Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Glass Key - 1942 film review

The Glass Key is a well-regarded film from 1942, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, first published in 1931 (it appeared in serial form the previous year). The screenplay was written by Jonathan Latimer, himself a crime novelist of distinction, Latimer's later film scripts included the masterly The Big Clock, based on Kenneth Fearing's equally fine novel, and Night Has a Thousand Eyes, based on a characteristically compelling Cornell Woolrich story.

The central character is Ed Beaumont, played by Alan Ladd. He's the right hand man of Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy), a rascally political fixer who throws his weight behind the election campaign of Ralph Henry after falling for Henry's daughter (Veronica Lake). She, however, is more interested in Beaumont, who does the decent thing and rebuffs her advances.

When Beaumont finds the body of Henry's son, who has been playing around with Madvig's sister, Madvig is the prime suspect. Madvig has earned the enmity of a local gang boss, who has Beaumont badly beaten up, but although Madvig behaves ungratefully, Beaumont continues to show considerably loyalty. Commendable as this is, I could have done with more insight into the reasons for Beaumont's devotion, given that he's not a closet gay character.

The plot continues to thicken, and the film is watchable from start to finish. Beaumont isn't a private eye, but he plays the detective and solves the mystery to everyone's satisfaction. He even gets the girl. I find it rather sad to reflect that both Ladd and Lake, two charismatic actors, died relatively young. This is a good film which deserves its reputation,,although the book is even better, and so are The Big Clock and, arguably, Night Has a Thousand Eyes. To say nothing of The Maltese Falcon.



Anonymous said...

The Glass Key - book rather than film, I think - is the basis for Miller's Crossing, another fine film.

Deb said...

Years ago, I read something that makes it almost impossible for me to watch an Alan Ladd movie without being distracted. Apparently Ladd was quite short for a leading man and do producers would find ways to make him appear taller or not draw attention to height mismatches (he's sitting, everyone else is standing; he's in the foreground, everyone else is in the background; etc.). Unfortunately, since a read that, it's hard for me to get lost in an Alan Ladd film because I'm always looking for the production "tricks" that were used to keep from showing how short he was. It wasn't until Dustin Hiffman became a star that you saw a leading man presented as being shorter than his leading ladies.

Martin Edwards said...

Anon, I haven't seen Miller's Crossing, but I've heard good things about it, and your comment reminds me to watch it when I next get the chance. Thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

Deb, you are quite right, and oddly enough the question of his height came to me whilst I watched this film. Mind you, unlike Randy Newman, I'm a great believer in the merits of shortness, so I'm glad he was presented as a gutsy heroic figure!

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

mILLER'S CROSSING is most definitely an uncredited adaptation - great movie, great book. You can, incidentally, see the first film version of GLASS KEY online - it stars George Raft, who is probably slightly better casting than Ladd as Ned (Ed).

Martin Edwards said...

Helpful comment as always, Sergio, thanks. I haven't seen Millers Crossing, so will zoom it up my to-watch list. And cheers for that online tip about the Raft version.