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Prof. Andrew Gentling, in Los Angeles to help found a new college, is inveigled by old flame Catherine Sykes into a midnight drive. Next day Catherine is missing, believed killed; friend Martha convinces Andrew that he's a prime suspect and should investigate before he's arrested. But this only puts Andrew in a more deadly kind of danger. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
After many years of exclusivity at MGM William Powell was starting to do outside projects like this one, Take One False Step. He's teamed with a most improbable partner, maybe the most improbable he had since Bette Davis, this being Shelley Winters.
I think that's at first glance. I'm not sure today's audiences might have appreciated this fact, but Powell and Winters are introduced to us people who may have had a wartime fling. In those days of separation and Powell is mentioned as being a scientist and in the army. That could have spelled isolation and you took your needs where you found them. That would be true for women as well. So this unlikely pair of lovers might have been an item circa 1941 to 1945.
But this is 1949 and Powell is in Los Angeles from New York with a pair of fellow academicians, Art Baker and Felix Bressart, who are pitching a Philistine like millionaire played by Paul Harvey for a big check to endow a new university they want to found. In the middle of this campaign, Powell hears from Winters. When Powell meets Winters we can see that they really are from two different worlds, but a post World War II audience would have appreciated it.
Shelley has got herself a nice little drinking habit and Powell after a bit of coaxing goes on a midnight drive with her where she wanders off in a state of inebriation. The next day Powell finds out through her friend that she's missing and presumed dead and the LAPD is looking for a distinguished male friend she was with that night.
Powell instead of turning himself in, starts his own investigation and gets himself in deeper. Turns out Shelley's husband Jess Barker is a low level syndicate runner whose responsible for a large amount of betting money that's also missing. Just what has Bill stepped into?
It would have been smarter all around had Powell just gone to the cops in the first place, but detectives James Gleason and Sheldon Leonard who you might think are Keystone like Kops and do have some funny lines really do have a handle on the thing all the time as you'll see if you watch the film.
Powell and Winters are completely lacking in chemistry, but that's part of the key to both their characters, two people who except for being thrown together during the war would never in a million years have hooked up.
Even after the plot is resolved, there's still a surprise waiting for Bill Powell. Take One False Step will never be among the top 10 of the films for either of the stars, still it has quite a bit going for it just in the contrast of the leads.
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