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Larceny (1948)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 3 September 1948 (USA)
A con man sets out to swindle a widow out of the money she's received to build a memorial to her war-hero husband, but winds up falling in love with her instead.

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(screenplay), (novel) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview:
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Silky Randall
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Max
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Duke
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Walter Vanderline
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Charlie Jordan
Walter Greaza ...
Mr. Owens
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Waitress
Harry Antrim ...
Mr. McNulty
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Detective
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Mechanic
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Master of Ceremonies
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Storyline

A con man sets out to swindle a widow out of the money she's received to build a memorial to her war-hero husband, but winds up falling in love with her instead.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

widow | con man | based on novel | See All (3) »

Taglines:

Con-man deluxe - his specialties were dames... and dough! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

3 September 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Aves de Rapina  »

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 11, 1948 with John Payne and Joan Caulfield reprising their film roles. See more »

Goofs

When John Payne is being shown up to his hotel room, one can clearly see the tape on the floor as his marker for the previous shot at the front desk. See more »

Quotes

Tory: Stop twisting my arm! People will think we're married!
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User Reviews

 
John Payne makes smart his move to the newborn noir cycle
29 August 2004 | by See all my reviews

Like Dick Powell, John Payne was another crooner and hoofer from ‘30s musicals – a light leading man – who saw new opportunities waiting in the changing Hollywood of the late ‘40s and seized them. Eschewing also-ran roles in prestige pictures (The Razor's Edge, Miracle on 34th Street), he found he was better off taking top billing in the grittier Bs of the newborn noir cycle. It was a smart move. With rugged good looks but no glamour boy, a strong, silent type who didn't make it a gimmick, he turned into a plausible and appealing Average Joe, without ever fading into the generic. In the half-dozen or so noirs he starred in, he straddled both sides of the law, though he usually found himself stranded in a no-man's land in the middle.

In Larceny, he's one of a gang of con-men led by Dan Duryea. They've just finished a grift in Miami Beach, so Payne is sent to the far coast, to `Mission City,' to lay groundwork for the next job. He poses as an old service buddy of a slain war hero so the widow (Joan Caulfield) will spearhead a fund-raising drive for a memorial – sort of a posh Boy's Town for underprivileged youth – that, of course, is nothing more than a scheme for bilking donors.

But that mischievous cherub Cupid throws a few monkey wrenches into the works. First off, Payne starts developing protective feelings for Caulfield and, more slowly, she for him (she's been playing Vestal Virgin at her husband's altar for so long she finds her own feelings a betrayal). Even worse, Duryea's moll, a `boa constrictor in high heels' (Shelley Winters, in full blonde-bombshell mode) carries such a torch for Payne that she follows him out west, by bus yet. The sicker Payne grows of her, the needier and more reckless she gets – their unstable chemistry threatens to blow them both sky high. The plot executes several quick turns when the possessive Duryea shows up (as does the victim of the Miami scam), when Caulfield reveals that she plans to put up all the money herself, and when Winters decides to take matters into her own pistol-packin' hand....

The violence in Larceny is toned way down, confined mainly to Winters' being slapped around (but she slaps back). It relies instead on a tight script, bristling with smart-mouthed cracks: `[Winters] is like a high-tension wire. Once you grab on, you can't let go – even if you want to;' `You kiss like you're paying off an election bet;' `I said I'm sorry but I'm not going to write it on the blackboard 100 times.' It allows Percy Helton and Dorothy Hart space enough to flesh out their small parts (Hart does a scrumptious riff on Dorothy Malone's bookstore clerk in The Big Sleep). All in all, Larceny proves a congenial vehicle for Payne's welcome arrival in dark city.


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