6.6/10
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27 user 8 critic

Crack-Up (1946)

Art curator George Steele experiences a train wreck...which never happened. Is he cracking up, or the victim of a plot?

Director:

Irving Reis
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Pat O'Brien ... George Steele
Claire Trevor ... Terry Cordell
Herbert Marshall ... Traybin
Ray Collins ... Dr. Lowell
Wallace Ford ... Lt. Cochrane
Dean Harens ... Reynolds
Damian O'Flynn ... Stevenson
Erskine Sanford ... Barton
Mary Ware Mary Ware ... Mary
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Storyline

George Steele, art curator at a small museum, has an apparent mental breakdown one night, convinced he was in a train wreck...which never happened. In flashback, shortly after proposing to x-ray some old master paintings the museum has on loan, Steele is called on an unplanned nocturnal train trip. He suddenly sees another train ahead, speeding toward his... Is George indeed cracking up, or is there a plot to discredit him? The mystery grows murky with shadowy menace... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

SHATTERED MEMORY...HAUNTING FEAR! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 September 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Galveston See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on December 30, 1946 with Pat O'Brien reprising his film role. See more »

Goofs

The ship Pat O'Brien goes to is riding so high at the dock that it is obviously empty, even though it is due to sail at 1:00 a.m. with a cargo. See more »

Quotes

Terry Cordell: Wouldn't it be smarter to go to Cochrane and get this thing out in the open?
George Steele: About as smart as cutting my throat to get some fresh air.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Noirish mystery set in perilous places: Aboard trains and in museums
2 December 2002 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

The title of Irving Reis' Crack-Up sums up two elements of its plot: the wreck of a train carrying Pat O'Brien and the psychotic episode he throws in its aftermath. He gives lectures at a New York museum, demystifying art for the masses, who obligingly moan reverently at Monet but hoot derisively at Dali. When a phone call (sick mother) summons him upstate, he boards a train on which he freezes like a deer in the headlamp of a renegade engine hurtling straight at him. Oddly, he survives, but upon his return hurls a fire extinguisher through the gallery doors, assaults a policeman, and babbles incoherently about the accident. Trouble is, Mom's in fine fettle, and there was no crash.

The movie joins him in sorting out the dramatic turns his life has taken. Helping him is Claire Trevor, a fixture in Manhattan art-snob circles. Herbert Marshall purports to help, too, but he keeps his cards close to his vest. Quite candidly not much help are the museum's board and its snooty benefactors, among them Ray Collins, who were never keen about the democratic spirit O'Brien breathed into their mausoleum and use his erratic behavior to halt his series of light-hearted talks. The police, too, have a stake; O'Brien did, after all, throw that punch....

One of the felicities of Crack-Up is that it takes its canvases seriously, putting them at the core of the story. (A similar respect for art, music and theater, and for audiences assumed to have some acquaintance with them, routinely elevated films of the 1940s; times, plainly, have changed.) Of course monetary rather than esthetic value drives the villains here, as O'Brien slowly uncovers an international art scam, which is why he was derailed in the first place.

The train crash itself – a very scary sequence, brilliantly handled by Reis – emerges, in the final wrapping-up, as the weakest point of the movie, a baroque twist too far-fetched to convince. Because of this contrivance, the movie cleaves to the over-plotted mysteries of the 1930s and early 1940s rather than to the emergent noir cycle that, in its look and many of its devices, it otherwise resembles. But then there's the always toothsome Claire Trevor, whose ensembles take inspiration from the uniforms of the just-won war; festooned in military braid and berets, she tilts the scales towards noir. Either way, Crack-Up offers some suspenseful fun spiked with a surprising note of sophistication.


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