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A greedy woman turns in her husband, a jewel thief, for the reward. Her husband's friend, a detective, adopts the couple's child and raises her as his own. Eighteen years later the husband, still in prison, finds out that his ex-wife is now attempting to blackmail their daughter. He vows to break out and put a stop to her once and for all. Written by
Gentleman jewel thief "Heliotrope Harry" Melton (Brian Donlevy), a Roaring Twenties legend, becomes a changed man after his wife Flo (Miriam Hopkins) gives birth to a baby girl and the decision to go straight sends his selfish spouse straight into the arms of his partner in crime, suave Eddie Smith (Phillip Reed). They tip off his childhood friend, policeman Tom Gaynor (Preston Foster), to an upcoming heist but Harry sidesteps their trap and tracks down the treacherous twosome. He lets Eddie have it but lets Flo go, vowing to kill her if he ever sees her again and then turns himself in to Gaynor on the condition that the cop raise his daughter. Eighteen years later, Gaynor's a supreme court judge with his daughter about to marry into old money when Flo slithers out of Buenos Aires with blackmail on her mind and Harry, out of his mind over this, crashes out of prison to carry out that long-ago threat...
I've never seen anything quite like this male "chick flick" yet I was constantly reminded of other movies. I flashed back to Jimmy Cagney and Pat O'Brien as boyhood friends on opposite sides of the law and also recalled Spencer Tracy and John Garfield breaking out of prison to set things right. LITTLE MISS MARKER also came to mind. Cross a Warner Brothers upperworld gangster movie with STELLA DALLAS or MADAME X and you'll have an idea of what A GENTLEMAN AFTER DARK is like. The off beat casting only adds to the overall oddness- I like bantam Brian Donlevy who's affable, stocky, and a bit like Lon Chaney, Jr. every time he's a leading man but this role required a complicated (ruthless/loving) charisma he couldn't quite pull off. And what was Miriam Hopkins doing in this? The talented but temperamental hoyden was a sexy sensation in some of her early 30s Paramount Pre-Codes but she had the kind of blonde beauty that faded fast and was a poor second choice for a 40s femme fatale originally meant for beautiful Ilona Massey. Miriam was on familiar territory, however, having been a jewel thief in TROUBLE IN PARADISE, involved in pulling paternity wool over a young girl's eyes in THE OLD MAID, and stalked by an obsessed killer in DR. JEKYLL & MR HYDE. Douglass Dumbrille and Gloria "Dracula's Daughter" Holden are in it, too. The sentimental crime meller (I guess you'd call it) was capably directed without panache by Edwin L. Marin and was a remake of FORGOTTEN FACES, a lost 1928 silent starring exotic blonde glamazon Olga "Freaks" Baclanova. It may not be Film Noir and the title's pretty strange (what woman or gay man wants THAT?) but it should hold the interest of any classic film fan.
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