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Edward G. Robinson,
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William C. McGann
Cliff and Chuck leave prison together. Cliff tries the straight life but falls back into crime with Chuck and his gang. When he makes enough to enable his brother Tim to buy a garage and marry his sweetheart, Cliff quits crime again. But when he tries to help Chuck later on, he's implicated again. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
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"You think changin' your uniform means anything, you'll still be wearin' stripes. You may not be able to see 'em, but they'll be there alright."
George Raft and an unrecognizably young William Holden are top billed as brothers Cliff and Tim Taylor in this 1939 gangster genre film that has both brothers skirting opposite sides of the law as they try to make a life for themselves.
The story opens with Cliff Taylor and fellow Sing Sing inmate Chuck Martin (Humphrey Bogart) about to leave prison with their sentences completed. Taylor is determined to go straight, Martin can't wait to get back to his criminal life. As Cliff tries to settle back into his former life with his family, events conspire against him making it difficult to stay on the straight and narrow. Additional pressure comes from brother Tim, who wants to make a better life for himself and fiancée Peggy (Jane Bryan), but earning twenty dollars a week as a mechanic makes him fantasize about "taking what he wants".
The film see-saws it's way back and forth for Cliff, who alternately tries to play it straight and then gets mixed up with Martin's gangster pals. In that regard, George Raft really gets to portray a con man, hiding his involvement from Tim and his mother (Flora Robson), until events spiral out of control during a botched robbery attempt by Martin's gang.
If you're into film nuances, this one offers a number of treats. For starters, there's the scene where Bogey's character Martin is shown coming out of a movie theater with his blonde girlfriend Molly (Lee Patrick); the film that's playing - 1939's "You Can't Get Away With Murder", starring Humphrey Bogart! Speaking of Molly, she's almost a dead ringer look alike for Bette Davis, making me do a couple of double takes. And then there's the brief uncredited appearance of Dead Ender Leo Gorcey as the head stock boy for a general store where Cliff briefly finds a job.
I found myself enjoying this film, even if uneven at times. George Raft and Humphrey Bogart went on to make one more film together in 1940's "They Drive By Night", where they share equal billing as brothers involved in wildcat trucking, one might call them brother truckers.
For it's own part, "Invisible Stripes" may be hard to come by, not available as a studio release, but many of these Warner Brothers films find their way onto classic movie TV channels like TCM or are available through specialty video houses. This one would be well worth your time, especially if you're a fan of Raft, Bogey, Holden or the gangster genre itself.
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