TCM Pick for January: Film noir
Hold everything! Stop the presses! With barely one day to spare, just under the wire, I present to you my TCM film noir pick for January – Armored Car Robbery! Directed by Richard Fleischer, this fast-paced feature has a great cast, plenty of action, memorable dialogue, and one of my favorite noir endings. It airs on TCM on Tuesday, January 29th – you’ll want to see this one, trust me. Would I steer you wrong?
Like two of my other noir favorites, The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing, Armored Car Robbery tells the story of an intricately designed heist that goes terribly, terribly wrong.
Benny: Don’t move – any of you. I’m gonna get me a doc. Don’t try to stop me, Dave. Hand over my share of the dough. Hand it over.
Dave: You’re makin’ a bonehead play, Benny. They’ll pick you up sure. You’ll get us all in a jam.
Benny: I’m in a jam now. I’m dyin’.
I like the scene that introduces us to three of the film’s key characters — the mastermind of the robbery, Dave Purvis (William Talman), his partner in crime, Benny McBride (Douglas Fowley), and “burlesque queen” (I’d have just called her a stripper) Yvonne LeDoux (Adele Jergens) – Dave’s girlfriend . . . and Benny’s wife. The best part of the scene is the exchange between Benny and Yvonne. Benny has just watched one of his wife’s performances and catches up to her in a lounge after the show. We’ve already learned that Yvonne has left Benny, a fact that she makes perfectly clear when she reluctantly joins him in a booth: “I told you it’s no use, Benny – talk’s no good.” And her contempt for her estranged spouse is evident when he asks her what she would say if he hit the jackpot. “I wouldn’t know what to say,” Yvonne quips, “it’d be such a shock.” And seconds later, when Benny tries to restrain her, reminding her that they are still married, Yvonne coolly extricates herself from his grip and replies, “As if I could forget.”
William Talman was perhaps best known for playing the ever-unsuccessful DA, Hamilton Burger, in the long-running Perry Mason television series. A three-pack-a-day smoker, Talman was diagnosed at the age of 53 with lung cancer. Six weeks before his death later that year, Talman filmed a 60-second spot for the American Cancer Society, in which he urged viewers to stop smoking. “Before I die,” Talman said, “I want to do what I can to leave a world free of cancer for my children.”
Steve Brodie played one of the four men who carried out the robbery. Born John Stephens in Eldorado, Kansas, the actor changed his name when he was a fledgling thespian, adopting the moniker of the real-life New York saloon keeper who claimed to have survived an 1886 leap from the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River (leading to the catchphrase, “pulling a brodie”).
The film has something else in common with The Narrow Margin – the screenplays for both pictures were penned by Earl Felton.
During her career, Adele Jergens was alternately labeled as “The Champagne Blonde,” “The Eyeful,” and “The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs.” She was married for more than 40 years to actor Glenn Langan – the couple met while filming Treasure of Monte Cristo (1949). Langan is perhaps best remembered for his portrayal of the title role in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957).
Watch for this goof: In a scene near the end of the film, when Don McGuire’s character, Danny Ryan, is questioning Yvonne LeDoux about Dave’s whereabouts. When she gives him a series of evasive answers, he grabs her wrist and slams her hand onto the counter – she’s holding a cigarette in that hand. The camera then cuts to Dave Purvis, who calmly ducks into a phone booth. About 10 seconds later, when we return to Ryan and Yvonne and see him release his grip, Yvonne’s cigarette is practically a butt.