Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Big Steal (1949)

THE BIG STEAL is grand fun, a nonstop chase movie partially filmed on location in Mexico. Robert Michum and Jane Greer, reunited from 1947's OUT OF THE PAST, are chasing Patric Knowles, and are in turn being chased by William Bendix. Multiple suitcases are involved in said chase. Along the way the good guys are sorted out from the bad guys and the contents of the suitcases are revealed, with many twists and turns resulting in a satisfying conclusion.

Mitchum and Greer are a good team whose characters develop a lighthearted rapport, especially as Mitchum comes to appreciate Greer's driving and translation skills. As a Mitchum fan, I particularly enjoyed him in this, especially his sense of humor.

There is some interesting background to the making of the movie. THE BIG STEAL was filmed immediately after Mitchum served jail time for his marijuana arrest; he was accompanied to Mexico by a probation officer. And according to THE RKO GALS, Greer was pregnant during the making of the film. Despite these offscreen complications, Mitchum and Greer both look great and seem to be having a lot of fun while onscreen.

Viewers may recognize Patric Knowles from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), in which he played Will Scarlett. The supporting cast of THE BIG STEAL includes John Qualen and Ramon Novarro, who is entertaining as Inspector General Ortega, who loves to practice his English.

The movie was directed by Don Siegel, whose best-known work may be INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956). The film was shot in black and white and runs 71 minutes.

THE BIG STEAL is available on DVD as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 or on a double feature disc with Edward G. Robinson in ILLEGAL. DVD extras include a commentary by USC professor Richard Jewell and a featurette.

This movie has also had a video release.

THE BIG STEAL can be seen on cable on TCM. The trailer can be seen at the TCM website.

2 Comments:

Blogger Carrie Liz said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks for highlighting THE BIG STEAL. I've been wanting to see it, and your review reminded me to order the DVD from my library. It sounds like fun.

I didn't know Ramon Novarro was still making movies then. Looking forward to his performance.

Best,
Carrie

11:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Carrie,

The Richard Jewell commentary was very interesting -- he said Navarro hadn't made an English-language film in over a decade when they got him to do THE BIG STEAL. He's terrific.

Jewell said that Don Alvarado, who plays Navarro's lieutenant, was also a silent film Latin heartthrob. I wasn't familiar with him. When he made THE BIG STEAL, it had been nearly ten years since his last movie. He has a great line talking about being "an alumni of the University of California."

Jewell didn't know who thought to cast these two actors, but it was inspired. :)

Enjoy!

Best wishes,
Laura

12:13 PM  

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