A bookie wants to go legit by opening a new club in San Francisco. But the protection racket starts shaking him down, and his best friend is killed.
George Raft is the bookie, Dan Gannin, his sister Elaine (Gale Robbins) is the club’s singer. Dan’s buddy Hal is played by Harry Morgan (who doesn’t make it too far). William Bendix, also Dan’s friend, is police Lieutenant Barney Runson (William Bendix). Barney’s who’s out to get Hal’s killer–if Dan doesn’t get to him first. Robbie (Marilyn Maxwell) shows up as Dan’s girlfriend; but she and Dan are haunted by her husband Phil (Frank Faylen).
Did I forget how wooden George Raft is? Not to mention how cartoonish Harry Morgan can be. Morgan telling a sentimental story is like a ventriloquist’s dummy channeling Orville Reddenbacher. Thankfully, there’s Bendix to fill things out.
Well, Dan and Barney don’t “see eye to eye” but rather “heart to heart.” That is, they’re childhood friends, but distinctly on opposite sides of the law. Dan’s set out to go to the track with Robbie. “You don’t know much about me, Dan “That’s for sure, as we’ll see.
Barney’s at the track too, but it’s not “a social call.” Barney indeed fills him in on the protection rackets in town. But Dan lets on he’s got a new girl, Robbie, and he’s in a new line of work. In any case, now it’s Hal who checks in–sure enough he’s already been muscled by the racket. His subsequent rub-out by the goons ends in a nicely-crafted noir view at the foot of an outdoor stairway.
At the Turf Club, Elaine is pretty smooth–maybe unnaturally so–weird that she seems to float around the room. The protection boys are suitably smarmy. They object, naturally, to the club’s having Barney for a patron. Anyway, they come calling for Dan; “Now I know who killed Towers” he figures. Says the big boy bad guy: “We’ll do business together; one way or another.”
Another good sharp shadowy scene on the way up to Dan’s place–then they rough him up. “Sleep tight” one goon tells crumpled heap Dan. Funny. Barney goes to check in on him at the hospital. Now a truly cool line: hospital staff: “Can I help you?” Barney: “this isn’t the kind of place where you wanna help yourself.” But Dan won’t talk square with his cop buddy. Barney at least gets him out.
Barney goes to see Robbie to fill her in about Dan. He tries to get her to finger Dan’s muggers. Maybe his approach will work. Other bookies rally to Dan’s side, as they won’t cave in to the syndicate unless he does. Barney’s pretty much chaperoning him by now; at the Cliff House, Dan tries to settle down Elaine, and reassure his buddies. It seems that the bookies who’ve caved in won’t rat out the goons.
Dan won’t give in to violent retaliation. But, he realizes, without Barney “the only place you’ll end up is in the morgue.” At an out-of-the-way club, Barney takes Dan backstage. Sure enough, the old guy there is a local historian–they hover around flinty scrapbooks and discover that Robbie in fact is not widowed. Her husband Phil is rolling around somewhere shady, no doubt, and very near. So, the plot thickens for the good guys.
Barney tries to pry Phil’s whereabouts from Robbie, but, sobbing, she claims not to know. Dan’s picks up on fact that she’s put on an act for Barney; she does spills the beans to Dan. She promises to split the City with him. But, not so fast, two-timer; Dan intercepts Robbie’s call to her husband, she’s more than eager to give her boyfriend up.
Barney ain’t dumb either. He not only figures out the score, he tells Dan to butt out. But Phil is one step ahead, dropping goons and turncoats on both of them. “You can buy any of these lice” simmers Barney. Dickson shows up to seal the deal; but Barney starts a scuffle. The hoods are laid out. Dan’s shot.
Barney calls it in. Will Dan survive? No. Whatever–I’m glad Morgan didn’t make the second half of this, and I’m done with Raft too. Bendix could’ve played all three roles. He’s good as a bad guy or a good guy, he doesn’t take himself so painfully serious as the other two jokers here, and is therefore all the more interesting to watch.
I can’t figure out Robbie’s character either. An impossible role for Marilyn Maxwell, as she’s out to get Dan from the beginning, and really never has chemistry with him. That would make sense, given that she’s supposed to betray him; but what’s the attraction for Dan in the first place? Plus it’s too coincidental that his sister just happens to know Robbie, who’s undoubtedly the most dangerous woman in town for Dan to get with.
The plot was more lively than the characters–that’s unusual. I admit to not favoring either Morgan or Raft; but I’ve seen them both give better performances. Except for the few scenes noted, there’s not much atmosphere here either.
Quite a lot of cool ’40s cars, of course, not to mention the already ancient cable cars, so Farmermouse will hop in the back seat of Dan’s Cadillac convertible for a snooze-fest. Six Coit Towers for Race Street. 6/10.