A Movie A Day: Quint on CROSSFIRE (1947) Hate is like a loaded gun.
Published at: July 26, 2008, 12:13 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today marks our final Robert Mitchum flick of this run. So sad, but don’t get all frowny on me… I’m sure he’ll pop up again on this list… and we’ll follow one of his kids in tomorrow’s movie. But today we end our Mitchum marathon with 1947’s CROSSFIRE, directed by Edward Dmytryk, who directed past AMAD noir MURDER, MY SWEET and starring Mitchum, Robert Young and Robert Ryan.
And it stands side by side with OUT OF THE PAST for me in this run.
What a dark little tale and what a great, great role for Robert Ryan, who probably has more films on this list than any other person… no, that’s probably Newman, but that’s because of the huge Box Set, but Ryan’s definitely up there and I couldn’t be happier about it. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors of this period and of the films of his I’ve seen this is probably my favorite of his roles.
He’s essentially a Jew-hating murderer here, but he’s charming and puts on such an innocent face that you almost don’t believe he did it… even when you know he did it!
The main drive of this story is a group of soldiers on leave are involved in the beating murder of a stranger. The police, led by Robert Young, are hunting a young soldier (George Cooper) who was last seen with the dead man. But we come to find out that he was silly drunk and with a group of other people, including Robert Ryan.
Ryan plays innocent in an “Aw shucks, I wish I could help ya’” way and the young solider is MIA, making it look like he’s on the run. Robert Young is looking for the kid because he’s the prime suspect, but he’s not convinced by Ryan’s act, especially when the kid is being vouched for by Robert Mitchum’s Sgt. Peter Keely.
Pretty much the rest of the flick plays as the good guys try to clear the young guy’s name (they start by finding him and trying to find his alibi, a beautiful blonde he semi-picked up) and Ryan tries to erase all trace of his guilt.
The flick deals with hate head on, especially anti-semitism. Young has a great speech where he’s figuring out the motive of Ryan if he is indeed the guilty party. Afterall, what would drive a man to murder another man with his bare hands if there is no money or women involved? Just pure hate. It’s a strong message today and you can tell it must have been shocking back then. In fact, I believe the original novel had the murdered man being a homosexual and that was too much for the time period, so the studio bosses forced them to change the man to Jewish, keeping the motive the same.
Final Thoughts: Robert Ryan steals this film. He’s a villain, but he’s not one note and seeing the play act he puts on to get the cops off his trail is worth popping this movie in by itself. Thankfully the rest of the movie is worth watching, too. Especially look out for a great minor performance from Gloria Grahame as Ginnie, the blonde bombshell/possible alibi. She has a confrontation with the young soldier’s wife that earned her a supporting actress nom. Really fun movie and a complete showcase for how awesome Robert Ryan was.