Day 13 of Noirvember: From Page to Screen
Released in 1949 by 20th Century Fox, House of Strangers stars Edward G. Robinson as Gino Monetti, the patriarch of an Italian family and a bank owner known for his questionable practices. The film was based on I’ll Never Go There Anymore (1941), the third novel by Jerome Weidman (who was best known for his debut effort, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, which was made into a 1951 film starring Susan Hayward).
The fictional character of Max Maggio in Weidner’s book was based on a real-life Italian immigrant, A.P. Giannini, who founded a bank in order to “give the little guy a bank that will do business with him.” He built his business by reaching out to poor immigrants, and sometimes even went door-to-door to explain the services offered by the bank. In spite of scandals over the years, Giannini’s bank eventually became what is today the Bank of America.
In House of Strangers, Gino is the father of four boys, all of whom work in the bank for meager salaries, but he reserves his favor for only one – Max (played by the always superb Richard Conte). When Gino is arrested for violating banking rules, Max tries to bribe a juror, but he is betrayed by his older brother (Luther Adler) and is sent to prison for seven years. And when he gets out…well, you can just imagine he’s not a happy camper.
House of Strangers, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and co-starring Susan Hayward, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and Debra Paget, is available on DVD – if you’ve never seen it, see it. And if you’re not convinced, check out this trailer:
And join me tomorrow for Day 14 of Noirvember!