Peter, a WW II 'displaced person' about to be deported jumps ship in New York harbor in an effort to find an ex-G.I named Tom whom he helped during the war and can prove Peter's right to ...
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Peter, a WW II 'displaced person' about to be deported jumps ship in New York harbor in an effort to find an ex-G.I named Tom whom he helped during the war and can prove Peter's right to legal entry in the United States. It is a race against time for if he can't Tom within 24 hours and prove his case, he will be branded a fugitive and will be permanently disqualified for U.S. citizenship. His quest leads him to befriending Maggie, a down-on-her-luck factory worker whom he rejuvenates through his good faith; a visit to a jazz club where Shorty Rogers and his band and trombonist Jack Teagarden are playing, and an interlude with a good- hearted burlesque dancer, Tanya Zakoyla, takes him to her mother's home for food and rest. The climax comes at dawn in the United Nations building (the "glass wall" of the title) where he goes to plead his case and that of all displaced persons. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
A vividly raffish New York City comes to life in Maxwell Shane's overlooked message movie
A pungent period flavor of post-war New York elevates Maxwell Shane's The Glass Wall. If it's not quite noir (its idealism disqualifies it), it sure looks and feels like noir. As well it should, coming from the writer/director of those unambiguous noirs Fear in the Night (1947) and its remake Nightmare (1956).
In his first American film, Vittorio Gassman plays a stateless stowaway who's caught before his ship sails into New York harbor. Detained by immigration authorities, who won't believe his story that he qualifies for special consideration for aiding the Allies during the war, he's due to be returned to Trieste and certain death. But he jumps from the deck onto the docks, smashing his ribs, and starts stumbling around the city looking for the G.I. who can vouch for him (Jerry Paris). All Gassman knows is Paris' first name, and that he plays clarinet somewhere near Times Square (when we catch up with Paris, he's auditioning for Jack Teagarden's band).
During his nocturnal search, he runs into Gloria Grahame, who's very down on her luck. A sharp little minx who used to affix the tips to shoelaces for a living, now she steals coats from Automats (it's one of her more captivating performances). Grahame's at first wary of Gassman but quickly won over his tale of woe makes her troubles look paltry, and he's the first guy to treat her decently. So she lets him hide out in her garret room (his escape makes the front pages) and helps him search for his old pal.
There's a beat-the-clock element that keeps the story moving: Gassman doesn't know that Paris has seen the tabloids and will vouch for him or that his options will expire at dawn. And Shane stews the path with obstacles as well as with good Samaritans (Robin Raymond as a stripper with a heart of gold another `Hunkie' touchingly among them).
As the sky lightens, the desperate Gassman reaches the place he thinks will be his salvation: The forbidding `glass wall' of Wallace K. Harrison's just-completed United Nations Headquarters. But the building's empty of all but janitors, and Gassman still doesn't know that he's still safe....
The Glass Wall's a modest movie that overcomes the handicaps of its dated and idealistic `message' to succeed as a well told and acted human interest story. But it triumphs in its presentation of mid-20th-century Manhattan, as vividly raffish as in any movie of its period.
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