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To understand the impact one particular quote from this movie had on
me, you need to know that I first saw it at an 'Astra' cinema in the
1950s, while serving in the RAF.
In a scene early on in the film, John Ireland, a sergeant in the USAF, is accusing his wife, played by Gloria Grahame, of infidelity. She turns to him with self-righteous indignation and says (as only she can) :"Eddie, your time in the Air Force has coarsened your mind."
It shouldn't be difficult to imagine how, in front of an audience comprising a couple of hundred airmen, that one line brought the house down!
That apart, this is quite a decent crime caper movie, with some similarities to The League of Gentlemen (1959), but without the humorous touches.The only blemish is the usual wooden performance from Laurence Harvey. (How on earth did that man get so many leading roles in both British and American productions?)
Harvey apart, the acting is of a high standard. Stanley Baker is particularly impressive as the broken down prizefighter and Richard Basehart and John Ireland (the two token Yanks in British minor movies of the fifties) give excellent support as the other two conspirators. The young Joan Collins is ravishing as the wife any man would rob a dozen banks for and Freda Jackson is outstanding as her manipulating witch of a mother. Gloria Grahame is (of course) brilliant as the femme fatale and there is a delightful cameo from Robert Morley as the villain's father.
The Good Die Young is not an evocative but generic title like The Damned
Don't Cry but as quite a literal summation of the story, if an incomplete
one, for the bad die young, too. This English crime drama is more
kitchen-sink than country manor, and a strong showing of Yanks in the cast
helps cut into the order and reserve that often keeps such British efforts
plucky but tepid. What results is an involving, many-layered movie, if a
decidedly downbeat one.
Four unhappy plot lines converge into one very unhappy ending: Prizefighter Stanley Baker boxes with a broken hand that ends up gangrenous and amputated. Since his wife (Rene Ray) has given their meager life savings to her wastrel brother, he doesn't know where his next farthing is coming from.
Richard Basehart quits his job in New York to return to London and fetch his English wife (Joan Collins), who is being held hostage by her manipulative, malingering old monster of a mother (Freda Jackson).
G.I. John Ireland, on 48-hour furlough, goes AWOL when he can't find a minute to spend with his self-absorbed starlet wife Gloria Grahame, making time with the hot young star on her picture (Lee Patterson).
Lawrence Harvey, a sadistic sweet-talker, gambles and carouses on the money of his rich wife (Margaret Leighton), who's fast getting fed up with his feckless ways; he dines out on being a decorated war hero, but the father who disowns him (Robert Morley) believes he exterminated a nest of Germans who were unarmed and unconscious.
During a chance meeting in a pub, Harvey, desperate to make good on a bad check he wrote, wheedles the at-first-reluctant others into a scheme for robbing a postal truck of recycled Bank of England currency. He claims to be doing it only to help them out of their jams, but his sole interest lies in helping himself....
Lewis Gilbert (later to direct Alfie and three installments of the 007 franchise) opens just as the robbery is about to take place. Then he quickly flashes back to tell how the four perpetrators got there. He intercuts their stories (rather deftly), returning to the scene of the crime and its grisly aftermath only at the end. So the strength of the movie lies in its individual vignettes and the actors who bring them to life. These are variable.
Top-billed Harvey overplays his hand as the scheming psycho, as does Grahame as the round-heeled twitch. Ireland and Basehart cope well with loosely textured roles. The breakthrough performance is Baker's, who brings to mind all those deluded pugilists in American ropes-and-canvas epics, dying for illusory glory. The wives are mostly afterthoughts, though Ray and Leighton bring some poignancy to their plights. Morley and Jackson deserve mention for the incisiveness of their peripheral roles. More a drama of converging fates than a film noir (even a Britnoir), The Good Die Young holds attention owing to its large and seasoned cast and its slow but determined pace.
Four men are in a car. They are all from different walks of life and a
short time ago none of them were nothing more than drinking buddies
now they are on their way somewhere with a box full of guns. A washed
up boxer, a man trying to win his wife back from a controlling mother,
an RAF officer with a cheating wife and a "gentleman" with no means of
his own. Only a few weeks ago, "gentleman" Miles finds himself out of
luck with his women and his money pit in-laws and, needing money so,
when he meets the other three men, he sees a chance to take advance of
their various needs.
For a while back in the fifties, British cinema seemed to have enough grit and clout to it to almost be able to compete with the American market in regards crime thrillers (if not quite noirs); The Good Die Young is one of those that has a good try and is a pretty enjoyable piece even if it lacks the grit and tension of similar American products. The film opens with an intriguing set up but then jumps back to establish the story and characters and it is here where it becomes weak. The back stories are rather melodramatic and it doesn't fit well with what was meant to be a bit tougher and gripping; they are interesting enough to do the job but I must admit to feeling that they were a bit dragged out and unnecessarily long. However, if you make it through this main body of the film you'll get to an ending that is just what the film should have been throughout. I won't spoil it but it is enjoyably brutal, downbeat and gripping "about time" was my thought when I realised that the film had gotten going.
The cast do their best with the melodrama but the material isn't there for them and they are mixed. Harvey and Baker stand out with strong performances; Basehart is good but Ireland feels like he is just making up the numbers. Naturally Collins stands out today, and she is quite good but the melodrama is made better by Grahame, Ray and, to a lesser extent, Leighton. Of course the men are all much better in the proper crime side of the film and this is partly due to better and more atmospheric direction from writer/director Gilbert, who also injects the pace when it is required.
Overall this is an average film mainly because the back story takes up far too much of the film, is too melodramatic and doesn't sit well with the tough tension promised in the first scene and delivered at the end. With the main trunk being rather plodding, the ending does feel a lot better mainly because you're grateful that the film has gotten going. Could have been great but is merely reasonably good; worth seeing for genre and period fans but will not impress a wider audience.
What a cast! Basehart, Harvey, Baker, and Ireland turn out stunning performances in this British film noir entry. The story is of three decent men, on hard times that are enticed to robbery by the one bad seed amongst them (Harvey). Also interesting to view Joan Collins in an early role, man she was REALLY hot when she was young. The tale is told in flashback, and younger viewers, more inclined to slash and bang, might find it a bit slow, but the ending is both subtle and surprising. A good one.
The Good Die Young is a cracking British Noir picture directed by Lewis
Gilbert and featuring a strong cast of British and American actors.
Laurence Harvey, Stanley Baker, Richard Basehart, John Ireland, Gloria
Grahame, Margaret Leighton, Joan Collins and Rene Ray are the
principals. While support comes from Robert Morley and Freda Jackson.
Adapted from the novel written by Richard MacAuley, the story starts with four men pulling up in a car, guns are passed around them and it's soon evident they are about to commit a serious crime. We are then taken through the sequences for each man, how they came to be at that point in time, what brought them together and their common interest; that of women trouble and financial strife. It's excellently structured by Gilbert, four separate stories, yet all of them are on the same track and heading towards the grim and potently "noirish" final quarter. Such is the way that we as viewers have been fully informed about our characters, the impact when things get violent is doubly strong. It takes you by surprise at first because the makers have given us a smooth set-up, and then there is the shock factor because these were not criminal men at the outset. But then..
A real pleasant surprise to this particular viewer was The Good Die Young, it's got fully formed characters within a tight and interesting story. The cast do fine work, yes one could probably complain a touch that the ladies are under written, but they each get in and flesh out the downward spiral of the male protagonists. Rene Ray is particularly impressive as the fraught wife of Stanley Baker's injured boxer, Mike, while Gloria Grahame (walking like a panther) is memorable as a bitch-a-like babe driving her husband Eddie (Ireland) to distraction. Basehart is his usual value for money self, but it's Baker and Harvey who own the picture. Baker does a great line in raw emotion, a big man, big heart and a big conscious; his journey is the films emotional axis, while Harvey is positively weasel like as playboy sponger Miles Ravenscourt; someone who is guaranteed to have you hissing at the screen with his stiffness perfectly befitting the character.
Top stuff. 8/10
An attempt by the British to make a noirish thriller in the American
style and it almost pays off. It's strong on atmosphere, with some
superb nighttime photography, and it has an outstanding cast even if
some of them are not at their best. It's both an heist movie and a
character study that delves into the lives and backgrounds of the
criminals on the job, by way of flashbacks.
They are Laurence Harvey, Stanley Baker, (both very good), Richard Basehart and John Ireland, (less so), and their women include a young and highly inadequate Joan Collins, Gloria Grahame, (winging it), and a marvelous Margaret Leighton who plays the woman who is married to Harvey and who keeps him and who was also married to him in real life.
The serviceable Lewis Gilbert directs with real flair. Gilbert never made the front ranks yet many of his films were surprisingly entertaining and well-made. This is one of them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a fabulous movie and just goes to show you how good a film can
be with excellent writing and acting. Even if there are no big-time
stars in the movie, the four leads do fantastic jobs and are given
great roles. The biggest names in the film are Laurence Harvey, Richard
Basehart and Gloria Graham, but all three were at the time relatively
cheap talent and affordable to this British production company.
Additionally, Stanley Baker and John Ireland round out the great cast.
It's also interesting that Basehart and John Ireland star in the film
since they both play nice guys, as both have played some really wicked
and exciting Noir roles and are two of my favorite Noir actors. In
fact, ANY Noir film starring either is a must-see in my opinion.
The movie is in some ways like Film Noir, but it lacks the same sharp dialog and most of the characters in the film seem like nice ordinary people you can care about--not the usual Noir thugs. Because of this, while the film is about a robbery committed by a gang, it is much different from films like RIFIFI or BOB LE FLAMBEUR because the film isn't about gangsters or professionals. While some might think this makes it less of a film, it deserves to be held in as high an esteem as these two other great films because it offers some amazing character studies and insights you don't normally get from a "caper film". Additionally, the usual film angles and cinematography isn't present but for this film it works out just fine.
The film begins just before the quartet rob the post office to steal 90,000 Pounds. Instead of committing the heist, the film then abruptly changes and shows the back story of all four men and how these non-criminals came to a point in their lives where they were so desperate that they risked everything for money. These character studies were great because they really made you care about three of the men and in a way you really did want to see them succeed--now that's excellent writing!
Richard Basehart is an American married to a young Joan Collins. Their lives are being ruined by an evil and manipulative mother who will do anything to either break up their marriage or at least keep Collins in London. Unfortunately, instead of just killing the horrid old woman (which most viewers will hope--believe me), he is stranded with his wife in London and living with the old harpy--and it's killing them inside. They need to do something to get back to America before Collins or her unborn child dies or Basehart commits murder!
John Ireland is an American in the army and is married to Gloria Grahame. She's a small-time actress but also a tramp who blatantly cheats on him (with Miss Grahame, this is no surprise as her career was based on such roles). He needs out of this awful marriage and he's in trouble with the army and needs to escape.
Stanley Baker is a journeyman boxer who has destroyed his body in the hope of retiring. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, his nest-egg is gone and he is without job prospects after losing his left hand. He loves his wife but can't figure a way out of crippling poverty.
Finally, we have Laurence Harvey. He is very unlike the other three in that you never like him and he was not intended to be likable. In many ways, he's like an upper class version of the cad he played in ROOM AT THE TOP but in this case his rich wife has had enough of his gambling, cheating on her and broken promises. She's leaving for Kenya and it looks like it might be alone. He is the most exciting of the three to watch in action, though as I said, he's NOT the nicest guy you'll see in film!
So as you can see, all four men need money and otherwise they never would have considered a life of crime. Most interesting, though, is how over time it becomes apparent just how different Harvey is from the rest--leading to a bang-up conclusion to the film that seems very much like a typical Noir thriller. The final scenes are great, though some pointless and moralistic narration at the end does blunt the film's impact just a bit.
So often overlooked but a terrific film throughout. See this film!
By the way, if you wonder why Hollywood actors Basehart, Ireland and Grahame appeared in the film, it was relatively common in the 1950s for foreign production companies to recruit a few Americans (or in Ireland's case, Canadians) for their films. This added star power was thought to increase marketability in America and made financing easier. Oddly, this practice while common in Britain, was also very common in Italy where non-Italian speakers starred in films--such as Basehart in Fellini's LA STRADA.
Also, listen closely to Grahame. Her British accent appears and disappears throughout the film and so this isn't one of her better roles.
What a sizzling lead performance in this superb British noir film by Larry Harvey! And what a terrible irony in the title, since Larry died at the age of only 45 in 1973. I remember him so well on the day walking in Hampstead with his little daughter Domino that he told me he was dying of stomach cancer. I asked him if he were certain, if there were not something 'they could do', but he merely looked at me with his ironical smile, a resigned one, and said no, he was dying. His nonchalance did not desert him. He shrugged it off sadly but with his ingrained insouciance. His reaction to his own imminent demise had no self-pity in it, but was full of pathos, as he regretted that he would not be able to watch Domino grow up. Alas, she too has now gone. He also worried about what would happen to Paulene, who is still as glamorous as she was then. But how sadly some meet their ends. Gloria Grahame, who also sizzles in this film, only lived to 58, and Stanley Baker only made it to 48. So yes, the good die young. But Joan Collins, ostensibly only 21 at the time (but already in her ninth feature film role!), is still with us and currently working on her 119th film! This film, brilliantly directed by Lewis Gilbert (and I noted that Jack Clayton, himself later to be such a brilliant director, is credited here as Associate Producer), is a terrific psychological study of how a group of desperate men can come together to commit a crime which they would otherwise never commit. Their individual stories are all fully sketched by a cast of wonderful pros. The four men are Richard Baseheart, John Ireland, and Stanley Baker, led by the mischievous, amoral, and as it turns out, probably psychotic, Larry Harvey, as the character known as 'Rave'. The devilish, pathological scheming of 'Rave' is brilliantly shown, and in the scenes towards the end of the film, Larry is positively terrifying. Robert Morley has a brief look-in which he slightly overdoes, but then he always had a propensity to overact, especially with the excessive widening of his eyes at crucial moments. Gloria Grahame does a wonderful job of playing a lascivious, 'gorgeous pouting', totally amoral movie starlet married to the long-suffering John Ireland. Ireland doesn't know whether he wants to kiss or to strangle her, as she is so exasperating but also so irresistible. And it was not only Ireland who found her so, but a large part of the Western world. Gloria Grahame certainly had 'that something', and more besides. The most polished performance in the film is probably that by Margaret Leighton, who later married Larry in 1957 (they divorced four years later). In the film she anticipates later true events by playing Larry's older wife. She is so insouciant and acts with such effortless ease that it is like watching olive oil coat the lens. In between Margaret Leighton's arched eyebrows there lurked a great deal of intelligence, a fine sense of humour, and an appreciation of irony. The stories behind the individual characters in this film are harrowing, and Joan Collins as an emotional prisoner of her harridan mother is particularly typical of the time. In those days, girls really did feel unable to leave their mothers and were easily emotionally blackmailed by them, whereas today the young are so indifferent to lasting attachments that a parent is merely another avatar in a video game, to be tossed aside when convenient. The central character remains the spoilt, narcissistic, pleasure-loving and wholly irresponsible 'Rave', who suffers from that condition known to psychologists as 'infantile omnipotence', and who reacts to the word 'No!' with a violent tantrum. The botched burglary and its aftermath is painful to watch, but I dare not say whether any of the vexed situations which drove the participants into it are resolved, for that would give away too much. Certainly, this is one of the finer British efforts in this genre during the 1950s.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Channel 4 recently screened The Good Die Young one afternoon so I set
the video and was pleased I did.
Four men, a boxer who has had one of his arms amputated, a rich man and two Americans are fed up of being short of money. The rich man suggests the four of them rob a post office which is having a delivery of £90,000 later that evening. After all agreeing, they head there but things start going wrong when a copper comes over to their car to tell them are illegally parked. He is shot dead and the gang the raid the van and take the money and escape into a nearby church yard. The rich man shoots the boxer first after he decides to give himself up, then as they are crossing the railway lines which are electrified, he pushes one of the Americans onto the live rails and is electrocuted. The two survivors manage to escape further from the police on an Underground train but the American decides he has had enough and goes back to his wife and they head to the airport to go catch a flight back to America. After making a last minute phone call to police telling them where the hidden money is, the rich man sees him in the phone booth but he is shot by the American. Thinking he is dead, he heads for the plane but is shot and then collapses into his wife's arms and dies. A sad ending.
The movie has excellent location photography around London and one of the best parts is the railway sequence.
This movie is worth having in a collection just for the cast: the gang leader is played by Laurence Harvey, the boxer is played by Stanley Baker (Zulu), the Americans are Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom Of the Sea) and John Ireland. The rest of the cast includes a young Joan Collins (Empire of the Ants, Dynasty), Robert Morley (who only appears too briefly), Margaret Leighton, Freda Jackson (The Valley Of Gwangi), Rene Ray and Susan Shaw.
Watching this is an ideal way of spending 100 minutes one afternoon. Excellent.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Coming to this with neutral expectations, and fresh from seeing Harvey in 'Room at the Top' for the umpteenth time, I was quite surprised to find it watchable, with lots of interesting facets and a cast who complement each other well. Baker (an actor whose work seems to be undergoing some appraisal at film festivals lately) gives some dignity to the down-on-his-luck prizefighter; Harvey convincingly plays an upper-class slimeball alternatively charming and terrorising his wife (interesting played by Margaret Leighton, who would become Mrs Harvey in real life), sparring with the father who despises him, and poisoning his 'friends' lives like a devious snake. Ireland, as the bitter GI with a film star wife flaunting her infidelities each time he comes home from leave, is effective, while Basehart, with a weedy wife and an overbearing mother-in-law, puts across his frustations nicely. So much for characterisation. The film is mainly taken up with a series of flashbacks, showing how the four men find themselves in the situation we see them in at the start. Once it moves back into the present, it feels rushed and the final moralistic voiceover almost kills it. Amongst the other players, Joan Collins as Basehart's wife doesn't do much besides pout and look pretty, while Gloria Grahame as the film actress manages to be simply irritating. All things considered, the film isn't a total success but has enough going on to keep you there with it.
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