Sunday, September 27, 2009
Chicago Deadline (1949)
Chicago Deadline is one more entry into that sub-genre, the newspaper noir. You know the story; hard-boiled reporter follows a hunch and uncovers layers of corruption.
This time the story starts innocently enough with Ed Adams (Alan Ladd) chasing down a runaway girl in a cheap hotel. Just so happens while the girl agrees to return to her home and her worried mother, the girl occupying the room next door is found dead by the cleaning lady. So what would any reporter worth his salt do, of course go snooping around in the dead girls room. While foul play is nowhere to be seen, Ed lifts the girls address book from her purse just in case.
Soon the cops and coroner are on the scene and the cause death, which must be a first in noir, is given as a hemorrhage caused by TB.
With nothing to indicate anything more than death by natural causes, once back in the newsroom Ed begins the process of non-systematically calling each of the 54 names listing the girl’s book. Rather than staring at the first name, Ed asks his sidekick, Pig (the always watchable Dave Willock) to pick a name at random. This leads nowhere until a number with just the initials G.G.T. is called. Pig correctly surmises the initials stand for one G.G. Temple, V.P. of a major financial house, or as Pig tells Ed; “He’s a big shot, a four handicap man.”
Thank goodness there’s some snappy dialogue and boat load of bodies piling up along the way to hold ones interest because the stories harder to unravel than the Gordian knot. Fortunately a couple times along the way Ed explains what’s going on to whomever he happens to be with at the time. Near the end he pretty much sums up the whole plotline so the viewer can make sense of the whole mess.
Once on the trail of the dead girl with the unlikely moniker of Rosita Jean D'Ur, Ed gets to pump out more zingers like when asked why he’s so interested in Rosita he shoots off these:
“Simply routine. A kid dies alone in a cheap hotel without friends, relatives, or any one caring whether she’s buried in a cemetery or an ashcan”
“When you mention the name of Rosita D'Ur people run and hide”
“So far I’ve just been digging but I’m beginning to get a pretty dirty smell in both my nostrils.”
Somewhere around the 24 minute mark, we finally get to see the reason for the dirty smell, the mystery woman Rosita D'Ur (Donna Reed) via a snapshot shown to Ed by her brother Tommy (Arthur Kennedy). This is also when the first of several flashbacks begin, complete with the use of the wavy screen method of transporting the viewer back in time.
This one starts with Tommy meeting up with Rosita at a roller skating rink in San Francisco. So now I’m thinking, oh no not another of those noir roller rink pictures! Fortunately the film doesn’t head off in that direction but what is somewhat amusing is the large picture window in the rink with the view of the bay. It’s quite obvious the folks from OSHA hadn’t done an on site inspection of this joint. There’s really nothing that complements roller skating like a huge panel of glass!
Anyway, Rosita’s run away from the farm in Texas and met up with the man of her dreams, Paul D'Ur. He’s a budding architect and soon he and Rosita are married and off to New York. Sadly, Paul ends up the victim of an auto accident and becomes the first of many who end up biting the bullet after encountering the lovely Rosita. Fade back to present and Tommy’s telling Ed; “There always seemed to be a wrong guy around,” which seems something of a misnomer given the bodies that start stacking up it should be “the wrong gal’s around’”
Let me digress here a moment and mention the raft of colorful characters, all with major speaking parts, we encounter during the 86 minute run time; Bat, Belle, Blacky, G.G., Hotspur, Leona, Minerva, Pig and Solly, really!. The cast itself is made up of much more recognizable names, for in addition to Ladd, Reed, Kennedy and Willock we get; June Havoc, the always slimy Berry Kroeger, Tom Powers (for once not playing a cop), Roy Roberts and several other “I’ve seen that guy in something” faces.
Mean while back to the story; after Paul’s death Rosita makes her way back to Chicago where she bunks in with Leona (June Havoc) and begins dating the somewhat shady Blacky Franchot (Shepperd Strudwick). All seems fine until Rosita ends up meeting the aforementioned G.G. Temple at a party and he’s of course smitten by her and must have her as his next play thing.
To make sure Blacky’s out of the way, several charming fellows stop by and rearrange his face and convince him the climate elsewhere would suit him better than Chicago. The connection being Temple is financing the illegal actives of one Solly Wellman (Berry Kroeger) and these nice fellows are working for Solly. Once Blacky’s out of the picture, Temple begins throwing gifts and other things (while it’s not made clear it does appears he and Rosita are sharing living quarters) to entice her.
As noted, following the storyline is somewhat difficult as some key characters are never seen and only after their actions are we clued in as to what took place. For example, how Rosita breaks away from Temple and ends up as a housekeeper for the wheelchair bound uncle of one of Solly’s thugs is never shown and is only much later explained in one of Ed’s conversations.
While on conversations, let me share a few more bits of dialogue:
Ed; “Look Solly I don’t care how many are killed or who does it.”
Solly: “Naturally not, you being a reporter.”
Wonder what the censors thought of this one from Ed to Leona (who becomes his love interest)
“Don’t lie to me baby, you know I’m going to get it out of you.”
And from the prophetic police detective Anstruder to Ed;
“Somebody’s going to shot you sooner or later.”
But my favorite is from Pig to Ed when speaking of Rosita;
“You got a lot of seeing to do brother. She was as loose as ashes”
Pig’s words ring true as along the way Rosita continues getting men stuck on her like flies to flypaper. In addition to her husband, Blacky and bedding down with Temple, there’s one of Solly’s thugs, and a prize fighter by the name of Bat Bennett. At least he escapes the fate of the others but does end up getting clobbered in his fight on the way to the championship because of his remorse over hearing of her untimely demise.
As noted above by the police detective, Ed does get plugged but not before getting roughed up a couple times by Solly’s boys too. But you can’t keep the wavy hair reporter down and from his hospital bed he rises and with the faithful Pig by his side confronts Solly for the final showdown in a downtown parking garage. During this final bit of mayhem, one of Solly’s boys is plowed into by a speeding car being driven by the one armed Ed. At last, Solly himself is taken in by the old, no more bullets, when in fact there’s one left, ruse by Ed. He ends up taking a sole slug right in the gut and face plants himself in the oily mess left from a used Studebaker on the floor of the garage.
To sum it up, in the end you’ve got something less than perfect. A pretty confusing story (although I think part, if not all of it may be attributed to TV editing) to go along with some nice exteriors of Chicago. These go from the opening montage, to the elevated train platform, to the final cab chase near the end. In addition you’ve got a dandy final body count of 7 as Rosita and virtually every man she comes in contact with meets their maker. For those without a scorecard, in order they are: Rosita, Paul, Blackie (Shot dead), John Spingler (found in ditch), Temple (shot dead), Solly’s henchmen (run down by car), and lastly Solly (shot dead). All that said, one thing that is perfect is the title Chicago Deadline which doesn’t conger up the idea of making the “deadline” in connection with getting a Chicago newspaper out on time but rather the line of dead bodies left in the wake of Rosita Jean D'Ur as she made her way through Chicago.