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Force of Evil (1948)

An unethical lawyer, with an older brother he wants to help, becomes a partner with a client in the numbers racket.



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Complete credited cast:
Edna Tucker
Howland Chamberlain ...
Freddie Bauer (as Howland Chamberlin)
Ben Tucker
Bill Ficco
Stanley Prager ...
Barry Kelley ...
Det. Egan
Hobe Wheelock
Doris Lowry


Lawyer Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But his elder brother Leo is one of these small-time operators who wants to stay that way, preferring not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 December 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tucker's People  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994. See more »


During a climactic montage set at an East Coast racetrack on the Fourth of July, people in the stock footage crowd scenes are dressed in winter garments nobody would wear in the middle of summer. See more »


Edna Tucker: A man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn't have said.
See more »


Featured in American Cinema: Film Noir (1995) See more »


String Quartet opus 131, no. 14: Ist Movement
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

Influential Film
2 February 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The VHS version I own of Force of Evil is one with a forward by Martin Scorsese. In it Scorsese says that this film was the first one that depicted a world he knew, growing up in New York City. Scorses was mesmerized by it as a kid and studied it frame by frame as when he grew up. He pays tribute to Force of Evil saying that you can see the influence of it Mean Streets, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas.

Of course the fact that the film was shot totally on location in scintillating black and white noir in New York City, gave it a dimension that no other noir films have, save possibly Night and the City which was also shot on location in London.

John Garfield who was as quintessential a New Yorker as you could get plays Joe Morse, smooth lawyer for a big time racketeer Roy Roberts who is looking to either take over or muscle out the small time policy banks in the numbers racket. One of those banks is owned by Garfield's brother, Thomas Gomez.

Garfield is as ruthless as Roberts, but with a velvet glove. He tries to get Gomez to go along with the syndicate, but Gomez balks. There's also a prosecutor looking into the numbers racket and a tapped phone which figures prominently in the climax.

Given the leftwing polemics of both the star and director Abraham Polonsky, Force of Evil got the attention of the ultra rightwing House Un American Activities Committee. Polonsky was blacklisted for over 20 years and Garfield died under the strain of the investigation.

Given what has happened to the Soviet Union, I wonder if Garfield and Polonsky were alive today what they would say and how they would feel about their work here. It's interesting to speculate.

But as entertainment Force of Evil is a great success and that is the first rule of film. Also look for a good performance by Marie Windsor as Roberts's wife with a yen for Garfield. One of her first femme fatale roles and one of her best.

12 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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