The St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959)
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The setup has McQueen's character hired as the getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers. Their careful planning is thrown into complications by an old girlfriend of George's (McQueen), whose brother is also part of the gang. The resulting tensions, plus the various unexpected developments as they carry out their plan, add some interest to the basic story. Many of the scenes are written and filmed rather well, although at times the movie expends some screen time on less interesting material.
McQueen does a good job with an unsympathetic character, and the supporting cast is mostly solid. Molly McCarthy is believable and generally sympathetic as Ann, but she does not always give her character a lot of depth. Crahan Denton gives the gang's boss a good, solid persona at the beginning, but afterward the character remains rather one-dimensional even when there are chances to bring out some interesting characteristics.
The straightforward, almost documentary style cinematography works pretty well, and makes a good combination with the downbeat story. Despite a few things that could have been better, this is not bad at all for its genre, and it is certainly worth seeing.
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."
The movie itself is a hoot! I mean with not so evasive homosexual references and shades of Noir...and in the early 50's!!....it is worth seeing. I liked it.
It is a story of the "Great St. Louis Bank Robbery" in the early 50's....great period piece for those of us who were alive then....and for those who were not to see what a section of Americana looked like....
Using the real people involved in the actual heist is great! Non-Actors who are reliving their dream or nightmare....depending.
See it. You won't be disappointed.
The acting is not aided by the most interesting writing, and among the actors Crahan Denton deserves the most credit, and the character who doesn't want to go back to prison is also quite good. A young Steve McQueen is astonishingly bland. The script is not particularly imaginative, but the characters are interesting enough and the direction is competent. If you like straight forward heist movies, this is one you'll enjoy.
The makers of this film were very professional and did a good job. The only downside to the movie is that it is so sombre; the characters aren't charismatic, witty, or cheerful, and they aren't in the habit of saying things like "Do you feel lucky?" or "Make my day." (On the other hand, that fact adds to the realism.)
Steve McQueen performs well, and he's not trying to be Marlon Brando. His character is a young, inexperienced man just out of college who's not too sure of himself and who is trying not to become a habitual criminal.
Since the film is in the public domain, a high-resolution copy can be downloaded here: http://www.archive.org/details/Saint_Louis_Bank_Robbery
Don't be put off by the low production values - this movie has much to say, and much to offer.
Getting a crew together to knock off the Southwest Bank head crook John Egan, Crahan Denton, wan't his boys to case out the bank for a week before they rob it. The robbers spends hours at a time checking every angle and escape route to make sure that the robbery goes off without a hitch.
Right from the start things start to go sour when one of the robbers Gino, David Clarke, recruits young George Fowler, Steve McQueen, as the wheel man in the operation. George isn't a hardened criminal and only want's to pull off this job to get enough money for him to finish college and make something of himself.
Gino knows Geroge from him being his sisters Ann , Molly McCarthy, boyfriend and feels that he won't choke up when things get hot. That very fact, George being romantically involved with Ann, turns out to be the Achillese Heel of the "Great St. Louis Bank Robbery".
Needing a place to stay until the day of the robbery Gino tells George to go see Ann, whom he recently broke up with, an ask her for $50.00 and tell her that he needs it to keep him from being sent back to prison in Chicago.Reluctant at first Ann gives George the money, with a personal check to send to Gino. Later Ann sees him in the city, St. Louis, and knows that he and George are up to no good.
Depressed at the thought of Gino and George robbing the Southwest Bank, she saw George case it out from a diner across the street, Ann starts to get so out of hand that she jeopardies the impending bank robbery by getting drunk one evening. Later Ann goes a step farther writing in lipstick "this bank is going to be robbed" on the Southwest Bank's windows.
Outraged at Ann's behavior, and George and Gino not being able to control or shut her up, John and his partner Willie take Ann to their hideout where John in a fit of anger throws Ann off the fire-escape killing her. With both Gino and George totally in he dark to what happened to Ann, John and Willie tell them that she flew off to Chicago, the four get ready for the big bank heist. Then for some strange reason George is told that he'll have to take part in the robbery and that Willie is to replace him as the wheel man; it was John's way of keeping Willie quite about his murdering Ann.
The fact that Willie is put behind the wheel and George, who's not only a better driver but far more responsible and loyal to the group, was sent into rob the bank turned out to be a complete disaster. John gets shot by the cops with Gino killing himself when he saw there was no way out, and the thought of him going back to prison was just too much for him to take. George ending up badly wounded is arrested and sent to prison for the rest of his life. This destroys his dream of being able to finish his education and become an honest and upstanding citizen in the community. The man responsible for all this mess happening Willie, the getaway driver, gets away without as much as a scratch on him leaving the three other crooks to face the music, and police bullets.
Solid crime caper with Steve McQueen, as George Fowler, doing his best as he methods acts his way through the movie. McQueen goes from a quite and scared college kid to a hardened and unfeeling criminal within the 89 minutes of the film.
The ending is something to watch as George almost bleeding to death and holding a young couple hostage in the bank, Eddie and his wife of two months( Larry Gerst & Martha Gable), finally sees the light to what he got himself involved in. If George was as smart as he though he was he should have listen to Ann, when she was still alive,and all this would have never happened to him or her.
The format is that of "The Asphalt Jungle." Four met of diverse temperaments are brought together by the leader, Crahan Denton, to pull an ordinary bank robbery in St. Louis. Nothing elaborate. Nobody crawls through sewers or hacks through walls. The gang simply times the traffic lights and figures out how long it will take for the police to respond to the inevitable alarm. The judgment is that they can empty the tills at the tellers' stations, avoid fooling with the vault, and get away in time.
A good deal of the movie describes the relationships between the four thieves. They're all pretty bleak. Nobody cracks a joke or even smiles except at someone else's misfortune. One of the characters is evidently gay, and Steve McQueen is the college drop out who is marginal but takes part in the robbery anyway. The robbery scene itself is extensive and doesn't make too much sense.
Not all that much of the plot makes sense either. How did McQueen's girl friend guess that Steve and the rest intended to rob a particular bank? He certainly didn't tell her. I guess that's fulgurating intuition.
The dialog isn't bad. A nice scene in a bar with Crahan Denton admitting to McQueen that he was born in 1897 and went to work at twelve to support his alcoholic mother. It's rather touching, despite Denton's delivery. (He acts and sounds like a villain in a 1930s B Western.) McQueen hadn't yet developed any acting chops. He walks around with his mouth open, looking bemused, and he frequently bites his tongue and purses his lips to express tension. And, OMG, is the direction and editing one hundred percent pedestrian or what. The pauses between utterances seem to last as long as the Wurm glaciation. Somebody should have stepped on the gas pedal.
The bank robbery itself is a mass of confusion. There's chaos when the cops show up far too early, and without any explanation of why. And it lasts a long time. Often the staging is completely off. Trapped, one of the robbers crawls down a long flight of stairs to the room with the vault and safety deposit boxes. He's all alone, testing doors, climbing walls, looking for a way out. When he realizes there is none, he offs himself, and the spectators upstairs in the bank lobby stare at him, clap their hands to their faces, and scream -- although they can't possibly see him.
The sluggish pace and meandering plot -- McQueen has an on/off girl friend -- make for tedium, yet it's not without some appeal. Nice 1950s cars. And St. Louis doesn't yet look like Dresden after World War II.
The Great Saint Louis Bank Robbery chooses to focus on the gritty, grimy side of crime in an effort to seem more "realistic". It may be closer to the truth than the stylized noirs of the 40's but it is also much less entertaining. The dialog is boring, the acting contrived (McQueen is trying so hard to be the next Brando or James Dean and it's just painful to watch), and the plot so predictable.
For a movie like this to work, you have to sympathize with a least one of the characters and I couldn't. Three of the four leads were certifiable mental cases and the other one was dumb as a stump.
For a much better heist noir, try KC Confidential or the Asphalt Jungle...
Mr. McQueen (as George Fowler) is a college drop-out, trying to lead the straight life. He is tempted into a life of crime, however, by ex-girlfriend Molly McCarthy (as Ann)'s brother David Clarke (as Gino). McQueen and Mr. Clarke have partnered up; but, the roommates have had a difficult time finding honest work. So, they involve themselves with a bank heist, masterminded by Crahan Denton (as John Eagan).
The fifth wheel in the cast is getaway driver James Dukas (as Willie). Mr. Dukas gives the film's best performance; and, he has the most interesting role. Dukas began with head honcho Denton when he was a younger, thinner "kid", a fact Denton cruelly enjoys mentioning; and, the two obviously became lovers. They have a terrific bickering scene, which ends with Denton ordering Dukas, "Go take a bath, Willie." Denton wants the younger McQueen to drive his getaway car, which makes Dukas very jealous.
Too bad that jukebox could only afford to play one record. With a bigger budget, "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery" coulda been a contenda.
If you're a fan of fast moving action, I suggest you fast-forward through the first hour as it's chiefly a period when the director fleshes out the characters, and they are a right strange crew! Other reviewers have pretty much covered them so all I'll mention is that none are what they seem. The lead female character is perhaps the only 'normal' in sight. She puts in an outstanding performance despite having very little screen time.
Not a movie for you if you're in a depressed frame of mind but certainly something out of the ordinary and worth a couple of viewings should you be a fan of Steve and the genre.
Movies like this are similar to Kansas City Confidential where is has that minimalist feel, like you are revisiting time gone by. No extras and low budget give a very realistic sense of time. I would show this movie to a class to unpack what 1959 looked like. From a historical perspective, these films are worth the free YouTube experience.
What I find annoying is how a bank robbery with such effort to plan and execute never mentions how easily it would be to get extra time in the bank to pull off the heist. Maybe if a screenwriter inserted this the movie would fall apart. A simple call or riot in a part of time far from the bank would pull all the small town cops to that location giving the robbers the needed extra time to secure their heist. Pay some kids to shoot a gun off, to smash a car, to harass a woman--man with a gun call--and BOOM, they're off! Yet, we never see this in a movie.
Recommend this film for the noir quality and to realize CGI, big budget is not needed to entertain.
This crime thriller from 1959 is based on a true story about a violent bank robbery that took place in the US & stars several of the real-life participants of the incident, mainly the police officers who attended & foiled the real-life robbery. The film uses a novel approach to make the film about the lives of the robbers in the week leading up to the robbery & the dangerous complications that upended it.
But while the film has a robust formula & the actors give consistently good performances, particularly Molly McCarthy as Steve McQueen's unstable former girlfriend, the film ultimately staggers due to a lack of purpose. Most of the film consists of character-driven melodrama over the gang's priorities & Ann's fragile mental state, but this is ultimately nothing more than padding for the robbery. And when the robbery does come, it is somewhat a disappointment due to the lack of time it takes up & ends up feeling anticlimactic. If you're a fan of Steve McQueen, this might do passably well as one of the actor's early credits but as far as heist films go, it is decidedly average.
Now, the thing is, while the bank scene is great, the rest of the movie is just mediocre. I mean, I guess I haven't done my research so I don't know how accurate the buildup was. These are the scenes that have too much talking and aren't that interesting. I do understand that the real life people had no problem with the way the movie was filmed and I have to respect the bravery they showed in the event. It's just that I think this movie would have worked a lot better as a short film. That's really all the time you need to show this.
I harbor no ill will towards the people involved in the robbery, although as it happened in the 1950's, they are all probably dead now. That's still not an excuse to not honor them. In a weird way, I would recommend this movie if only because the bank scene is done well with the real life people involved. This is certainly better than other movies based on true stories like "Pearl Harbor" or "Patch Adams" (even though the real Patch Adams supports homeopathy, which has been scientifically proved to be the least effective medicine in existence). It doesn't become as good as "To Hell And Back" which also featured the real life person doing the acting and is a far superior movie. If you're into history, then I suggest this even though it isn't really all that good. **1/2
McQueen's a new kid with no criminal record brought into the planning of a bank heist by one of the other gang. There's more than a broad hint that there's a gay relationship going on between young Steve and David Clarke. He's not liked at all by the other heist members, mainly because of his lack of criminal resume.
Steve also has a girl friend in Molly McCarthy and she suspects something afoot, especially when he starts hanging around with Crahan Denton and James Dukas as well as Clarke, all pretty rough characters. That would certainly get my suspicions aroused.
The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery had two directors Charles Guggenheim and John Stix. Guggenheim did mostly documentaries and Stix didn't do much of anything. One of those two jokers decided Steve's performance was best served by doing a bad Marlon Brando imitation.
This film may go down as the worst ever done by Steve McQueen. I'm willing to bet that Dick Powell and Four Star Productions had already signed him for Wanted Dead or Alive because I can't believe they would have if they saw this.
Or they would have seen something the public would have overlooked except for the dressing for this turkey.
If you're like me, you'll quickly find this 1959 Crime/Drama so fricking amateurish (on every level) that you'll swear it was an Ed Wood production.
I thought "St. Louis" story sucked, the acting stank, and the dialog puked. About the only thing in this totally lame picture that sparked any of my interest were the spiffy, vintage automobiles. Yeah. They were very cool.
Had this picture's running time of 90 minutes been edited down to, say, 60 minutes, then, yes, perhaps that might have helped things somewhat by moving the story along at a much quicker and more lively pace.
But, as it stood (especially with its intense focus on the super-dumb romance that took place between Steve McQueen's character, George Fowler, and Ann, a real dizzy, small-town bimbo), this film lost my interest long before the robbery actually took place (which didn't happen until the last 15 minutes of the story). And by that time I was too bored and tired to care what the hell happened to anybody or who ended up double-crossing who.
Filmed in b&w, this movie was directed by Charles Guggenheim, a dude who was noted for his documentaries.
Curiously, Steve McQueen's performance seems somewhat awkward, even unsure at times. A good example is the conversation in the bar with his old flame Ann (Molly McCarthy); it's disjointed and reaches a point where he just walks away, almost like he didn't want to be in the scene anymore. Though this was one of his first big screen appearances, he was doing the Western TV series "Wanted: Dead or Alive" during the same period, and there he seemed perfectly natural and comfortable as bounty hunter Josh Randall.
Getting back to the story, it made me wonder why nothing ever came of Ann's lipstick rendered warning on the bank's window. The only follow up we ever see is a window cleaner removing it, though one might have expected some investigation from authorities, even if there was no conclusion.
The bank job goes awry once a teller triggers an alarm, and from there, the bandits literally fall apart. For those who haven't seen the film, I won't spoil it here, but you'll wind up saying to yourself, 'boy, what a bunch'! It would have been nice if a trailer had been provided to explain what happened to the surviving principals after the legal proceedings.
Steve McQueen fans would do well to get a hold of this one for an early look at the film legend's career, however beyond that, the movie itself isn't especially noteworthy. Generally somber to the point of being depressing at times, it's nowhere near as entertaining as 1975's bank robbery caper, "Dog Day Afternoon".