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George Fowler is drawn into a gang planning to rob a bank in St. Louis that they expect will have a $100,000 on hand on an upcoming Friday. George is drawn into the plan as the gang's driver by Gino, an old girlfriend's older brother. As the gang goes about its planning, George and Gino have to find a way to live for the next two weeks and they turn to Gino's sister, Ann, for help. George is hoping to go back to college and the money he would make would go a long way to helping him do that. Not trusting George to keep his nerve, the gang's leader John Egan moves him to the inside, but the robbery doesn't go off as planned. Written by
Let me begin by pointing out that IMDb makes a mistake when it lists Nell Roberts as "Woman in Bar Talking to George." The woman in the bar is George's girlfriend Ann, played by Molly McCarthy. Nell Roberts is the Salvation Army woman who appears in three places in the film but who speaks only at the end when she tells a cop, "Don't go in. They're robbing the bank." I speak from authority as the great-nephew of Nell Roberts, my grandmother's sister, who was active in community theater in St. Louis in the 1950s, and who also had a bit role (as an old woman who answers the door) in the film, "Hoodlum Priest" (starring Don Murray), which was also made in St. Louis. We always knew her as "Aunt Nelly," so I guess "Nell" was her stage name.
In any case, "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery" is an interesting little movie -- though there really is nothing "great" about it. The noir approach fits the story line perfectly, but the execution strikes me as stiff and amateurish, especially in the acting and the editing. McQueen was doing what he could to be Brando, but Brando he wasn't. The three other members of the gang and the girlfriend have various small strengths as actors to commend them, but they wouldn't have been enough for professional survival today. The plethora of extras and bit players must have saved the producers some dinero, and they do give the film a certain documentary and amateur-theatrical charm, but their performances (including Aunt Nelly's) are of a type to make the viewer uncomfortable in the expectation of an embarrassing gaff. The homosexual subtext (mentioned by other reviewers) is certainly not imaginary. In fact, the things that make this movie most worth watching are, first, that homosexuality is included as a theme at all -- it was not necessary to the film's integrity unless the producers were aiming at some politically incorrect social commentary or had a personal ax to grind -- and, second, that the gay relationships had to be coded to make the finished work acceptable to the public in the late 1950s.
But I did enjoy the look of the cars and the streets of St. Louis (a la New York in "The Naked City") before the rapid urban disintegration that overtook it shortly afterwards, and from which it has still not recovered. The was the REAL "St. Louis Bank Robbery."
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