I WALK ALONE

I MET SPARTACUS!

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Yep, I actually met Kirk Douglas. My friend Chip Duckett was getting memorabilia autographed for a giant AIDS ball being held in Vienna he helps brings talent to. He invited me along to Barnes & Noble with him for a Kirk Douglas book signing. ( “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning.” ) Chip was going to get some Kirk memorabilia autographed. I wasn’t going to buy the book just go along for the ride. The seriousness of WHO I was actually going to meet struck me when we were taken to the bookstore’s “green room” ~ a storage room of books ~ to actually meet him, thanks to one of Chip’s connections at the store. We were going to meet him before the formal book signing began. Just before the B&N guy knocked on the door, Chip gave me one of his Kirk memorabilia items to have something in my hand. Wha’? The door opened and  there was Kirk Douglas sitting at a table. I knew I was going to see him, but I didnt know I was actually going to MEET him.

He looked old and small. I hung back while Chip introduced himself and chatted with him briefly while he got his memorabilia signed. After Chip was done, he introduced me to Kirk Douglas. Yo, you can be all nonchalant meeting a legend if you want, but I’m telling you straight up…I am a fangirl.

Mr. Douglas started to stand to greet me. The full import of who he was was hitting me dead in the face as he rose up. What the hell happened to that old and small man, because all of a sudden, in those few moments he didn’t seem as old and small as I initially thought. As he was standing up I said “Sir, please sit. You don’t have to stand for me.” And he said “Of course I do. I always stand for ladies.” ( Thats me guys…a lady!! L0L! ) We shook hands and I gave him Chip’s memorabilia, stammered innocuously and then stepped back.

I attended the book~signing ~ ( yeah, I bought the book a little later ) ~ met him again in that book signing factory line sort of way that handlers handle it. He smiled at me with recognition. Don’t worry, I didnt linger. I kept it moving.

* * * * * * *

He was a major star my entire lifetime. When I met him, of course I had seen so many of his films already. When I saw SHADOWS and SATIN was throwing a birthday blogathon for Kirk’s 100th, well, how could I not…

You’re going to see a lot of great films covered in this blogathon. I’m going to look at an early-in-his-career-Kirk Douglas-film, before his teeth were clenched in stone. So far he’d done The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Out of the Past” “Mourning Becomes Electra.” I will cover his fourth film, 1948s I WALK ALONE.”

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With  “I Walk Alone” comes Kirk Douglas’ first of seven screen pairings with fellow newcomer BURT LANCASTER ( this being his fifth movie ). RIght from the beginning, their chemistry was dynamite; I find them to be as evenly matched as any two stars were. ( Well maybe with the exception of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn ). They’re 

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more closely associated with each other ( their pairings also include: “The List of Adrian Messenger” [ 1963 ] and “Victory at Entebbe” [ 1976 ] ) than they are with their leading ladies ( though who can argue Burt with Ava and Deborah Kerr or Kirk with Lana and Kim and Jean Simmons ). If they ever were to really get into a fist fight, I don’t know who’d win…but I do know they’d each give as good as they got.

“I Walk Alone” is the story of a man released from prison after fourteen years, expecting to become half owner of a successful night club he invested in ( before going to the slammer ) with his old rum-running buddy.

He is in for a rude awakening.

i-walk-alone-kirkKIRK DOUGLAS is the old pal, Noll ( nicknamed ‘Dink’ ) and Douglas plays him as far from scared little Walter O’Neill as you or Martha Ivers could get. Noll is mucho suave-aaaay. He can talk his way out of, or smooth over anything. He’ll use the night club’s chanteuse to pump Frankie for info, while continuing to string her along in their romance. He’ll hook up with an ice queen socialite to further his business and social standing. He’s not above blackmailing an old friend. Noll will do or say whatever it takes. He is ambitious. He is a smooth operator.

i-walk-alone-burtQuite the opposite personality is BURT LANCASTER as Frankie Madison. He’s been cooped up for fourteen years. ( “FOURTEEN YEARS!!!!” he says tightly…and with reason ). Oh, he doesn’t look any worse for the wear having been in prison. He’s tall, fills a suit nicely…a big strapping fella. ( I think it should be de rigueuer for Burt Lancaster to wear a t-shirt in every movie from 1946 – 1952! But I digress ). Lancaster’s Frankie, is a man of few words…very defensive, sensitive and coiled as tightly as a snake. Where Noll is cool as a cucumber, Frankie is a hothead. He’s a bit awkward socially, being out of practice for so long. Noll’s Socialite Gal Pal, Alexis Richardson. speaks to him:

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SOCIALITE: “You know, you’re quite an attractive man.”
FRANKIE:    “Keep going.”
SOCIALITE: “How far do you want me to go?”
FRANKIE:    “I’m at the plate. You’re doing the pitching.”

The socialite is played to an Alexis Smith-ish fare-thee-well by actress KRISTINE MILLER. But that interaction ends poorly with her wanting Frankie thrown out of the club:

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“You looked like a man who might have three or four interesting sentences to say. You’ve said them. Goodbye!!”

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Well…he was out of practice.

Frankie’s wined and dined by club chanteuse: Kay Lawrence played by LIZABETH SCOTT, whose been sent by Noll to wine and dine Frankie. Noll tells her:

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“That’s why men take women to dinner. So they’ll have someone to talk about themselves to.”

Kay goes along with it, but gets mangled in Noll’s machinations because of her love for him. And there’s the usual requisite tension between two women competing for the same man. Alexis wants to marry Noll:

“You’re so utterly no good I should marry you.”

…If you call that love.

( ASIDE: Kristine Miller shared screen~time with Lizabeth Scott in “Desert Fury” and “Too Late For Tears” ).

i-walk-alone-kirk-lizabethFrankie realizes the ruse to pump him for information and unjustly lambasts Kay. He trusts no one except the book~ keeper Dave. He lumps Kay in with all the snakes. She finally sees what a user Noll really is when he tells her he’s marrying the Socialite:

“You love me but you’re marrying her?”

[ Oy, #IFIHADADIME! ]

The jig is up for Noll and Kay when Frankie realizes hes been played like a cheap fiddle.

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“The oldest trick in the world. You want to pump a guy, use a woman. And I grabbed.”

I love Lizabeth’s display of pouty anger when she tells off Douglas’ slimy caddish character since she was not in on his scheme.

NOLL:   “You’re in Frankie’s league now.”
KAY:      “I couldn’t ask for better company.”

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She sides with Frankie ( when she finally gets him to trust her again ). Look, I know this romantic coupling is pretty quick and just a plot contrivance. But I say, in the scheme of 40’s films, relationships happen at the speed of a writer’s Underwood.

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I know things like this can make or break one’s enjoyment of a classic film. But I don’t mind the shorthand in these old movies. I know it doesn’t make psychological sense for the script, but it sure gets things moving a lot quicker. I like Lizabeth Scott in this film. Yes, she’s stiff and wooden, down to her walk and her hairstyle. I know the voice they dubbed was wrong for her and her singing stance was all stiff. But a better pal a guy couldn’t have in the 40’s ( depending on the film’s budget ) than Lizabeth Scott. ( Ella Raines is a different vibe…she’s not really The Victim ). So Scott is part of the triumvirate and Im fine with that. Kay and Frankie are now an “item.” She falls for the right wronged man.

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Poor Frankie. It’s like he is stuck in a time warp… when  handshakes were as bonding and binding as a contract. A Promise meant something before he went to prison. Well he’s going to make Noll live up to his promise of fourteen years ago, ( “FOURTEEN YEARS!” ) by using some muscle. He’s going to take what’s his. He speaks to his old pal Nick Palestro to help round up the gang. I thought it was a great casting choice to have MARC LAWRENCE play the gangster Nick Palestro. He was such a staple in 30’s movies when he played “The Gangster.” ( When I see Lawrence in “The Man With the Golden Gun” or Diamonds Are Forever ~ I smile at the nod ).

It’s with Palestro we see that times, they are a-changing; that the old gang just ain’t what it used to be. Nick is a businessman now who owns a car lot. He’ll assemble some new boys, but things are not the same he tells Frankie. When Frankie and the boys meet Noll, Dave is asked to show Frankie “the books.” This was a sad scene to me on a couple of levels…time passing Frankie by, Noll’s lies, the book~keeper’s betrayal. That cut Frankie to the quick. The shame and humiliation Frankie suffers in front of EVERYone was tough to watch. I felt embarassed for him. He’s like a caged animal. The day of the old-time gangster in spats and Tommy gun is gone. The books are cooked and Frankie’s fight is with an amorphous enemy. He rails against The Corporation. Noll leaves him no dignity. It was sad to watch his powerless rage.

mazurski-chokes-walk-aloneCheck out the men who watch him ( especially that wiseass guy ). Think of those soldiers who came back from the war, having difficulty adjusting to Society. Cagney’s film The Roaring Twenties comes to mind. Frankie now wants to settle the score…but it seems he’s the only one living in the past. A relic. And now the ultimate indignity…getting a beatdown, by the one and only: Mike Mazurki.

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Who is this Dave, the book~keeper?  Well its WENDELL COREY. And this is his second movie ~ ( the first being “Desert Fury ). I was never really a big fan of his; his skeletal features and pale blue eyes kind of pushed me away. But…he did have a great speaking voice…and he really could handle Stanwyck in “The Furies.” Hmmm…let me think about this.

Okay!! I’ve settled it in my mind.

I am now totally coming around to Wendell Corey. ( Welcome to CineMaven’s Van Heflin Club, Mr. Corey. Step right up .) Now, maybe not with lust in my heart, ( I’ve got to see him in a t-shirt ) but with some hard core respect for this fine Actor, I’m coming around. With “I Walk Alone” I do think he was the heart and soul of the movie. My heart goes out to him, Corey’s Dave, the bookkeeper…and he’s really caught in the thick of things between these two old friends. Dave was torn between his heartfelt loyalty to Frankie…and the “hooks” Dink had into him: forgery. Corey plays Dave wonderfully. We see a beaten man, heavy with the weight of guilt and resentment. It is weighing him down. Frankie says,

“You’re two years older than me and I’ve been in jail. You look ten years older than me!!”

When the inevitable happens, ( and you’re a movie buff…so you know what will happen), it springs Frankie into action. It takes him OUTSIDE his Self to think about someone else. And goes to action he does. I think this is a testimony to how Wendell Corey plays Dave. ( Kent Smith would’ve played him differently and we might’ve cheered for his demise…but that’s for another thread ). 

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I really like “I Walk Alone.” Kirk Douglas is the son of a bitch you love to hate. Burt Lancaster is the hero you want to root for. And Lizabeth Scott ~ the girl you want to love. When the movie finished it felt like a satisfying meal. The film feels to me like the quintessential nineteen forties movie in style and dress and dialogue. It has all the archetypical characters you could want to have; all the characters that were perhaps already old hat by the late forties: The Big Lug, The Girl, The Smooth Operator, The Strong Arm, The Snot-Nosed Up & Comer, The Bored Socialite, The Erudite Servant/Restauranteur. Is this movie officially a film noir…I’ll leave that to wiser movie buffs to define.

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I think audiences knew they had a tiger by its tail with this intense young actor. Kirk Douglas would prove his star power time after time in film after film. Click on the blogathon’s banner to read accounts of others’ favorite Kirk Douglas films. Not many people live to be one hundred years old. Douglas is one of them. He’s tough and tenacious. I think he will give Father Time a real run for his money. Kirk Douglas is someone still with us, that is a connection to the golden age of Hollywood we love.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You know, after I got my autographed book by Kirk Douglas, I couldn’t wait to go up to my parents house and show them the book. My father is more the movie buff. Maybe this was his reaction when I brought home from school, an ashtray I made of clay in the fourth grade…but I cant quite remember my father ever smiling so broadly and with awe before.

“Whaaaaaaat?!! You met Spartacus???”


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30 thoughts on “I WALK ALONE

  1. So cool u met him. My fave Burt-Kirk combo: seven days in May.
    Re: Spartacus, when gladiator woody strode is
    Chosen by the general’s fiancée to fight Spartacus
    She says: “I want the most beautiful.” This was 1960, years before the phrase ‘black is beautiful’ became popular. (Just a thought)
    Terrific article, Tex.

    Rob

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rob. My 2nd favorite Burt ~ Kirk combo is “Seven Days in May” ( up ‘n down, a great cast ). “I Walk Alone” is my favorite. And I thank you again, Mr. Director, for taking time to read this. 🙂

      “The big Black one.” Yeah…those ladies knew wassup…Wooooodaaaaaaaay! Thanks, man.

      Like

  2. Awesome! I really want to watch this! I’m going to see if I can find it.
    So great that you met Kirk Douglas! Oh by the way, did you ever tell your friend Chip Duckett that he sounds like a Richard Widmark character? 😀
    Great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you do get to check out this film, Carol. Now…if you’ve seen enough classic films, you’ll know how this plays out. But still, it’s fun to watch the pieces hang together, and I’m happy you enjoyed my review. Thanks for stopping by. ( Richard Widmark, ey? L0L! )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great article, Theresa…the old stars, the old movies, the snappy dialog..love them..I just woke up here on the West Coast, and I feel like I need a cocktail, and a cigarette hanging from my lip, you zipped me back to the 40’s so thoroughly! Need to find that movie to see again…and wowee, meeting Kirk Douglas…I’d be gobsmacked. Thanks for a good read….😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • I WAS gobsmacked. It was kinda unreal. Hi there, Jo. What a compliment to my writing you paid that I zipped you back to the 40’s. I love that time period in movies. I hope you find the film. It’s such a good example of a 1940’s film. Thank you for commenting.

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  4. Pingback: Announcing the Kirk Douglas 100th Birthday Blogathon! | shadowsandsatin

  5. Pingback: It’s the Kirk Douglas 100th Birthday Blogathon! | shadowsandsatin

  6. Love your dad’s reaction!

    Stuff that isn’t about Kirk: Have you seen Holiday Affair? Janet Leigh has to choose between Robert Mitchum and Wendell Corey. Easy, right? Corey does not make it easy. Trust me.

    Have you seen Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven? Don’t. My son gets on a kick with this movie and it is all that he will watch. Glorious animation. Story too weird for kids. It’s like a film-noir. It reminds me of I Walk Alone. Partners in gambling joint. One gets sent to the pound. He comes back. Double-crossed. “Girl” is a kid. It’s freaky. Warning, if you haven’t seen it – don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! My father…nothing phases him but this did. You know Paddy, I’ve never seen “Holiday Affair” all the way through. A friend of mine has recently discovered it and loves it. I’ll have to have a sit with that movie now that I appreciate Wendell Corey. I LOVE that you say “Corey does not make it easy. Trust me.” Whoaaa! ( And I am such a shallow girl. )

      Have you seen “I WALK ALONE”?

      You’ve got me convinced…I will not see “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” Well I might a peak. L0L! 🙂

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  7. Here I am a grown man getting goose bumps at your opening stanza of meeting Kirk Douglas. Awesome story and the rest of the article on I Walk Alone a good read. “before his teeth were clenched in stone.”…. love that line. But it still doesn’t compare with the starting portion……:) Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goosebumps. Welllllllllll Mike. I don’t know if it’s a testimony to my writing or a testimony to Kirk Douglas, but I’ll take whatever I can get. You know it’s kinda really something IF one gets a chance to meet someone they’ve only seen on screen and one who is bigger than life. Even though he was elderly, somehow ( and maybe it’s a trick of my own vivid imagination ) the years melt away right before my brain’s eyes. All this man has seen and been involved in. It was overwhelming.

      Thank you for reading. I appreciate that.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love, LOVE the story of your meeting Kirk Douglas, and very pleased to hear his mother raised him properly – to stand when meeting a lady.

    I’ve heard of this film but, for some reason, have never made an effort to see it. Well, that changes today, thanks to your insightful and witty review. (Do you make running commentaries when you watch movies at home? If you do, I bet you’re so much fun!)

    Here’s to the fabulous Mr Douglas on his 100th! *clink*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ruth…I’m glad my review lit a fire under you to find this quintessential 40’s flick. When I’m watching a movie home alone, I’m not saying anything aloud. Just have thoughts to myself. If I’m watching a movie with a friend, I’m trying not to talk too much, so I’m not annoying. But maybe a movie is on and I’m texting a friend…we go at it. You can see read my friend’s and my conversation about “Leave Her to Heaven” where you texted back ‘n forth during the movie.

      I raise my glass as well to Kirk Douglas on his 100th birthday. *Clink!*

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this but I did like it when I did. I know it was distributed by Paramount but this is SUCH a Warner Brothers picture which shows producer Wallis’s heavy hand. Even the preview has all the Warner hallmarks, overlit indoor sets, block titles jumping forward on the screen, lots of noir shadows. You can even easily imagine Warners players in the different roles…John Garfield would have been ideal in Lancaster’s part, Ida Lupino standing in for Lizabeth Scott, Edward G. Robinson or better yet Robert Ryan on loanout from RKO in Douglas’s role.

    That’s not to say the film’s stars aren’t aces, they are, it just bears the heavy imprint of its producer past. It’s funny how some performers kick around for years refining and looking for their niche, as Ida Lupino did, and some within a picture or two arrive seemingly fully formed which is the case with all three leads in this film. Douglas was there already and had been since his previous picture Out of the Past but the studios hadn’t quite figured him out yet and his pix and roles in between this and Champion are more varied, especially his clever role in A Letter to Three Wives, than they would be for years hence. Which was probably to his benefit because in that brief period of time they figured out how to use his menacing intensity mingled with sexiness and rafish charm to make him an antihero rather than a flat out villain where he could have easily gotten stuck. But he just leaps off the screen with star quality and he was fortunate to be cast with Lancaster who’s magnetism also leapt off the screen but somehow their individual personas melded.

    I chuckled at your reference to Lizabeth Scott’s stiffness. So true but she was perfect for these noir films and I’m a big fan. There was a niceness to her but also a coldness and she registered best in her roles as villainess, Too Late for Tears is probably her best. That remoteness got in the way when she was the good girl, she made a film called Paid in Full that I love despite her miscasting as the ridiculously self sacrificing lead (all over Robert Cummings!? Um…really-it’s another flaw) but some pictures are just like that and it has Eve Arden in the cast which is often enough. But she was a very specific talent suited to a narrow setting (she’s one who I’ve seen all her films and in the Westerns she made she sticks out like a sore thumb.)

    Anyway she was canny enough-although there were some outside forces at work-to realize that her type of role was going out of style and that there was room for only one Betty Bacall-who possessed more underlying warmth and was more adaptable so after playing second fiddle to Elvis Presley (and paired again with Wendell Corey) in Loving You she withdrew, apparently happy and very rich.

    That’s very cool that you met Kirk. I wonder if there’s ever been another time when two legendary performers of the magnitude of Douglas and Olivia de Havilland hit the century mark so near each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joel!! ~ I agree with you that Warner Bros.’ imprimatur is liberally slathered on to Paramount. Paramount learned well I think. To think they started off with the frou frou of McDonald and Chevalier…and ended up with the grittiness of some late 1940’s fare. And yes, I’m with you that it might’ve been easy to just make Douglas the villain a la Jack Palance. ( Dude has he EVER done a comedy?!! Though he was good as a dark romantic in “Sudden Fear”…that is until he went batshit crazy trying to kill Crawford. ) I’d re~cast “I Walk Alone” a bit differently with Mitchum playing Lancaster and, as you said, Ryan in the Douglas role. He made a Grand Canyon of difference between films “A Letter to Three Wives” and “Champion.” He can dial it up or tamp it down.

      Awwww Robert Cummings gets such a bad rap as a love interest.

      Stiff or not, Lizabeth Scott’s my girl and yes, she has her place in the pantheon of 40’s femmes fatale.

      Meeting Kirk Douglas was one of the thrills of my life.

      Like

      • I can see Robert Mitchum in the role easily but he was RKO’s boy and I really got a Warners vibe from that preview and the film and Garfield was their biggest purveyor of this type of wronged man. I suggested Robert Ryan even though he was also usually at RKO but he was loaned out more than Mitchum and had that broodingly menacing but sexy thing Kirk Douglas had. If I was going strictly Warners I’d say Zachary Scott would work though he was a bit more weaselly. As you mentioned Alexis Smith would slide right into Kristine Miller’s role without a ripple, though she wouldn’t have been out of place in Lizabeth Scott’s part either. Love her and there’s someone who was wasted by Hollywood.

        Oh I LOVE Lizabeth Scott but she was ideally suited to her period and that type of role and her range didn’t seem to be very broad. I’ve read that off screen she was often a cheery, funny woman but that never translated through the camera. Funny how the camera reads people, aside from Lizabeth I’ve read that Jean Peters in real life had a very sensual vibe but onscreen she seemed like a homey Polly Purebread girl next door.

        It’s not that I dislike Robert Cummings exactly, I thought he was perfect as the everyman in Saboteur, but he was too bland and seemed to be on the oily side to be the kind of man women would either fight over or be obsessed with. He was missing some key element but that was not uncommon in second string Hollywood leading men of the time. They were there to fill their role and not get in the star actress’s way.

        Like

      • I think a lot of times they tamped down Jean Peters’ sultry dark beauty ( like in “Niagara” where she played a housewife to Marilyn’s vamp. ) But I can think of two times off the top of my head where she was a head~turner: “The Captain from Castile” with Tyrone Power:

        And with Richard Widmark in “Pick~Up From South Street.”

        Sorry…but NOT sorry I couldn’t make the above photos a bit smaller. 🙂

        Like

    • I was over the moon meeting Kirk Douglas even briefly. I hope you check out “I WALK ALONE.” Listen, it ain’t Shakespeare. But it’s sooooooooo what a 1940’s movie should be. Thanks for reading and stopping by, Paula.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great story! I’d also be starstruck and later fangirl if I met such a big star. You were a lucky lady!
    As for I Walk Alone, I have yet to watch it, but by your review I know I’ll like the movie.
    Kisses!
    Le

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really hope you get to find “I WALK ALONE” Le. It’s a good one. But hey…you picked one of my favorite Stanwyck films for YOUR choice for this blogathon. I’ve seen and enjoyed The Strange Love of Martha Ivers countless times. Check out Lê’s review folks. ( But don’t forget to translate it to English. ) Thanks, kiddo. Meeting Kirk Douglas was a thrill!

      Like

  11. This movie is somewhat forgotten and very much overlooked and I thank you for the careful and caring attention you’ve bestowed. I chanced upon this film many years ago during one afternoon’s TV viewing and it instantly became and remains one of my favorite 1940’s movies. I’m not sure if it is a true film noir but it certainly has elements of noir as well as that of melodrama and thriller. Wooden though she may be Scott is a bombshell and I find her extremely titillating. Her voice and line just ‘send me’; she is stunning! Mazurkey is his usual reliable powerful figure (6’5″ of solid muscle) and does not disappoint here practically manhandling and dominating the physicality and prowess of Lancaster which is no mean feat to be sure. Corey is heartfelt and restrained and one cannot help but feel for him and wish him a better fate. Douglas is slick and guile oozes from him but as with Von Stroheim before him and James Coburn after him (and during) you just love to hate him! Burt Lancaster. He is gorgeous in his masculinity. Seething in his anger and intensity unlike any other including (for me) Douglas, Gable and James Stewart whose anger can be literally explosive! Yet he is smart and cunning here once he cools down and gets not only the better of the cold, calculating Douglas but the girl as well in Lizbeth Scott. This movie never fails to entertain and to satisfy me and I suspect never will.

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    • Marvin I couldn’t have written this better myself. I love what you say here and how you describe each of the main characters ( Kirk…oozes / Lancaster…seething / Corey…heartfelt / Lizabeth…titillating ). You give a shout out to The Big Man too ( Mazurki!!! ) This probably isn’t a true film noir; one of those intense crime dramas. It’s not one of those plots that the hero spirals down the sewer. I like what you wrote. You know Lizabeth’s my girl too. Thanks Marvin for readin’ and writin’.

      ___

      …and you won’t write a review for me, huh?

      Like

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