Noirvember Day 18 – YouTube Noir: Shakedown (1950)

— Nobody likes this dude.

One of my favorite underrated noirs is Shakedown (1950), starring Howard Duff, Brian Donlevy, and Lawrence Tierney. Until recently, I’d only seen it a few times, because the copy I owned on VHS was beyond lousy and barely watchable. But all that has changed! Shakedown, I discovered the other day, is on YouTube! And you simply must see it.

Duff plays Jack Early, an opportunistic newspaper photographer described by a reviewer as “one of the season’s most thorough-going heels,” whose engages in such unprincipled acts as instructing an accident victim to stick his head and arms out of the window of a sinking car so that he can take a picture. (“I have a way of just happening to pass by at important moments and taking pictures,” Early later explains.) There’s nothing Early won’t do to get ahead, including using and misusing a kind-hearted fellow newspaper employee (Peggy Dow), and getting far too involved with a couple of mobsters, Nick Palmer (Donlevy) and his nemesis Harry Coulton (Tierney).

— He’s not a nice guy.

Early has a handsome face and a charming manner, but he’s a walking cad in gentleman’s clothing. His boss at the newspaper, David Glover (Bruce Bennett), has his number from the jump – his grudging appreciation for Early’s attention-grabbing photos is quickly surpassed by his disdain for the man’s techniques. And Glover doesn’t bite his tongue when it comes to telling Early just how he feels. In my favorite exchange, Glover informs early that his latest photograph has landed him a new contract – he’s no longer in the “snake pit” and will only be given special assignments going forward. Early flashes a smarmy smile and muses, “Mother told me there’d be moments like this.” And that’s when Glover lets him have it, right between the eyes: “Don’t kid me, Early. You never had a mother. You were put together in some machine shop,” Glover says. “You can think, but you can’t feel. You’re stepping all over people and climbing all over them to get to the top. You’re no good. You’re no good at all.”

Do yourself a favor and tune into YouTube to catch this gem. It’s got a great story, memorable performances, painterly cinematography, and – oh, the lines! I’ll leave you with two of my favorites, both delivered by Jack Early (of course):

“Matrimony is a state I don’t recognize. It’s not love – it’s pots and pans and a conversational fistfight every Saturday night, with a paycheck as the purse.”

“Decency and integrity are fancy words . . . but they never kept anybody well fed. And I’ve got quite an appetite.”

Join me tomorrow for Day 19 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 18, 2022.

7 Responses to “Noirvember Day 18 – YouTube Noir: Shakedown (1950)”

  1. “Matrimony is a state I don’t recognize. It’s not love – it’s pots and pans and a conversational fistfight every Saturday night, with a paycheck as the purse.”

    Wowza! I can practically feel the linoleum of that proverbial kitchen under my feet!!!

    One of my favorite things about Noirvember is getting the skinny on lesser-known pictures like this one — it sounds like a gritty little gem!

  2. Thanks for telling us it’s on Youtube. I’ve had my eye on this movie for a long time, but all the online copies I found were bad. I’ll watch it on the weekend.

    • You can’t imagine how excited I was to see it, Margot. I’d actually had the BluRay on my Christmas list until I saw it on YouTube. I’ve been talking about this movie for years — I didn’t think it would ever be available!

  3. Thanks for the recommendation. I watched this today. Wow! Howard Duff is a heel’s heel, right up there with Kirk Douglas in Ace In The Hole.

  4. YouTube is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

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