Tag Archives: Bank Robberies

Four Faces West (1948)

220px-Four_Faces_West_FilmPosterI’m becoming a fan of Joel McCrea. I didn’t realize it until I looked at how many of his movies I like: Sullivan’s TravelsThe Palm Beach StoryColorado TerritoryThe Most Dangerous GameThe More the MerriorStars in My Crown. And along with Gary Cooper and James Stewart, he has really connected me with westerns. But Four Faces West is a somewhat unusual western. As has been pointed out by others, no guns are fired, though guns are certainly pointed. No punches are thrown. There aren’t even any villains, really. Yet it’s far from a dull film.

While the town of Santa Maria, New Mexico welcomes the arrival of the famous Pat Garrett (Charles Bickford) as their marshal, a mysterious man (Joel McCrea) calmly sticks up the bank. Garrett makes a speech, and the man takes $2,000 (and not a penny more) and leaves an IOU signed Jefferson Davis. He then makes good his escape while Garrett and a posse set out after him.

The banker offers $3,000 dollars for the capture of the bank robber, dead or alive, which prompts droves of men to search for him with zeal and little regard for his life, while the unruffled Garrett just wants to do his job and find him before anyone can shoot him. But the bank robber, named Ross McEwan, gets on a train and meets nurse Fay Hollister (Frances Dee – who was also Joe McCrea’s wife), who helps him with a snake bite. He also runs into Monte Marquez (Joseph Calleia), who knows Ross got on the train around the place where the robber went missing and for a while neither Ross nor the audience knows what Monte’s intentions are, though it’s clear Monte realizes that Ross is the bank robber.

But the hunt is on and Ross can’t stay put for long, though he and Fay fall in love. He wants to pay back what he stole (he was perfectly serious about the IOU) because he’s already sent the money to his father for an unspecified loan. Fay realizes that he’s a good man (and she puts two-and-two together to realize who he really is) and wants him to turn himself in. As she tells him, if he keeps running eventually he really will turn into the criminal everyone says he is. He’ll have to kill, steal or be killed and he’ll never be the same man again (her prognosis sounds like the eventual end of Paul Muni in I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang).

Four Faces West was made one year before Colorado Territory, but while Colorado Territory contains a relatively decent train robber who would like to start a new life and finds love unexpectedly, the story is building inevitably to the tragic shootout at the end. In Four Faces, we seem to be building to a shootout, but somehow it never materializes. Instead, the confrontation largely happens in a sickroom, with hardly any words spoken. It’s an unexpected denouement.

0040370Because while Ross is trying to get away from Garrett and avoid several potential shootouts, he comes across a Mexican family dying from diphtheria and instead of making off with their horse and escaping, he decides to stay and nurse the family, even becoming somewhat ill himself. And it is in this house of sickness that we finally have all four characters – Fay, Monte, Garrett, and Ross – in the same place. And still no overt confrontation happens! Everyone knows exactly what is going on, but nobody says anything. Will Garrett arrest Ross? Will Ross turn himself in as Fay wants him to? Will he escape, since Monte wants to help him? Will we finally have a confrontation between Garrett and Ross?

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It is humane and compassionate with almost a chivalrous tone. Bullets are used to heal (Ross removes the sulfur from his bullets to use as medicine for the sick family) and the four main characters are all good. Joel McCrea’s Ross is like a knight of old, chivalrously going to the aid of others (though it’s hard to imagine Lancelot nursing sick people…at least in Thomas Mallory’s version of the knights) and he only “borrows” money because he’s desperate. I also enjoyed Charles Bickford as Pat Garrett – who is so cool he isn’t even disturbed by the fact that the robbery occurred right under his nose. He has no ego, just does his job and wants to uphold the law, but is not Inspector Javert-ish about it. And I love that in the end, when Ross is pointing his gun at him, Garrett doesn’t even feel the need to mention to Ross that he knows there are no bullets in his gun (though now that I think of it, Monte might have given him a gun, but Garrett didn’t know that).

Frances Dee plays the spunky nurse who believes in Ross, but wants him to turn himself in. She doesn’t want him to run for the rest of his life, though she is willing to go with him if he should chose to run. And Joseph Calleia great as Monte Marquez. We never do learn why Monte helps Ross. He likes him, he can see that Ross and Fay are falling in love and Monte and Ross become friends, though they never feel the need to actually acknowledge what they both know about Ross, though they both know the other knows.

As a random note, I have never seen anyone use a longhorn steer as a means of transportation before; it makes for an interesting silhouette against the desert and sky, cowboy riding cow. And as another random note, there is a child on the train with a knack for causing trouble and poking his nose into everything. The mother of this child spends the entire time trying to keep her child out of trouble and I kept thinking that what this bored child needs is a smartphone. Modern technology is wonderful!


Posted by on March 4, 2016 in Movies


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Larceny Inc. (1942) – A Gangster Christmas Film

larceny-inc-movie-poster-1942-1020417894Larceny Inc. isn’t officially a Christmas movie, it isn’t specifically about Christmas, but it takes place during the Christmas holiday with the finale occurring on Christmas Eve, so I think it should count. Sometimes, I get a little tired of watching the same Christmas films every year, so it was refreshing this year to watch some unconventional Holiday films. That, and I would watch Edward G. Robinson in anything.

It is the story of three crooks who become small time business owners in their attempt to rob a bank and quite accidentally make a success of their business. Edward G. Robinson is J. Chalmers “Pressure” Maxwell, a crook just released from prison and determined to go honest. He wants to buy into a dog racing track in Florida. The only problem is that he has no money and the bank won’t loan him any (he has no securities). So, he has brainwave: in order to go legitimate, he will first rob the bank.

He notices that there is a luggage shop right next door to the bank and he and his two friends, Jug and Weepy (Broderick Crawford and Edward Brophy), discover that the basement shares a wall with the bank vault. Pressure buys the shop (acquiring money through illegal means) and they begin a tunnel that will go under the alarm systems in the wall and come up in the vault, using the luggage to hide the dirt in.

Barbara Jo Allen (lingerie lady), Broderick Crawford, Edward Brophy, Edward G, Robinson, Jack Carson and Jane Wyman

Barbara Jo Allen (lingerie lady), Broderick Crawford, Edward Brophy, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Carson and Jane Wyman

Of course, Pressure has no use for real costumers and is always trying to discourage them, wrapping luggage badly, being rude, hurrying them out of his shop, selling everything for a flat rate of $9.75. Meanwhile, the street that his shop is on is a very friendly street of small time business owners who want to welcome him and enlist his aid in getting the torn-up streets repaired quickly so that shoppers will return to the street in time for the Christmas season. The lady who owns the lingerie shop is particularly friendly, asking him to come over some time and take a look at her lingerie. As he hustles her out, he replies that he will and she should stop by again sometime and take a look at his trunks.

Pressure’s girlfriend, Denny, is played beautifully and humorously by Jane Wyman. They have a somewhat platonic relationship, really. He’s her ‘daddy,’ but he’s always so busy that he’s also hustling her out of the shop and into the arms of luggage salesmen, Jeff Randolph (Jack Carson), who proposes after fifteen minutes of acquaintance because he believes in saving all that time of wooing, misunderstanding, and expenses (she refuses). But when Denny realizes that Pressure is trying to break into the bank, she and Jeff work together to concoct all sorts of advertisement and publicity stunts to keep the shop full of people, so Pressure and his cohorts can’t drill in the basement. To add to Pressure’s complications, they picked the very same bank that fellow crook, Leo (Anthony Quinn), was trying to interest them in robbing while they were both in prison.

But despite all his best (or worst intentions) the shop does prosper and he earns the gratitude and friendship of his neighbors, whether he wanted it or not. He even begins to think that there’s more money to be made in expanding his business than in robbing banks. There is a big showdown with Leo, which takes place on Christmas Eve, where at one point Pressure dresses up as a cigar smoking Santa.

Edward G. Robinson and Edward Brophy

Edward G. Robinson and Edward Brophy

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I have a weakness for comedic gangster films and Robinson – known for playing mean gangsters – has excellent comedic timing and actually made at least four spoofs of his own comedic image. He is a tough, but a quick-talking con artist in this one. He literally wheedles the suit off the back of the prison warden and talks Jug and Weepy into doing all sorts of crazy stuff for him. Jug is the less-than-brilliant brawny stooge of the group who gets to do most of the digging while Weepy gets to come out for air more often (he steals a drill and hides it in a Christmas tree) and gradually gets turned into a salesmen and finds himself a girlfriend on the street.

And what is hilarious is that despite his repeated intentions to become honest, Pressure will probably always remain a crook at heart. He just can’t help himself, even if he does help people or make friends or try to do the right thing; it’s how he operates and thinks. In fact, that is true for all the criminals encountered in the film. It is highly illustrative that at the beginning, all the crooks in prison are waiting for their sentence to be over so they can pick up where they left off, planning their crimes and making contacts before they are even out. Prison, for them, is just a temporary hiccup to an ingrained way of life. It actually strikes Pressure as a brilliant idea when it first occurs to him to borrow money from the bank (not that it works) instead of trying some form of larceny. They are incorrigible.


Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Movies


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