Force of Evil (1948, Abraham Polonsky)

Noir about a sleazy lawyer in the illegal gambling “numbers” racket who tries to get rich, tries to help out unlucky small-time older brother Leo, and fails miserably at both. At least he gets the girl, but at the end he’s turning himself in, disgusted that his buddies murdered his brother. The girl (stage actress Beatrice Pearson, only in one other film) is Doris, who is like a daughter to Leo and therefore as distrustful of Garfield as Leo is, but she comes around after Garfield keeps bailing her out of jail and incessantly harassing her. That’s how love worked in the 40’s.

Doesn’t look like the movie had much of a budget, but director Polonsky and D.P. George Barnes (who shot Rebecca and Spellbound for Hitchcock) made it look marvelous. Polonsky was an up and coming talent, oscar-nominated for his debut the year before, but blacklisted soon after this movie failed to make a huge impact. John Garfield was very good in this, even though I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup of greasy dark-haired white guys an hour later. He was oscar-nominated the same year for Body and Soul, died a few years later of heart problems. Older brother Thomas Gomez (The Furies, Key Largo) lived long enough to appear in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

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