Glenn Ford night at the Noir City Film Festival, FRAMED was followed by Ford as MR. SOFT TOUCH.
MR. SOFT TOUCH is better known as Joe Miracle, and it's a nicely shaded role in that Ford gets to play a bad guy who's not really a bad guy. Joe returned from service in the war to discover the mob had taken over his nightclub and killed his partner, so he holds up his own club and makes off with $100,000. The film begins with Joe in a wild car chase on the run from both the cops and the mob.
Joe ends up hiding out in a settlement house, where he is smitten with a social worker named Jenny Jones (Evelyn Keyes). Joe is both hindered and helped by reporter Henry Byrd (John Ireland) as he tries to avoid the mob until he can flee the country on a Tokyo-bound ship.
I found Ford quite compelling and charismatic in this film; his performance seems dusted with an intense star quality which wasn't as apparent as a different war vet in FRAMED. His scenes with Keyes are filled with unspoken yearning, and in a lighter vein he has a very good scene teaching some young punks a lesson when they invite him to play a dice game.
Keyes is also solid as the woman with a darker back story than Joe suspects. Keyes isn't classically beautiful here, but she has a winning personality, and it's fun to watch her reactions, especially as donations arrive from unexpected sources.
The film has a supporting cast of familiar faces, with Percy Kilbride quite amusing as a resident of the men's dormitory at the settlement house. (He received a round of applause from the audience when he first appeared on screen.) Beulah Bondi, Clara Blandick, Ted de Corsia, Ray Mayer, Angela Clarke, and Ray Teal are also in the cast.
The movie would make good "outside the box" Christmas viewing, as the entire story takes place at Christmastime; one scene even finds Joe donning a Santa suit to escape the bad guys -- shades of LARCENY, INC. (1942).
I think the film's biggest drawback was the ambiguous ending; without being too plot spoilerish, I'll just say I'd have liked to be sure whether or not Joe had a happy future.
Ford and Keyes were regular costars in the '40s, including the very good Randolph Scott Western THE DESPERADOES (1943) and the romantic comedy THE MATING OF MILLIE (1948), which ran regularly on TV when I was growing up.
Last January Kevin's Movie Corner mused about both MR. SOFT TOUCH and THE DESPERADOES.
MR. SOFT TOUCH was codirected by Gordon Douglas and Henry Levin. The film also had two cinematographers, Joseph Walker and Charles Lawton Jr. The running time is 93 minutes.
This film is not available on DVD or video, but it has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.
January 2013 Update: MR. SOFT TOUCH will be out on DVD from the TCM Vault Collection in March 2013.