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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: It’s a Hardboiled May on TCM

Monday, May 11th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

EdwardRobinsonSo, Edward G. Robinson is the May Star of the Month on TCM. Every Thursday there is a batch of Robinson movies, as well as some other movies featuring hardboiled stars, like Humphrey Bogart. Things kicked off May 7th with eight Robinson flicks, including two excellent Bogie movies, Key Largo, and Bullets or Ballots. But the past is prologue.

Let’s take a look at some of the films coming up this month, all EST. A note: any movie shown on TCM, which they don’t sell the DVD for, can be viewed on WatchTCM for a week after it airs. So, for example, Bullets or Ballots can be seen right now, but Key Largo can’t.

May 14th

8:15 AM – All Through the Night

This is one of my Top Ten Bogart films – might even be Top Five. Bogart is Gloves Donahue, a NYC gangster. It opened up in January of 1942, in the early stages of the war. Hollywood was shifting from making gangster movies to war films, and this is both! Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser in Casablanca) leads a Nazi spy ring that runs afoul of Bogart’s gang. It’s a comedy-gangster-spy movie, and I think it’s a great watch. There’s a superb supporting cast, including Peter Lorre, William Demarest, Frank McHugh, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, and Barton MacLane! I highly recommend this one.

In Casablanca, when Rick is advising Major Strasser about invading certain parts of New York, that’s an in-joke back to this movie.

4:15 PM – The Return of Doctor X

This is a bad, science fiction/horror movie. It’s a little campy; but mostly just bad. I’ll let Bogie tell you himself how bad it was:

“This is one of those pictures that made me march in to (Warner Brothers boss Jack L. Warner) and ask for more money again. You can’t believe what this one was like. I had a part that somebody like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff should have played. I was this doctor, brought back to life, and the only thing that nourished this poor bastard was blood. If it’d been Jack Warner’s or Harry (Warner’s) blood, I wouldn’t have minded as much. The trouble was, they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie.”

That’s from an essay I wrote about it here at Black Gate. Watch the movie, read my essay. You’ll thank me later.

9:45 PM – A Slight Case of Murder

I’m not crazy about Robinson’s gangster comedies, of which this is one. A gangster goes straight. Much hilarity ensues. Sort of. It does have the always reliable Alan Jenkins, who appeared in lots of Warners crime films.

11:30 PM – Larceny, Inc.

Another Robinson gangster comedy. I like this one a bit better than the movie above. He and his gang try to use a luggage store as a front for a bank robbery, but the store business is good. I’d give this a watch and see if you like it. The same for A Slight Case of Murder. They might work better for you than they did for me.

1:15 AM (Fri) – The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

Bogart played the crook going up against the star Robinson in 1936’s Bullets or Ballots; they squared off again in 1937’s Kid Galahad; and yet again in this film from 1938. It’s got a very hokey premise, and I don’t think it’s one of Bogart’s better gangster parts. I’ll watch any Bogie flick at least once, and if it’s a gangster flick with Robinson as well, sure thing. But this isn’t a very memorable film.

BrotherOrchid_Bogart_Robinson3:00 AM (Fri) – Brother Orchid

Robinson and Bogart didn’t make a movie together in 1939 (kudos to Robinson for avoiding The Return of Doctor X), but they were back at again in this 1940 film. It’s not a comedy, but it’s rather silly. Bogart would hit a roll after this, with They Drive By Night, High Sierra, the not-so-good The Wagons Roll at Night, and then The Maltese Falcon. And All Through the Night after that. Brother Orchid is worth watching for the stars, but it’s not one of Bogart’s better gangster movies.

May 21st

6:00 PM – The Lady in the Lake

The famous Marlowe adaption in which the entire film is shot from a first person point of view. We only see Robert Montgomery in reflection. It’s quite jarring to me, and not a favorite.

8:00 PM – Kid Galahad

Yes, before Elvis made this a musical, it was a straight gangster film with Robinson and Bogart as competing fight promoters. Bette Davis and Wayne Morris (last seen in The Return of Doctor X…) costar. It’s very different than watching the Elvis version. Not a bad crime boxing movie.

10:00 PM – Smart Money

This 1931 film sees the only pairing of Warner gangster stars Robinson and James Cagney. Cagney has a much smaller part, and Boris Karloff makes an appearance as well. Typical gangster flick.

11-30 PM – Double Indemnity

Quite simply, a classic. Robinson, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are terrific. Based on the novel by James M. Cain, this is regarded as one of the all time great noirs, and for good reason. George Raft turned down the lead in this one. He made a lot of poor casting choices.

If you’re a Robinson fan, there are several other films of his you might want to check out, including Soylent Green. It’s quite a slate of EGR movies for this date.

May 23rd

It’s all war-related movies on this Saturday. And two are worth watching for the hardboiled/noir fan:

8:00 EST – Casablanca

To me, simply the greatest movie of all time. I’ve probably seen it over two dozen times, and the last couple TCM showings, I’ve run a one-man commentary on FB throughout the film. I’m a veritable Cliff Claven on Casablanca.

Powell_Cornered12:00 AM – Cornered

Dick Powell, formerly a song and dance man, made four of his five films in the mid forties, hardboiled/noir efforts. And they’re pretty good. This is the second one, following up on his surprisingly excellent performance in Murder My Sweet. He’s a Canadian pilot who, after the war ends, hunts down those who killed some Resistance fighters, including his wife. It’s a Nazi hunt and a pretty good suspense film.

This is part of Eddie Muller’s Noir Alley series, which airs Saturdays at midnight, with a repeat showing on Sunday morning. There’s always some good info related to the selection, so make sure you watch Eddie’s segments. Eddie wrote one of my favorite ‘modern’ hardboiled novels, The Distance.

May 31st

10:00 PM – The Woman in the Window

A Fritz Lang melodrama that’s definitely worth seeing once. Robinson gives a solid performance, and is nothing like his gangster characters.

Robinson_ScarletStreet211:45 PM – Scarlet Street

I get the impression this Fritz Lang film isn’t for everyone, but the casting of Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, was spot on. They each excel in their roles – they had appeared together in The Woman in the Window, as well. This is a good movie, but I find it so depressing I don’t rewatch it. Very much a noir.

1:45 AM (Fri) Five Star Final

A newspaper film, not a mystery, but Deadline USA is one of my Bogie favorites, so I’m including this one. It’s okay, but Robinson as an unscrupulous newspaper editor shines, and Boris Karloff impresses as one of his reporters. Worth watching to see this pair act.

7:00 AM (Fri) The Cincinnati Kid

I’m not crazy about the whole movie, which is about a poker player in 1930’s New Orleans, but the cast is beyond deep: Steve McQueen, Robinson, Ann Margaret, Karl Malden, Tuesday Weld, Joan Blondell, Rip Torn – even Cab Calloway. There’s a lot of good acting in this, which makes it something you should check out.

There’s an awful lot of movies for the fan of the hardboiled/crime/noir genres thanks to TCM making Edward G. Robinson the Star of the Month.

Prior posts in A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2019 Series

Back Deck Pulp Returns
A (Black) Gat in the Hand Returns
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Will Murray on Doc Savage
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Hugh B. Cave’s Peter Kane
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Paul Bishop on Lance Spearman
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: A Man Called Spade
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Hard Boiled Holmes
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Duane Spurlock on T.T. Flynn
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Andrew Salmon on Montreal Noir
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Frank Schildiner on The Bad Guys of Pulp
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Steve Scott on John D. MacDonald’s ‘Park Falkner’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: William Patrick Murray on The Spider
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: John D. MacDonald & Mickey Spillane
A (Black Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis goes West(ern)
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Bill Crider on The Brass Cupcake

A (Black) Gat in the Hand – 2018 Series

With a (Black) Gat: George Harmon Coxe
With a (Black) Gat: Raoul Whitfield
With a (Black) Gat: Some Hard Boiled Anthologies
With a (Black) Gat: Frederick Nebel’s Donahue
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Thomas Walsh
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – January, 1935
A (Black) Gat in the hand: Norbert Davis’ Ben Shaley
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: D.L. Champion’s Rex Sackler
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Dime Detective – August, 1939
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #1
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Day Keene
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – October, 1933
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #2
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – Spring, 2017
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Frank Schildiner’s ‘Max Allen Collins & The Hard Boiled Hero’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: William Campbell Gault
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: More Cool & Lam From Hard Case Crime
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: MORE Cool & Lam!!!!
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Thomas Parker’s ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part One)
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part Two)
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: William Patrick Maynard’s ‘The Yellow Peril’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Andrew P Salmon’s ‘Frederick C. Davis’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Rory Gallagher’s ‘Continental Op’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #3
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #4
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #5
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe ‘Cap’ Shaw on Writing
A (Black) Gat in Hand: Back Deck Pulp #6
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: The Black Mask Dinner

 


Bob_Houston_HatCroppedBob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ was a regular Monday morning hardboiled pulp column from May through December, 2018 and again from August through December, 2019. 

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate  from March, 2014 through March, 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!).

He organized ‘Hither Came Conan,’ as well as Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.

He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV,  V, VI and XXI.

15 Comments »

  1. For anyone who loves old movies, the Criterion Channel is a great value. Right now they’re airing a collection of Columbia Noir featuring a lot of little-known gems. Recently there have also been collections of Bette Davis, early Bogart, Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, and Gary Cooper.

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 11, 2020 10:59 am

  2. Thomas – I’ve heard of that, but haven’t checked it out yet. I think Alan Ladd was at Columbia for a lot of his good stuff.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 11, 2020 11:51 am

  3. It’s $100 a year and every month there’s more stuff than you could watch in ten times that. I appreciate the mix of American and foreign, silent, classic era studio, and contemporary. Just the other night I watched something I had always wanted to see, the 1920 German silent, The Golem. It’s cinch I wasn’t going to find that on Netflix!

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 11, 2020 12:00 pm

  4. Wow. TCM sounds great. Netflix – at least, the Irish version – has a dearth of black-and-whites, and only two Edward G. Robinson movies. One is ‘The Woman in the Window’ (which I have yet to see) the other is ‘The Stranger’. Orson Welles is Robinson’s co-star. Robinson is great in it, but Welles is so mannered as to make the film virtually unwatchable.

    Amazon Prime has only one b&w gangster flick* – ‘The Big Combo’ with Cornell Wilde. It isn’t bad, but feels more like a series than a film. In fairness, Amazon Prime also has a lot of old horror movies from the Fifties.

    * this might not be the case in the US or Canada.

    Comment by Aonghus Fallon - May 11, 2020 3:14 pm

  5. Netflix truly is useless when it comes to classic movies. The combo of TCM and Criterion meets all of my needs. Prime is good for total schlock, but it doesn’t come up to the first two for quality.

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 11, 2020 3:33 pm

  6. Aonghus – Good to see you comment again. I only learned about WatchTCM a few weeks ago, but it’s pretty cool.

    It’s a downloadable app, and a website. And any movie that they don’t sell the DVD for, appears on the site within a half day of playing on the station. Often within a few hours.

    So, last week, Key Largo was on TCM, but isn’t on WatchTCM because they sell that one. But Bullets for Ballots, which aired a few hours later, was.

    And it looks like they keep it on for about a week. Maybe a little longer.

    And if your cable company carries TCM, you can log in with your account and watch TCM live on your PC or device.

    Wish I’d known about this years ago.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 11, 2020 4:37 pm

  7. A couple suggestions:

    PLUTO TV is free, and has, among other things, a Classic Movies channel. Right now, it’s showing Bell, Book, and Candle.

    FREE CLASSIC MOVIES takes a little bit of navigating, but it’s got a TON of movies.
    Click CTR-F, type an actor or movie, and use the search feature. You’ll find a lot of obscure ones here. I’m a Joel McCrea western fan, and there are several here.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 11, 2020 5:18 pm

  8. Thanks for all the info, Bob! I really like old b&w movies – specifically old gangster movies, noir etc – and can’t get over how Netflix only has a handful – although, ironically, one of them is ‘Casablanca’. They were pretty much a staple of my childhood, so it’s weird to see them just vanish off the radar.

    Comment by Aonghus Fallon - May 11, 2020 7:12 pm

  9. I youtube some as well. Quality isn’t always the greatest, but at least you can watch them.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 11, 2020 7:21 pm

  10. I’m planning a mini-run of A (Black) Gat in the Hand next month. I’m going to look at 4 or 5 ‘not classic’ hardboiled/noirs.

    I’ve already written essays on ‘Johnny O’Clock’ and ‘Bullets or Ballots.’

    I’d like to do Raft’s Nocturne, but I can’t find it online. Maybe I’ll talk about his tv show, ‘I’m the Law,’ produced by Lou Costello.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 12, 2020 8:54 am

  11. I just saw Johnny O’ Clock a few weeks ago. Dick Powell never disappoints. Have you ever seen Pitfall? Powell, Lisabeth Scott, and Raymond Burr at his very nastiest. It’s a good one!

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 12, 2020 9:57 am

  12. That’s one of my favorite Raymond Burr performances. Lisabeth Scott bugs me though – not crazy about her in Dead Reckoning, either.

    Murder My Sweet, Johnny O’Clock, and Pitfall are all upper tier noirs for me.

    I haven’t seen Cornered, but I’m gonna watch it this month.

    Station West (the movie after Pitfall) is kind of a hardboiled western. Whenever I watch it, Burl Ives’ singing is stuck in my head for days…

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 12, 2020 10:20 am

  13. I know what you mean about Scott. Sometime she works for me and sometimes she doesn’t. I thought she was good in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 12, 2020 11:57 am

  14. On the hardboiled topic, last night I watched the 2007 Marlowe pilot, starring Jason O’Mara.

    It’s contemporary, glossy rather than substantive, and meh. I’ve seen worse PI shows, but as far as Marlowe goes, there’s not too much of it present.

    I don’t mind O’Mara as an actor, but I saw him referred to once as The Show Killer. I think that’s funny.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 12, 2020 12:00 pm

  15. I watched The Whole Town is Talking last night, which was on before A Slight Case of Murder. I didn’t list that one here.

    Hadn’t seen it before, enjoyed it. Robinson played his usual tough guy mobster AND he played a mild mannered account clerk. Seeing them both on screen together, in opposite personas, was cool.

    I also watched The Return of Doctor X again, which is just bad.

    And All Through the Night, which is great.

    I might give The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse another viewing.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - May 15, 2020 3:04 pm


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