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A thrown-together gumbo from, of all directors, Raoul Walsh, Glory Alley
(named for a raffish stretch of Bourbon Street) can't decide what flavor
should dominate: the sweet, the piquant, the bitter. It seems to have
assembled from ingredients on hand at MGM in 1952. They
Ralph Meeker. Best remembered as Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly, he caught the studio's eye when he replaced Marlon Brando on Broadway as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. On the off-chance that the N'Awlins setting might work its voodoo once more, the brawny Meeker was cast as a prizefighter called Socks Barbarossa.
Leslie Caron. Fresh from An American in Paris, she was at best a dancer with a Gallic accent and gamine charm. Here, she supports her blind father (Kurt Kaszner) by kicking (en point, no less) in hoochie-koochie numbers in a dive called Chez Bozo; it's a cross between Harriet Hoctor and Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie, dancing in Capris.
Louis Armstrong. Instead of turning him into a jazz-joint headliner, he's relegated to the part of a philosophizing guide for the sightless old grump; thankfully, he sings a few songs and blows his horn now and again.
All in all, Glory Alley is a Runyonesque slice of life set among the poor people of the Big Easy. Meeker, in love with Caron but hated by her father, sustains a none-too-plausible run of ups and downs (there's even an excursion to Korea). It's a pot-luck special, made (it seems) to clear out the studio's larders.
GLORY ALLEY is one of the films that signaled the end of the golden age
of MGM. Set in a silly back-lot New Orleans, the drama centers on a
prizefighter who inexplicably flees a championship bout just as it is
about to begin. We have to wait the whole movie to find out why - and
when we do the reason is so silly that it makes the whole movie seem
like a complete waste of time. Ralph Meeker, a good-looking but rather
genteel actor, struggles to play the street-wise boxer. It's the sort
of part John Garfield played so well, but Meeker, lovingly filmed by
William Daniels, just seems too pretty. The ludicrous 'on-the-skids'
montage hardly helps - nor does the fact that his character is called
Then we have Leslie Caron as his love interest. It looks like this part was hurriedly re-written for her after her triumph in AN American IN Paris. She performs ridiculous ballet routines in a seedy bar (you know the patrons would have booed her off immediately). You see she wanted to be a ballerina, but she gave it all up to support her blind father. He's played by Kurt Kaszner - an actor still in his thirties but donned with silly silver hair to make him look ancient and wise.
Then there's Louis Armstrong, sadly named "Shadow", and seemingly the only African-American in New Orleans. He's supposed to be Meeker's trainer, but he spends the whole movie playing his trumpet and leading absurd sing-a-longs at the local bar. He does have a couple of good acting scenes though. The excellent Gilbert Roland floats around the film's edges with nothing to do, while John McIntire adds pseudo profound narration to the story - told in flashback like a film noir.
Probably the worst sequence in the film, and that's saying something, is the ludicrous Korean War scene, with some stock footage, four soldiers, some sort of pine forest and a rear projected bridge deemed sufficient to portray a major world conflict.
So we have a boxing picture, a musical, a film noir, a war film, and a pseudo-Freudian psychological study all rolled into one! What more could you ask for?
It's hard to believe a fine hard-boiled director like Raoul Walsh oversaw this mess - he probably wanted to run straight back to Warner Bros afterwards.
Would-be 'hard-bitten' product from MGM suffers from too many disparate ingredients. A retiring newspaperman in New Orleans reflects on his best subject: a prize-fighter named Socks (!) who infamously deserted a boxing match at the eleventh hour; after stints as a huckster and as a soldier in the Korean War, he makes a celebrated comeback. This may very well be revered director Raoul Walsh's worst film--but really, no director could segue smoothly between these slabs of superficial melodrama, including a fighter with neuroses, his ballet-dancing girlfriend, her blind father the Judge, and a jazz-singing, trumpet-playing member of the troupe. As an early vehicle for Ralph Meeker and Leslie Caron, it's a wash-out; neither star is shown to a good advantage, although Caron's jerky choreography is an odd hoot and Meeker does look great in boxing gloves. Louis Armstrong's final musical number in a barroom is rousing--and his general good will is infectious--yet the music, the milieu, and the material never quite come together. * from ****
This is one of the few movies I consider so bad they're interesting.
The champion in this category is "The Guilt Of Janet Ames." "Glory
Alley" is not that awful but it is a real mess. Yet, it is intriguing.
Ralph Meeker, the brilliant star of "Kiss Me Deadly" who did way too few movies, plays a boxer named Socks Barbarosa. Maybe Bill Clinton named his cat after this character.
Meeker is also very good in "Show In The Sky." He was generally underused ion movies, though.
"Glory Alley" is a kind of faux-Damon Runyon. Runyon gone South to New Orleans. We have Socks. We have a blind man called the Judge. His helper, played by Louis Armstrong, is named Shadow.
The Judge has an Italian accent; yet his daughter has a French accent. And no wonder: She is Leslie Caron. Caron and Meeker could have been a fantastic combination. She's appealing. It's hard, though, to believe that she is doing music hall numbers at a dive called Chez Bozo and her father doesn't know it. He seems to know everything else that's going on.
The movie is narrated by newspaper reporter John McIntire. It's a voice-over narration, looking back on the vents we're seeing. But this is no noir. McIntire tells us it's the most fascinating story he ever covered -- and he's never told the truth till now -- is that of Socks Barbarosa.
Well, it could have been a fascinating story. It's peopled with fine actors and a superb leading man. But it doesn't hold together. This is not to mention its preaching: Much of the dialogue, especially toward the end, sounds as if it came from a sampler on a wall. Nor what sounds like the MGM Chorale that accompanies some of Armstrong's trumpet playing and is sort of an uplifting Greek chorus.
Rarely have I seen such uniformly bad reviews for a studio production with name stars as this one. No need to repeat many of the negative points already made. I am curious, nonetheless, how such a misfire not only got released but also how it got made in the first place. Director Raoul Walsh was one of Hollywood's most respected filmmakers, and deservedly so. Yet his direction of Meeker suggests that neither of them had a clear concept of the character of Socks who comes across like a grinning doofus instead of a tough-guy boxer (compare with Meeker's genuine tough guy in Kiss Me Deadly). In fact, Walsh's direction really comes alive only during the crowd scenes which do show some sparkle. My guess is he took one look at the screenplay and went for the payday. And who was it, I wonder, who gave final approval to a script (Art Cohn) that has all the coherence and plausibility of an Ed Wood creation. To me, the movie has too many earmarks of a rush-job that ended up doing nobody any favors. Cable should do viewers a favor and give this sorry concoction a belated burial, decent or otherwise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie had one of the dumbest plots I have ever seen...spoiler alert..an undefeated boxer runs out of the ring at the start of the championship fight because he has a scar on the top of his head and is afraid somebody might see it...dumb,dumb,dumb. Good stars, wasted in this film. Leslie Caron is doing ballet on top of a bar at a New Orleans dive - very unlikely. She is French, but her father is Italian? Gilbert Roland (who is one of my favorite stars) just wanders around with nothing to do in this picture. Even Louis Armstrong is wasted in this film. He plays a little trumpet and sings a couple of very unremarkable songs. The battle scene (which lasts about 30 seconds) in Korea takes place in what looks like a Douglas Fir forest. I don't think they have any of those in Korea. The whole thing doesn't make any sense.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Glory Alley" is a frustrating movie because it is so dumb and
completely wastes the talents of one of the more interesting actors of
his time, Ralph Meeker. Meeker had a natural way of acting--tough,
gritty and with incredible realism. He played a great Mike Hammer and
was terrific in "Shadow in the Sky". It's odd how he didn't become more
famous--maybe a few terrible films like this one could explain it.
The first clue that this was a bad film was the opening narration. Rarely will you find dumber narration--and you wonder who wrote this tripe. Unfortunately, during the Korean War segment later in the film, you hear this lame claptrap again.
The film is about the ridiculously named 'Socks Barbarossa' (Meeker). He's a contender for the title but, inexplicably, he simply walks out of the boxing ring seconds before a big fight begins. Why is uncertain for a while but SOME of his motivation seems to be a desire not to become a punch-drunk loser--the fate of most boxers. Naturally, folks are darn mad--but the angriest is the blind father (Kurt Kasznar) of his girlfriend (Leslie Caron).
As for Caron, she still wants to marry Meeker. It might mean she can finally leave her job dancing on Bourbon Street. Now the dancing made me laugh--instead of stripping she danced a supposedly sexy dance--consisting of ballet and lots of wiggling. Coming for a cute lady like Caron, it made me laugh and seemed about as erotic as watching Irene Ryan strip! Who came up with this?!?! Meeker spends much of the rest of the film trying to prove he is a man. And, when he's sent to Korea, he risks his life and wins the Medal of Honor--and everyone loves him--except for Kasznar. As for Kasznar, he's ridiculously angry throughout the film and constantly berates Meeker. For him, the Congressional Medal of Honor isn't good enough!! Duh. So what can Meeker do next to win over Kasznar? Because without doing this, it seems unlikely Caron will ever marry him.
In the end, you find out the MAIN reason he had for quitting boxing--and it makes no sense at all! All that wait, the bad narration and Kasznar's bad overacting...for nothing! A complete and total waste--showing even a very good actor can make a terrible films. And, even more amazing is that it was directed by one of the better directors of his time, Raoul Walsh! Uggh--it's bad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was certainly a colossal bomb of a film.
It is as if pieces of various stories were melded to bring us this absolutely terrible film.
Nice seeing Louis Armstrong looking so young and singing. He held the trumpet but where was his playing?
I never saw the Korean War go so fast in a film. Ralph Meeker went there and returned a hero in record time. He could have mailed back his Congressional honor with this awful movie at any time.
Leslie Caron is even miserable in doing what she usually did best- a chanteuse. It's just unbelievable that her father detests Meeker so.
Ralph Meeker plays a boxer going up who suddenly throws it all away. Imagine, he hires Dr. "Larry Gates" to cure Caron's blindness. Gates then goes into a discussion with the father on why Meeker is so wonderful.
This is total hodge-podge at its worst.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS** Bizarre but interesting movie about a professional prize
fighter Socks Barbarrosa, Ralph Meeker, who just loses it when he's
about the fight Terry Waulker, Pat Valentino, the #1 contender for the
Heavyweight Championship of the World. Bolting from the ring as he's
being introduced Socks locks himself in his dressing room announcing
his retirement from boxing?
During all the confusion Socks knocks on his butt, by accident of course, the blind-proving that justice is truly blind-"Judge" Gus Evens, Kurt Kasznar,who just happens to be the father of Socks' fiancée leggy nightclub danger Angie Evens, Leslie Caron! This strange action on Socks part has his forthcoming marriage to Angie put on hold with "The Judge", who's to give away the bride, being the one person to object to Socks having his daughter's hand in marriage.
As you would expect Socks becomes somewhat of a freak show wherever he goes with everybody making him the butt of their jokes about a man who cracked up at the very moment that he was to become, by beating Terry Waulker, the top contender for the heavyweight crown. In fact Socks did have his match with Waulker, who lost his $15,000.00 purse because Socks chickened out, in the empty arena knocking him flat on his a** in less then a minute!
The movie gets even more bizarre when Socks is about to get his life, and head, back together as an assistant bar tender at his good friend's Peppi Donnato's, Glbert Roland, drinking establishment,"The Punch Bowl", that he's drafted into the US Army at the height of the Korean War. Socks' military experience in the movie is so short, about three minutes, that if you went to buy a soda and bag of popcorn, or go to the bathroom, you would have missed it. All Socks does is take out an important bridge, singlehanded, on the Yalu River blocking a major Communist Chinese offensive! In this selfless and heroic action Socks ends up saving hundreds, if not thousands, of his fellow GI's from total annihilation!
Winning, or better yet earning, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest medal the nation has to offer its fighting men or women, Socks comes back home to New Orleans a hero but, as you would expect, that doesn't last for long. The very unforgiving "Judge" still has it in for him for Socks knocking him down as well as refusing to have his daughter Angie tie the knot with him.
More hurt then ever, what does the guy have to do to get people to like him!, Socks in a last effort to win over "The Judge" secretly gets renowned eye surgeon Dr. Robet Ardley, Larry Gates, from Socks' hometown of Milwaukee to operate and get "The Judge" back his sight. Finding out that Socks is behind him getting his important eye operation "The Judge" goes completely haywire in him not wanting the hated Socks to do anything for him! It's then that Dr. Gates cools "The Judge" off in telling him the real story being Socks strange and and somewhat crazy behavior that began when he was a little boy in Milwaukee. It's after that amazing revelation, on Dr. Gates' part, about Socks hidden and somewhat embarrassing past that everybody, on and off the screen, realizes what a serious head case Socks really is! Dr. Gates' explanation about Socks' mental, or head, problems not only brings out the reason for Socks' off the wall actions but the fact that the poor guy, as much as he tries not to, just can't help himself!
Touching ending with Socks redeeming himself both in and out of the boxing ring and finally getting "The Judge" to like him and letting Socks marry his daughter Angie. It's also Angie who got her father to understand Socks strange predicament as well as her own in the movie. Angie tells her father that she in fact is not working as a nurse at the New Orleans General Hospital but dancing half naked, to the hooting and cheering of an almost all male audience, at the anything goes Chez Bozo dance hall in downtown New Orleans. And even being more direct Angie tells "The Judge" that while he's putting the one man-Socks- who can bring back his sight down she's breaking her back every evening at the Chez Bozo to pay his bills and supporting him while he going around feeling sorry for himself!
P.S there's also in the film the great trombonist and jazz singer Louie Armstrong as Shadow Johnson who's a good friend of "The Judge". Shadow like Angie tries unsuccessfully to make "The Judge" see the light in what a good fine and caring person Socks really is until "the Judge", with both Socks' and Dr, Gates help, finally "sees" it for himself!
MGM Never Understood and Always Looked Down Upon the Film-Noir of RKO
and the Socially Conscious WB and Considered All of that Stuff Low-Brow
and Not Worthy of the Sanctimonious Studio. Eventually in the Late
Forties and Early Fifties while In Decline and in Desperation to at
least Compete with those Types of Movies that were Popular, they
Relegated Second Units to Make Movies in those Genres.
Most of the Time they Failed and in this Case they Failed Miserably. A Film with No Clue about what it is or what it wants to be, the Studio Delivered a Film Hodgepodge with No Conviction on Any of its Multiple Styles.
Streetwise Locations are on the Back Lot with Enough Room for a Prancing Musical Number or Two, Seedy New Orleans Interiors are Slick Highly Lit Sets Filled with Happy Folks who Sing and Dance on Cue. Narration is used with some of the Worst Hollywood Writing of the Time and the Story is Concerned with Propagandizing the War in Korea.
Ralph Meeker Fans Better Stay Away from this one as He Struggles to be a Man and is Haunted by a Past that in a Reveal is Skull Crushingly Dumb. Leslie Caron Looks Cute and Flashes Her Legs Vibrantly Until You Notice, but the Idea of Her Doing Ballet in a Girly Bar says it all about the Filmmakers being So Far Out of their Element that it is Painful to Watch.
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