getting Helen’s perspective of the exchange.
Mother-“Helen I don’t like it. Running off, all this mystery.”
Helen “Oh mother I’m not running off and there’s not mystery I told you Maryanne’s been going to the place for years. It was nice of her to ask me to go with her for a quiet weekend. I should think you’d get tired of always seeing me around.”
Mother-“Two Young girls all alone in a hotel…”
Helen- Mother! I’m not a young girl I’m 28. I’m competent and reasonably attractive. But how many men ever invite me to go out. When do I ever have any fun. Well I have a right to this weekend and nobody’s gonna stop me! Not even my moth…”
Her mother begins sobbing. Helen goes to comfort her, “oh mother Please.”
The radio drowns out the rest of their conversation as the camera focuses on the radio itself. There is a lot of attention to detail on technology of communication in Dial 1119. Radios, the news trucks, cameras and the large television set as a repetitive iconography.
Helen sitting at the bar with Earl before Wyckoff takes over- The slimy lecherous Earl is talking paternally to Helen as if she needs him to educate her about life. Chuckles looks on at Earl acknowledging what we know –that Earl is a slime ball.
Earl-“A little drier next time, that means not so sweet.”
Helen “This is fine for me just now.”
Earl “That’s a smart girl it’s better to coast right now, that’s right. For me Chuckles you haven’t got Bersitis Bend it this time.”
Earl is a sickening and Infuriating character. He leans in closer to study Helen trying to compliment her.
Earl guesses Helen’s age, “23, did I hit it right?”
Helen who we heard telling her mother she’s 28. She’s a bit insecure and unsure of going away with this man. But it seems she doesn’t feel like she’ll get that many opportunities. “Well most people think I’m 25. You see I have a lot of responsibility in my position, and I guess that makes one seem older.”
(No Andrea it was the decision by the wardrobe department for you to wear that damn beret that takes away purposefully tries to tamp down your sex appeal)
Earl “Of course it does. But that’s your manner. Intellect. Self possession. But with your face.”
Fried does a wonderful job of pacing out each frame and building the tension, as the story starts to devolve into sheer panic and the clock ticks down the hour deadline.
Marshall Thompson who usually plays fresh-scrubbed baby-faced nice boys, is effectively creepy as the deranged killer Gunther Wyckoff whose face shows no affect. Wyckoff goes in search of the psychiatrist who sent him away, after failing to get him at his office and killing a bus driver with his own gun, he walks into this local bar and holds a group of strangers hostage. Virginia Field as Freddy the neighborhood lush and flirt seems to be the only one who’s having fun with all the excitement. Skip (Keefe Brasselle) who buses the tables there is anxiously awaiting news of his wife giving birth. Gunther Wyckoff is also holding the phone hostage, but poor Skip is awaiting word from the hospital.
Then there’s despicable Earl (Leon Ames) who is a married lech who fills Helen with a lot of sappy garbage that he’s probably got printed on cards for all the women he convinces to go away on sordid weekends with him. The two were planning on running away for a triste that weekend though the hesitant Helen who lives with her mother, is still reluctant to buy into Earl’s phony sweet talk. Earl does this all the time, whenever he can but Helen has never done anything like this before, and now look where it’s gotten her. She should have stayed home with her mother.
And Freddy should have saved her compulsive flirting for the guy who left with the nice big shoulders!
James Bell plays Harrison D. Barnes who has just quit his job as a newspaperman, sick of writing about the ten highest-paid men in the country, the same piece he’s written for ten years and other inane stories goes to the bar to have few drinks. He came into the bar to drown his ennui and misanthropic angst and now he’s in the middle of the biggest story but can’t get to the phone! Finally, when he convinces Wyckoff to let him tell his story, the Editor won’t accept his call, assuming he’s drunk.
And finally in a small part is poor bartender Chuckles (William Conrad) who gets shot right in the bread basket from the get-go, when Wyckoff realizes that Chuckle’s big screen television has plastered his photo all over the local news and though he’s trying to act nonchalant, wiping down the bar nervously, he can tell that Chuckles has figured out who he is, unfortunately for Chuckles, he’s not laughing in the end.
Chuckles (about the tv in his bar) “Fourteen hundred bucks installed, the guy charges me. Push-button picture control, reflected image, three by four-foot screen. What do I get on it? Wrasslers, Crumbs.”
Harrison Barnes-“Don’t belittle wrestlers, Chuckles. They merely illustrate the society in which we live. We’re all wrestlers. Everybody beats each other’s brains out.”
The police seem inept in this taut noir thriller, as they screw up every attempt to sneak up on Wyckoff and wind up getting shot for their troubles. You can’t send in a sharpshooter through the air vent that’s pumping out the A/C and then shut off the airflow so that it’s obvious they’re trying to get a man through said vent. When that little white rag that blows around like a tiny surrender flag that flaps by the unseen air circulating stops flapping… of course Wyckoff and everyone else in the bar notices it right away.
Wyckoff demands to speak to the psychiatrist Sam E. Levene as Dr. Faron, who was responsible for committing him to the hospital 3 years prior. The cop in charge Police Captain Henry Keiver (Richard Rober) refuses to play into Wyckoff’s hands, while Dr. Faron warns that he should let him go inside and reason with him. The tension between Keiver and Faron is as frustrating as the hostage situation inside the bar. Eventually, Faron manages to sneak away and get inside the bar to confront Wyckoff, but that doesn’t go as well as the Doctor had planned.
Outside this second-story neighborhood bar, aside from the police swarming the area, is the media circus that surrounds the streets, waiting to see how it all plays out. The friction between Captain Keiver and Dr. Faron is based on Faron’s assessment of Gunther Wyckoff, and that if he had been sent to prison and given the death penalty, he wouldn’t have been able to walk out of the hospital so easily.
Director Fried frames the story not unlike a stage play, with the ensemble cast doing a wonderful job of creating a feeling of claustrophobic panic. Finally, Faron manages to sneak away and get inside the bar to talk to Wyckoff who blames him for his testimony at his murder trial and ultimately his being committed. Wyckoff also blames the army for training him to be a killer in the first place. But there’s a twist that I won’t give away here. Dial 1119 is well worth the 75 minutes it takes to have a drink and leave that bar behind!