YouTube Noir — Noirvember Day 21: 99 River Street (1953)

For my money, John Payne is one of the most underrated stars of the film noir era.

Like his fellow noir vet Dick Powell, Payne’s earlier career consisted of a number of comedies and musicals – lightweight vehicles that seemed a perfect fit for his good looks and breezy air. But in the late 1940s, Payne stepped into the shadows, starring in a number of noir features that showed he was made for the darker side of the screen. Today’s recommendation, 99 River Street (1953), is one of his best.


Did I mention that Evelyn Keyes co-stars?

Payne stars as Ernie Driscoll, an ex-prizefighter-turned-cab driver, whose frustrated wife, Pauline (Peggie Castle), won’t let him forget about his failure in the ring. When Pauline winds up dead, with her body found in the back seat of Ernie’s cab, Ernie works against time to find the killer before the cops nab him for the crime.


Director Phil Karlson directed Payne in two other noirs, Kansas City Confidential (1952) and Hell’s Island (1955). He also helmed several other noirs, including Scandal Sheet (1952), one of my YouTube recommendations from earlier this month, and The Brothers Rico (1957), which may show up as one of my picks before Noirvember 2020 comes to an end.

I love this shot.

 The film did well at the box office, but it wasn’t appreciated by critics, including the New York Times reviewer, who dismissed it as “one of those tasteless melodramas people with unpleasant hoods, two-timing blondes, and lots of sequences of what purports to be everyday life in the underworld.” Sounds like a perfect noir to me.


Join me for my next YouTube recommendation on Day 22 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 21, 2020.

6 Responses to “YouTube Noir — Noirvember Day 21: 99 River Street (1953)”

  1. Love this film especially that scene where Evelyn cons John.

  2. Evelyn Keyes as Linda is disturbing! The scene in the theater is evil, and she is a real femme fatale when she attempts to seduce the bad guy in the café. She is creepily seductive, despite a poodle cut, overdrawn lips, a turtleneck, and a bullet bra. I don’t know much about her, but now I’ve ordered her memoirs.

    • I agree that Keyes is creepily seductive — what a perfect description. She wrote two separate memoirs — I read the first one, Scarlett O’Hara’s Younger Sister. It was something else!

  3. “Tasteless melodrama” the critic said. If he could see my side eye!

    One of my kid sisters used to say, when I would recommend a movie, “It isn’t one of the noir things you like, is it?” I am happy to report she’s better now.

    As Vienna said, Keyes is all in this movie.

    PS: Are you telling me The Brothers Ricco is on YouTube? I haven’t seen it in a while. All hail King Conte.

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