40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine Forties noir with Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and Brian Donlevy, and a startling performance by William Bendix
Maybe not a great noir, but The Glass Key, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, is one of the most satisfying crime movies to come out of the Forties. I've watched it several times and undoubtedly will again. Why does it work so well? First, there's a death tied to a whodunit and the solution is well disguised until the very end. Second, there's the milieu...big city...
Published on 11 July 2007 by C. O. DeRiemer
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dashiell Hammett's novel gets a watered down, slow moving treatment
A coarse and corrupt political boss (Brian Donlevy) falls in love with the daughter (Veronica Lake) of a wealthy politician (Moroni Olsen) and proceeds to woo the daughter and back the politician against the advice of his right hand henchman (Alan Ladd). When the politician's son (Richard Denning) turns up dead, Donlevy becomes the chief suspect. The second film version...
Published on 1 Jan 2011 by The CinemaScope Cat
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine Forties noir with Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake and Brian Donlevy, and a startling performance by William Bendix,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)Maybe not a great noir, but The Glass Key, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, is one of the most satisfying crime movies to come out of the Forties. I've watched it several times and undoubtedly will again. Why does it work so well? First, there's a death tied to a whodunit and the solution is well disguised until the very end. Second, there's the milieu...big city crime and politics, corruption and violence. Third, a startlingly unhinged performance by William Bendix. And fourth, and most importantly, there is the relationship between two strong men, both slightly amoral but which is based on friendship and trust.
We're talking about Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy), a big-time gambler and enforcer who has moved into big-time politics, and Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd), his right-hand man. This bond of trust and friendship between the two is one of the movie's major themes. It's the engine that drives the movie. Madvig is a tough, cheerful guy who can use his fists or a threat or use a pay-off to get his way. Surprisingly, he's backing a reform candidate for governor. He's gone so far as to shut down illegal gambling operations, which has made a dangerous enemy of gambler Nick Varna (Joseph Calliea). Even more surprisingly, Madvig has fallen for his candidate's daughter, Janet Henry (Veronica Lake).
Beaumont, on the other hand, is a taciturn hard case. He's no one's fool. He's smarter, or at least shrewder, than Madvig. His loyalty to Madvig is complete but he never hesitates to try to talk sense to Madvig. At one point Madvig is bragging about his entry into high society and respectable politics with his association with the candidate he's backing. "I'm going to society, " he says to Beaumont. "He's practically given me the key to his house." Says Beaumont, "Yeah, a glass key. Be sure it doesn't break in your hand." Beaumont sees Janet Henry and her family as wealthy, condescending snobs. Why do you stay with Madvig, she asks him with a coy little condescending smile. "I get along very well with Paul because he's on the dead up-and-up. Why don't you try it sometime?" he says and walks out.
Before long Janet's brother, the wastrel son of Madvig's candidate, is found dead and Madvig is the prime suspect. Beaumont doesn't believe this for a minute. He's sure Nick Varna had something to do with it. Soon Beaumont is being used as a punching bag by Jeff (William Bendix), one of Varna's goons. It doesn't take much time, either, for Beaumont and Janet Henry, who has said she'd marry Madvig, to realize there's a strong attraction between them that's starting to show. Beaumont, however, is determined to respect Madvig's feelings. By the time we reach the end of the movie, there have been plenty of beatings, deaths and corruption. The person responsible for the brother's death has been discovered. It's a clever surprise. Of course, in an Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake movie, there's also a happy ending.
William Bendix was a big, beefy actor who more often than not played good guys. When he played a bad guy, he was something to see. Jeff is just this short of a psycho, but short on the other side of the line. "Meet the swellest guy I ever skinned a knuckle on," he says, draping an arm across Beaumont's shoulder. He enjoys dishing out beatings. The most startling scenes in the movie center on Jeff. In the first, Ed Beaumont is being held captive. He's going to be beaten until he gives the low-down on all of Madvig's less savory activities. He won't talk, so Jeff beats him within an inch of his life. It's an almost sadomasochistic scene. Ladd's face, with some realistic make-up, looks like hamburger...and Jeff isn't through. The other scene has Jeff losing control when a major character gives him one too many orders. "Now you see what we gotta do," Jeff says, "we gotta give him the works." As Beaumont leans against the door in the background and watches, we see the sweating, shaking face of Jeff as he strangles the guy. We don't see the victim, only the victim's kicking legs. Which is worse, Jeff killing the man or Beaumont watching with a slight smile?
This was Alan Ladd's follow-up film to This Gun for Hire. He was never a great actor; he said so himself. But he had whatever it takes to be a star and this movie secured his star status. Veronica Lake leaves me with mixed feelings. In The Glass Key she is so carefully coifed, dressed and made-up that, with her tiny stature, she looks like a kind of odd porcelain doll. Although Ladd and Lake never much cared for each other, they made an intriguing couple on the screen. And what of Brian Donlevy? Sure, he was a stolid actor, very straight forward. Yet, for me, he always combined a kind of honest, nice-guy quality with a streak of solid bad-guy potential. "Reliable," I guess is what people would call him, yet I can't think of anyone who could have done a better job as Sergeant Markoff in Beau Geste. Donlevy had top billing for The Glass Key.
For those who like old songs as well as old movies, there's a nice instrumental version of "I Remember You," music by Victor Schertzinger and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, used as background in a scene. "I Don't Want to Walk Without You, Baby," with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Frank Loesser, is sung by an uncredited Lillian Randolph in a dive while Jeff glowers and downs a couple of scotches.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dashiell Hammett's novel gets a watered down, slow moving treatment,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)A coarse and corrupt political boss (Brian Donlevy) falls in love with the daughter (Veronica Lake) of a wealthy politician (Moroni Olsen) and proceeds to woo the daughter and back the politician against the advice of his right hand henchman (Alan Ladd). When the politician's son (Richard Denning) turns up dead, Donlevy becomes the chief suspect. The second film version of the Dashiell Hammett novel (the first was filmed in 1935 with George Raft in Ladd's part) and sluggishly directed by Stuart Heisler. It clocks in at a brief 81 minutes but is seems like a full two hours. The political corruption is toned down from the original Hammett novel and the film plays out like a conventional film noir. Ladd is pretty good and his chemistry with the expressionless Lake remains solid but the acting honors, such as they are, belong to the roughly hewn Donlevy. With William Bendix as a sadistic thug, Dane Clark, Bonita Granville, Joseph Calleia, Frances Gifford, Donald MacBride and in a small but scene stealing part, Margaret Hayes (BLACKBOARD JUNGLE) as a nymphomaniac who seduces Ladd and drives her husband to suicide.
The Universal DVD from Great Britain is a decent if unexceptional transfer.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William 'Billy' Benedict a bad guy? Never, well maybe,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)They mention "the glass Key" at the beginning of the film as the key to a position. A warning says, "It is a glass key, be sure it does not break off in your hand."
This movie was supposed to be the one that made it for both Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. They are also together in the film "This Gun for Hire." I did not read the book but Dash-it-all Hammett is usually a lot darker and his characters are usually a lot sleazier. The only really dark scene was probably the encounter between Ed Beaumont and Jeff. The mystery was good. The who-done-it and why lasted up to the end.
What ever happened to William Bendix the bartender in "Boys' Night Out" (1962) and "Life of Riley (1953)"? I always thought of him as a good guy. Boy, this shatters my image of him.
I Married a Witch ~ Veronica Lake
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spooky...,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)Made in 1942, "The Glass Key" was the second film version of a Dashiell Hammett novel (the first, made in 1935, featured George Raft). Generally filed under "Noir, Film", it nevertheless bids fair to being one of the oddest, spookiest films ever to find shelter under that particular heading.
On the face of it, "The Glass Key" is a standard noir. It deals with the efforts of Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) to leave his sleazy, two-fisted past behind and break into legitimate big-time politics by backing Ralph Henry (played by Moroni Olsen) for Governor. Madvig also falls for Henry's daughter Janet (Veronica lake). This liaison is frowned upon by Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd), Madvig's minder. Beaumont and Janet have an instant and strong mutual attraction. But Beaumont doesn't trust her, feeling that she is using Madvig to further her father's political career. Further, Henry's son Taylor (Richard Benning) is a gambling addict whose constant demands for money to finance his habit is threatening to bring the family name into disrepute.
That is a simplified version of what is an unusually complex plot, even for a noir. However, what really stand out are three things; the Lighting, and the performances of Ladd and Bendix.
The Lighting? Well, we all know that the term "Noir" refers more to the moral tone of a film than to its cinematic presentation, though the moody shadow-effects typical of the genre go hand-in-hand with, and are symbolic of, the dark tone of the films' subject-matter. But this film is practically neon-lit all the way through. There are no deep shadows anywhere in it, just bright lights everywhere, so sometimes you wonder if you haven't you've slipped into one of the "Thin Man" films, or maybe a Claudette Colbert comedy.
Then there is Alan Ladd's performance. Usually more wooden than the Armada (there was a joke that Ladd had only two expressions, hat on and hat off), here he puts a sinister twist on his usual dendrological immobility. When Janet Henry (Lake) heaves into view and Ladd sees her for the first time, his face becomes a mask of lust. His lips part in a sort of rictus, like a Gerry Anderson puppet, and his half-open eyes swivel lecherously to the side. The rest of him stays completely still, so that he looks for all the world like a ventriloquist's dummy. The effect is eery beyond belief, the more so as the whole thing happens in that bare, unblinking light without a shadow in sight. He reminded me of the evil dummy in "Dead of Night", with all its concomitant spookiness.
But when it comes to Spooky, William Bendix (Jeff) makes Beaumont look like the boy next door. When he rides shotgun with his boss he is a heavy in the traditional mould, but when alone he has the sort of wondrous innocence of a Candide adrift in a world he doesn't understand. Though he keeps Beaumont prisoner and beats him to a pulp during the course of trying to get him to betray Madvig, he treats Beaumont with an unsettling cameraderie that has strongly homo-erotic undertones. He keeps patting him, putting his arm around him and calling him "my Baby" and "The swellest guy I ever skinned a knuckle on", treating him with a wide-eyed tenderness as if this is the closest he can get to expressing friendship or affection. Bendix could play either good guys (who are usually a bit simple) or heavies, but here he breaks the mould completely, going into really dark territory and making the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
The rest of the cast are variable. Calleia (Varna) is an acceptable if pedestrian villain. Lake, usually good value for money, here seems very stiff and unconvincing; she and Ladd have zero chemistry and you can't believe in their mutual attraction for a moment. Donald McBride, a dodgy D.A., does his usual effective shtick as the weak and corrupt official who lives life on the verge of hysteria. And Jeff's sidekick Rusty (Eddie Marr), who cooks for the pair of them while they are keeping Beaumont prisoner, has one really good line that can easily be missed. When asked by Jeff where he learnt to cook, he replies "My first wife was second cook in a third-class joint on fourth avenue".
So, all in all a distinctly odd, and very unsettling, little noir which deserves to be better known, and which could probably sit in a little category all of its own.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cut the chat and get to the action,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)"The Glass Key" and "This Gun for Hire" were both made in 1942, at the start of the Film Noir movement; previously only Fritz Lang had really visited this territory in "Fury" and "You Only Live Twice" at the end of the 30s. "This Gun for Hire" pretty much introduced Alan Ladd and made him a star. On his upward trajectory, here he has third billing after Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake, but carries most of the action.
The plot is well summarised by another reviewer, so I won't go over it again. I think it is worth pointing out what makes it disappointing compared with later Noirs. First there are the stars. Both of them are - well, the only word is "odd". Ladd built his reputation on hardness, but it's a soft face, high forehead, receding hairline, weak chin. He tries to put Hard into his eyes but he's no Richard Widmark. So we're left with his smile, which he creates by self-consciously lifting his upper lip above his upper teeth. It's not a pretty sight, but it seems also artificial, a little boy acting tough.
As for Lake, her face is extraordinary. It comes straight out of medieval painting, or a Modigliani. The person she reminds me most of is Edith Sitwell, with her swanlike neck and pure Plantagenet bloodline. But beyond the shape of the face, the skin has a stretched quality, as if Lake has already had several facelifts at the age of 23. She is stick-thin, despite generous support in the brassiere area.
Put the two of them together and they look like two grotesque little dolls on the loose in the adult world. Neither of them handles dialogue well, with unnecessary facial signalling and clunking pauses. This makes a dialogue-laden film, with more exposition than action, slow going.
Where the movie does score is in its relationship between the Ladd and Donlevy characters (Ed and Paul), an intense bonding which elicits total loyalty. It ought to be homosexual, but there is little hint of it. But the test of loyalty will become a staple of the moral ambiguities of Film Noir.
When it finally does get going in the action, the filming is well up to snuff. Shot largely in shadow, the sado-masochistic relationship between Ladd and William Bendix as chief Heavy Jeff is chilling and funny in equal turns. Bendix is given a rare chance to be more than the comedy tough, and he does the psycho very well indeed. Here the sexuality is explicit to a surprising extent. Jeff calls Ed darling so many times, and at one point refers to him as "pretty-boy". "Meet the swellest guy I ever skinned a knuckle on," he says, draping his arm over Ed's shoulder. The beating he hands Ed is pretty horrifying for the time, and the pulped face of Mr Ladd is not a pretty sight.
Noir is essentially a post-war movement because it depends on a mood of disillusionment, when the ideals which motiviated troops are beginning to look pretty tarnished. Here the theme is corruption in politics, not something which played well in 1942 when Our Boys needed to know that the home front was right behind them. For this reason the central character, Paul (Brian Donlevy), is softened and made into a charming bad politician who isn't really bad. It makes for a less challenging movie, less harsh and less effective.
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough Guys,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)Alan Ladd in second version of Dashiel Hammett story. Not really a Film Noir but the cast is well rehearsed especially William Bendix as the crazy. He did this roll in The Blue Dahlia as a brain damaged soldier excellently. Here he's just crazy. He gives Alan Ladd a sound beating and I would not have expected Ladd to get away but he go's out of the window in spectacular fashion in a great piece of stunt acting. No gun play or car chases and no message except if you are given the glass key to success, mind it don't break off in your hand.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Glass Key,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)Great service, lovely old film at a resonable price. Arrived on time and I cannot think of anything else to say to use up the words.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hey, Rusty, Little Rubber Ball is back. I told you he liked the way we bounced him around.,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)The Glass Key is directed by Stuart Heisler and adapted by Jonathan Latimer from a story written by Dashiell Hammett. It stars Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Joseph Calleia, William Bendix & Bonita Granville.
It's reelection time and tough guy politician Paul Madvig (Donlevy) falls for reform candidate Ralph Henry's (Moroni Olsen) daughter, Janet (Lake). Subsequently he throws his weighty support behind Ralph Henry's campaign and irks the underworld gangsters, notably Nick Varna (Calleia). When Ralph's son, Taylor Henry (Richard Denning), is murdered, it opens up a world of corruption, violence, romantic passions and shifty shenanigans. A world that puts Madvig's right hand man, Ed Beaumont (Ladd) firmly in the middle.
Hammett's tale had already been filmed in 1935 with Frank Tuttle in the director's chair and featuring George Raft, Edward Arnold & Claire Dodd as the principal players. Few can argue that, now, knowing how film noir became a force in the 40s, a remake was more than appropriate. Heisler's movie boasts a bigger budget, a better cast and crucially; a better screenplay. However, the film in truth has problems, even tho it rightly crops up as an example of early film noir on account of its thematics: where corruption and wealth blends seedily with sexual ambiguity and amoral deadpanning. One of the key reasons for why The Glass Key has proved so popular over the years, is because of some dynamite scenes and that Ladd's character is so hard to read. Meaning that not only is there a mystery to be solved in the plot, but it's driven by a mysterious protagonist; with Ladd excellently playing it up. That Ladd and Lake would make four film's together is testament to their chemistry, but although the knowing looks and ease with how they share the same frame is telling here, the film as a whole is actually the weakest of the three film noirs they made.
Casting aside the flat visuals here (oh for an Alton, Ballard or Musuraca)-and that much of the political corruptness is put in the background of the whodunit structure-the film also falls flat due to its cop-out ending. Now it's true that many film noirs, and other devilish off shoots of such, have favoured a more "hopeful" ending, and got away with it to a degree. But here it's practically unforgivable, given the tone and all round uneasiness of the narrative; tone that's driven by Beaumont's amoral ambiguity don't forget. Why the hard edge ending from the novel is not used I'm not too sure, but ultimately it's the wrong decision. Still, there's enough to enjoy while it runs. The cast do great work, notably William Bendix as a pathetic hard man dealing out sado-masochistic beatings to poor Edward; and Donlevy who blends his Great McGinty character with old time mobster traits. While solving the whodunit is thankfully no easy task.
It's said that The Glass Key influenced the likes of Yojimbo and The Big Sleep, which if true? Is high praise all told. But as entertaining as the film is, and it is, it really should have been much better, and its reputation to my mind is somewhat flattering. 7/10
4 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars never,
This review is from: The Glass Key [DVD] (DVD)I'm sorry but I have to disagree with the only other reviewer of this film.
To me its what was known in the U.K. many years ago as a "B" film, yes your right Ladd wasn't much of an actor but then come to that neither was Lake they both seemed wooden and why film going audiences considered Lake a star I don't know she wasn't even good looking!The only decent actor in it was Bendix maybe because he had an easy part to play a "psycho".I just kept waiting for him to say "its that monkey music".The film itself well two guys have a thing for each other one the boss the other the hit guy ,they also have a thing for a woman (Lake) who plays both along,lots of corruption as I suppose was common in those days in America. A few fights a bit of torture which in reality would have killed a real person or at least knocked his teeth out! (but then this is Hollywood) "bad/good" guy triumphs in the end and Lad gets Lake with his friends blessing all the "nasty" people are arrested or killed end of film..the whole thing is as wooden as the stage sets ..if you really want film noire get hold of some Robert Mitchum classics with lines like "your like a leaf you blow from gutter to gutter" at least they give you something to remember.Oh one last thing why on earth did the studios think that they could hide the fact that Lad was
a shorty ? in this film the manner of his walk gives it away, he walks like a woman wearing high heeled shoes...
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The Glass Key [DVD] by Stuart Heisler (DVD - 2007)