A Dangerous Profession, 1949. 8/10

Admittedly, I’m a film noir-fiend, but I don’t see any noticeable flaws with A Dangerous Profession. George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Jim Backus, and Ella Raines all give good performances, the pacing moves along nicely, the atmosphere and dialogue fit well. It all adds up. The plot has some stretches, but it makes sense. The best aspect here is the conflicted characters.

Vince (Raft) isn’t entirely on the level; he starts off in a craps game, he pursues a married woman, and gets the police (Backus’s Lt. Ferrone) wondering what he’s up to. His partner, Joe (Pat O’Brien) plays a double game on Vince, and his long-lost girlfriend Lucy (Raines) turns hot and cold on him. This seems just right for the ambiguous noir world; nothing’s as it seems, no one’s completely trustworthy.

It does seem kind of nutty that Vince would go out on such a limb for Lucy’s husband Claude (Bill Williams). His disappearance and murder makes Vince seem both a dupe and an opportunist. Still, he has enough vested in Lucy that he feels obligated to help her. That makes Elaine’s (Betty Underwood’s) role seem superfluous; but, the fact that he’s initially quite attracted to her shows that he’ll literally drop everything for Lucy.

Vince is in continuous danger after the murder, but he never burns his bridges–he doesn’t give up on Lucy, Joe, or Ferrone–and, as it turns out, he needs all of them. The only consistently bad guy, Roy Collins/Max Gibney (Robert Gist), apparently is evil enough for two identities. Even he seems more slick and sneaky than a conventionally sadistic hit man; still, he’s killed two people. It’s interesting that Claude’s murder unintentionally makes the happiest outcome a possibility. Given that, in Lucy’s eyes, Claude can’t hold a candle to Vince. it’s plausible they could end up together down the road anyway.

It might’ve been better had Claude been more of a rival to Vince, but, although Lucy admits she still loves Vince, she hardly throws herself at him. Similarly, Elaine more or less disappears after Lucy shows up. I could see a version in which Claude is more of a husband to Lucy, and Elaine is more of a girlfriend to Vince. I think the chemistry with Vince and Lucy works fine, and the lack of it between Claude and Lucy is convincing enough to make these relationships credible. The detail with the flower bringing back the memory of Lucy, as well as placing her back in Vince’s world, is an elegant device.

The denouement fight scene on the canyon roadside is well-handled. It brings all the (remaining) principle characters together, and literally sorts out the plot. A Dangerous Profession is definitely worth watching as a noir piece with a bit more depth than many others of its kind. 8/10.

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