Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Lucky Jordan (1942)

LUCKY JORDAN is a fairly entertaining film distinguished by appealing lead actors and a somewhat unusual storyline.

Alan Ladd plays the title character, a gangster who is not at all happy his lawyer can't keep him from being drafted. After joining the army, Lucky regularly manages to sneak off to the canteen, where he meets lovely Jill (Helen Walker). Eventually Lucky goes AWOL, and unbeknownst to him he takes along some very hot military secrets.

When Lucky learns he's got something valuable, he initially intends to sell it in order to finance hiding out during the war. But he eventually has second thoughts, and matters come to a climax during a lengthy chase sequence which was very likely filmed at the Huntington Library and Gardens.

The movie is a rather unique blending of the gangster film with WWII patriotism, featuring a compelling but frequently unsympathetic antihero. Alan Ladd is perfectly cast as the title character. Ladd had been playing bit parts for years, but this was his third big role, following THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942) and THE GLASS KEY (1942). The screenwriters provide enough of a back story to partially explain Lucky's motivations, and he's humanized by his relationship with an older woman who becomes a mother figure.

The closest film I can compare to LUCKY JORDAN is PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) over a decade later; both films feature antiheroes hiding "hot potatoes" critical to national security. What's interesting about LUCKY JORDAN is that it features such a cynical antihero during the first full year the U.S. was at war.

It's worth noting that both LUCKY JORDAN and PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET feature older female characters who serve similar purposes in the plot. In PICKUP, Oscar-nominated Thelma Ritter offers advice to Richard Widmark, and she later finds herself in a difficult situation due to their friendship. In the earlier film, the role of "Ma" is well played by Mabel Paige.

This was the film debut of Helen Walker, who gives a confident, feisty performance. There's more information about Walker, including links to an excellent two-part biographical sketch by Moira Finnie, in my review of IMPACT (1949). Walker was also effective in Ernst Lubitsch's comedy CLUNY BROWN (1946).

The supporting cast is led by Sheldon Leonard as Lucky's rival. Marie McDonald, Lloyd Corrigan, Dave Willock, Clem Bevans, Anthony Caruso, George Meader, and Virginia Brissac are among the familiar faces in the large cast. If you look quickly you'll spot Dorothy Dandridge as a maid.

This movie was directed by Frank Tuttle. It was shot in black and white by John F. Seitz. The movie is 84 minutes long.

LUCKY JORDAN is a Paramount film which was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies. It's not available on DVD or VHS.

November 2015 Update: LUCKY JORDAN will be released on DVD as part of the four-film Alan Ladd 1940s Collection released by TCM on December 1st.

March 2016 Update: LUCKY JORDAN is also now available as a single-title DVD from the Universal Vault series.


Blogger panavia999 said...

I love any movie with Helen Walker. (Especially "Nightmare Alley".)

5:12 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I really like her too, Panavia. My dad's copy of the NIGHTMARE ALLEY DVD is in my mile-high stack of future viewing. So many great things to look forward to seeing...

Best wishes,

5:28 PM  
Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I liked this one quite a bit when TCM ran it, though I was disappointed in the print quality. (I shuddered when I saw the MCA TV logo at the beginning). I would have liked maybe a little more action at the climax, but still a good show. I've really grown to appreciate Alan Ladd more. During the foot chase at the end, it looked like he was doing his own stunts.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, Kevin, the print was disappointing, although I'm glad they showed it rather than now showing it at all. I hope they'll be able to show an improved print in the future!

I was wondering if Ladd was doing his own stunts too. :)

Best wishes,

1:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older