THE GLASS KEY (1942) 

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Alan Ladd
Veronica Lake
Brian Donlevy
Bonita Granville
Richard Denning
Joseph Calleia
William Bendix
Frances Gifford
Donald MacBride
Margaret Hayes
Moroni Olsen

Stewart Heisler


The Novel

Time: 85 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Film-Noir

SYNOPSIS: When a corrupt politician is accused of murder, his assistant hunts the real killer, avoiding amorous advances from his boss' fiancee and attacks from gangsters along the way.

BOTTOM LINE: This film attempts to create an intriguing mystery, but never quite gets off the ground. Ladd stars as Ed Beaumont, the right-hand man to Paul Madvig (Donlevy), the head of the local voter's league. Madvig built his little empire by turning a blind eye and granting favors to low class criminals like Nick Varna (Calleia), but decides to back the reform candidate, Ralph Henry, in the governor's race after he gets a look at Henry's daughter Janet (Lake). Things turn ugly when Madvig tries to stop his baby sister (Granville) from dating Janet's brother Taylor (Denning), a young man with no future and a ton of gambling debts.

When Taylor is found murdered, it's up to Ed to prove Madvig's innocence before Nick and his newspaper friends railroad Madvig into the big house as payback for all the trouble he's causing them. Ed has his hands full trying to save Paul's future from the malicious machinations of his enemies, the circling curiosity of the police and the furtive attacks by his sister and Janet, proclaiming Paul's guilt to anyone who will listen. While the story is cleverly plotted, with the requisite twists and turns, it never really builds up the necessary suspense to make it exciting.

The film's tone comes from Ladd, who meanders through the proceedings like he's got all the time in the world to solve this crime. His character fails to show any real emotion, which gives a rather flat and pointless air to the proceedings. Even the revelation of the killer fails to get the blood pumping, mostly because the reason behind the murder is far from compelling. The story is intelligently written and an interesting look at local politics, but as a mystery or romance – there's never any doubt Ladd and Lake will end up together – it's less than satisfying. A film only diehard Noir fans will enjoy.

"You think you're too good for me. Well, sister, as it happens, I think I'm too good for you."

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