Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tonight's Movie: The Glass Key (1942)

THE GLASS KEY is a noirish tale of political corruption and murder, starring Brian Donlevy as a political boss, Alan Ladd as his partner, and Veronica Lake as the woman they both love.

While not quite as well-scripted as Ladd and Lake's THE BLUE DAHLIA, reviewed here last May, THE GLASS KEY is a very entertaining and stylish film. Trenchcoats and fedoras, slinky Edith Head gowns, rainy cemeteries...they're all in this one, shot in beautiful black and white. The plot is a bit muddled in places, but at those moments the film's highly polished execution carries the day. An extended sequence with William Bendix roughing up Ladd (and then some) was tiresome, but otherwise it was terrific viewing.

The movie is based on a book by Dashiell Hammett and was previously filmed in 1935 with George Raft. According to Leonard Maltin, THE GLASS KEY provided the inspiration for both Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO and Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with Clint Eastwood.

The supporting cast includes Frances Gifford and Bonita Granville, two actresses with connections to my area. Gifford, who was born in nearby Long Beach, California, and attended that city's Wilson High School, appeared most notably in a string of MGM movies in the mid-'40s, before her career was cut short by an auto accident. One-time child actress Granville married producer Jack Wrather, who also owned the Disneyland Hotel. The hotel's Granville's Steakhouse (which was recently renamed Steakhouse 55) and Bonita Tower were both named for Granville. Wrather also at one time operated Long Beach's Queen Mary and Spruce Goose attractions.

THE GLASS KEY runs 85 minutes. It was directed by Stuart Heisler.

The film is available on VHS.

December 2012 Update: THE GLASS KEY is now available on DVD from the TCM Vault Collection.

January 2013 Update: A more detailed review of THE GLASS KEY has now been posted.

May 2019 Update: I was fortunate to see THE GLASS KEY on a big screen at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

This is one of the movies on my "Movies that are tragically not on DVD, but should be" list. (#1 on that list? The African Queen) This was the first movie I had seen with either Veronica Lake or Alan Ladd. It's not the greatest film noir or Hammett movie (my favorite is still The Thin Man) ever made, but it is among the best.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Just as an aside and going back to Remember The Night. I finally found it listed in the Long Beach Library System. I went to my closest branch and renewed my Long Beach card and requested the tape which had showed as "checked out" but now show "checked in". The branch called ... guess what ... they could not find it! They've put a tracer on it and now it shows as "missing". Go figure. I'm wondering if someone knew the value of it and kept it!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good luck on that library copy, Irene!

I still have my Long Beach library card, though I haven't used it since we lived there the first couple years we were married. :)

J.C., I was also surprised to learn the Ladd-Lake film wasn't on DVD yet. My dad passed on to me that it's coming out in Region 2:

I wonder if that means we'll also get it in Region 1 soon?

Best wishes, Laura

Best wishes, Laura

10:34 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Update: The copy of Remember The Night has been found! Today when I checked the status it said "storage". So I just called, she found it and it will be at my closest Long Beach library tomorrow! I also have coming in to the Lakewood library "Bachelor Mother".

My Long Beach card was also old so they just had me start over like a new customer for this current card.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Congratulations! I hope after all that hard work tracking it down you end up enjoying the movie. :) BACHELOR MOTHER, too! Let us know --

Best wishes, Laura

11:35 AM  

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