The Narrow Margin (1952) Directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charles McGraw as the sandy graveled voice Detective Sgt. Walter Brown who’s reluctantly been chosen to escort a mob widow to the grand jury hearing in Los Angeles by train.
In the process of picking up Mrs.Frankie Neal, in Chicago, Walter’s partner is shot and killed in the darkly lit stairwell by a mysterious assassin played by Peter Virgo as the ruthless Densel, who wears a fur trimmed coat. This only causes Walter to further resent the woman he’s been charged to protect, and see to it that she makes it to the trial to testify against the mob.
This noir film has a lot of familiar elements, gangster noir, the train ride, detective drama as the die hard cop fends off the criminal elements that surround them, and the wrong man/woman theme. The mobsters, Vincent Yost, Densel and Joseph Kemp want to get hold of a valuable list of names that Frankie’s widow will bring to trial.Yost tries to bribe Det. Brown, but he’s an honest cop who can’t be taken in.
Ann gets caught in the cross hairs of the intrigue when the gangsters mistakenly take Ann for Frankie’s widow. The majority of the film takes place on the train heading for Los Angeles. Don Beddoe plays Det. Sgt. Gus Forbes, “the fat man” who keeps getting in the way of Detective Walter Brown. He repeats the adage ” Nobody likes a fat man” as he lumbers his way through the narrow passage ways of the train en route to L.A.
Frankie’s widow is an obnoxious loud mouthed dame, who doesn’t want to play by the rules and blasts her record player even after Walter warns her to hide out in the train compartment that the thugs think is empty. Marie Windsor reminds me a bit of the wonderfully quirky Ileana Douglas (Goodfellas, Six Feet Under, Cape Fear 1991). Douglas is the granddaughter of the great actor Melvyn Douglas.
Walter: Sister I’ve known some pretty hard cases in my time, you make em all look like putty. You’re not talkin’ about a sack of gum drops gonna get smashed. You’re talkin’ about a dame’s life.You make think it’s funny for a woman with a kid to stop a bullet for ya, but I’m not laughing.
Frankie’s widow: Really well I don’t care, she got twins, you talk like you’d rather I got the bullet who’s side are you on anyhow?
Walter: Listen Jingle Jaw nothin’s happened to you yet has it?
Frankie’s widow: No, well it better not.
Walter: Well then shut up!