Sunday, November 15, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Never Steal Anything Small (1959) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

James Cagney and Shirley Jones star in the musical comedy NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL (1959), which was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

The movie was written and directed by Charles Lederer based on the play THE DEVIL'S HORNPIPE by Maxwell Anderson.

Cagney plays Jake MacIllaney, who will stop at nothing to become president of the local longshoremen's union.  Bribery, kidnapping, and anything else necessary are all part of the plans for a man who admittedly says his favorite pastime is "scheming."

Along the way Jake interferes in the marriage of a straight arrow young lawyer (Roger Smith) and his pretty wife (Jones).

I was eager to try this previously unknown-to-me musical starring Cagney and Jones, but I must say it was a major disappointment.

For starters, the movie has no idea what it wants to be.  It seems like it was originally going to be a musical, but the filmmakers backed off and decided to make a comedy instead; there are only a handful of songs, and although Hermes Pan is credited as choreographer, I'd say the numbers are more about "movement" than any actual dancing.

There is one true musical bright spot in the film, when Cagney and Cara Williams sing "I'm Sorry, I Want a Ferrari" against a backdrop of colorfully gorgeous cars, but that's about it.  The second-longest number is a TV commercial jingle!

As for the comedy angle, again, the movie can't quite find its tone.  Are MacIllaney and his hooligans cute Damon Runyon-esque types, or more brutal?  Unfortunately, as they hit people over the head and force them to drink liquor, they simply come off as nasty.  Cagney has some viewer goodwill just because he's James Cagney, but it doesn't last very long.

The songs by Maxwell Anderson and Allie Wrubel are barely noticeable.  All in all, I'm really not sure what any of the filmmakers were thinking with this one.

The supporting cast includes Nehemiah Persoff, Robert J. Wilke, Anthony Caruso, Jack Albertson, and Royal Dano.

The movie was shot in CinemaScope by Harold Lipstein and the uncredited William H. Daniels.  It runs 94 verrrrry long minutes.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a good-looking print.  As always, I'm grateful that Kino Lorber makes relative rarities such as this one available to try out, even if they sometimes prove disappointing.

Disc extras include an audio commentary track by Daniel Kremer and Lee Gambin, along with the trailer and three additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber starring Cagney or Jones.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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