During the campaign for reelection, the crooked politician Paul Madvig decides to clean up his past, refusing the support of the gangster Nick Varna and associating to the respectable reformist politician Ralph Henry. When Ralph's son, Taylor Henry, a gambler and the lover of Paul's sister Opal, is murdered, Paul's right arm, Ed Beaumont, finds his body on the street. Nick uses the financial situation of The Observer to force the publisher Clyde Matthews to use the newspaper to raise the suspicion that Paul Madvig might have killed Taylor. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Several actors and their character names listed in studio records and casting call lists did not appear in the movie. These were Edward Peil Sr. (Politician), Al Hill (Bum) and Tom Dugan (Jeep). See more »
In Farr's office, when Ed is slowly tucking the anonymous letter in his inside pocket, Farr tells him he expects a visit from Nick. The camera is on Ed who abruptly takes his hand out of his inside pocket and turns to Farr, but then the camera cuts to show both him and Farr and he's still tucking the letter in his inside pocket. See more »
[On the phone to the police chief]
Look, Rainey, I just got the tip that Nick is opening his Golden Club, tonight. Yeah, slam them down so hard they'll splash.
Well, Nick, now you know where you stand.
See more »
"The Glass Key" has all the elements expected in a film noir - it has an intricate crime-based plot, a fast pace, and an assortment of interesting characters who interact with each other in unpredictable ways. It is a fairly standard example of the genre, with a few particularly good moments.
The title comes from a metaphor used by one of the characters to describe the relationships at the center of the plot. Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) is a corrupt political boss who decides to break with his past by joining with reform-minded candidate Ralph Henry, angering some of his former cronies and confusing loyal assistant Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd). Madvig expresses confidence in his new future, saying that the upright Henry has "given me the key to his house", but Beaumont warns him that "it's a glass key - be careful it doesn't break off". The fragile nature of the relationships and careers of all of the main characters drives the action and suspense. And when Henry's wayward son turns up murdered, each character is plunged into dangerous situations.
Ladd and Donlevy are pretty good as the leads, although Veronica Lake, as candidate Henry's daughter and a focus of attention for both male leads, is somewhat lifeless in an important role, as her character is meant to drive much of the other action. The supporting cast is one of the strengths of the film. The fine character actor Joseph Calleia is excellent as a crooked businessman seeking revenge on Madvig, and William Bendix is very funny, although perhaps a bit over-the-top at times, as one of Calleia's goons.
"The Glass Key" will certainly be of interest to any film noir/crime film fan, and should be fast-paced enough to make it interesting to other viewers as well.
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