Friday, October 05, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Southside 1-1000 (1950)

SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 is 79 minutes of docu-noir bliss, with Don DeFore as a Secret Service agent tracking counterfeiters through the mean streets of Los Angeles. It is, as Glenn Erickson recently wrote, "an obscure noir winner."

John Riggs (DeFore) is a Treasury agent tracing bills made from plates created by a sickly imprisoned felon (Morris Ankrum). The search leads to L.A., where Riggs poses as the sleazy Nick Starnes. As Starnes, he meets other members of the counterfeit ring, including Reggie, played by an unusually intimidating George Tobias; Reggie makes sure that someone he doesn't trust meets his end in a rather startling and brutal way.

Riggs/Starnes also gets to know hotel manager Nora Craig (Andrea King). They may possibly share an attraction, but each is wary of the other, with good reason. Watching Nick and Nora trying to figure out each other's angle is one of the film's many pleasures.

SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 has great atmosphere and manages to be quite stylish despite the confines of the "B" movie budget. The eye-catching L.A. location shooting sent me to Google for more info on spots like Owl Drugs and Coffee Dan's.

Although only stock footage is used of Union Station, there's a marvelous chase sequence using the Angels Flight Railway, also seen in the previous year's CRISS CROSS (1949). Another suspenseful scene, one of the best in the film, was shot in L.A.'s Wrigley Field. It's amazing how a place which would normally be so welcoming ends up being quite spooky in this film.

Although I grew up thinking of DeFore as a "TV dad" from countless reruns of OZZIE AND HARRIET and HAZEL, I started looking at him differently thanks to his part as a charming gunslinger in RAMROD (1947). He's excellent as the resourceful G-man. I really enjoy seeing him in a part like this which is so different from his well-known TV roles.

Andrea King might not have been a household name, but she was a striking actress who brought a little something different to many films of the '40s and '50s. She played supporting roles in a number of films previously reviewed here including, to name just a few, THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), THE MAN I LOVE (1947), MY WILD IRISH ROSE (1947), and RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1947). Visit the official Andrea King website for more information and lovely photos.

Gerald Mohr is an actor I first came to know through reruns of my favorite series, MAVERICK, as he appeared in seven different episodes, including a couple as Doc Holliday. Mohr serves as the film's narrator. Perhaps perennial noir narrator Reed Hadley wasn't available!

There are lots of other familiar faces in the cast, including Ray Teal as a bunco squad detective, Barry Kelley (BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE) as a crook, and Don Beddoe (COW COUNTRY) as his lawyer. Argentina Brunetti, Sid Saylor, Pierre Watkin, and Robert Osterloh are also in the large cast.

The movie was directed by Boris Ingster and filmed in glorious black and white by Russell Harlan. Harlan had also shot DeFore's RAMROD, and his credits included classics such as RED RIVER (1948) and RIO BRAVO (1959).

The movie was produced by the King Brothers, the team which was also behind noir gems such as WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (1944) and GUN CRAZY (1950).

SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 is available on a newly remastered DVD-R from the Warner Archive.

For another look at SOUTHSIDE 1-1000, please visit Mark's 2009 review at Where Danger Lives, where he wrote that the film was "compelling, entertaining, and in its own way pretty important."

March 2014 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see this film in a brand-new 35mm print at the Noir City Film Festival.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

When I first saw RAMROD, I had exactly the same reaction you did to Don DeFore as charming, sexy, dangerous with a gun/fallible friend to Joel McCrea/wild card in that film. He was the last guy I'd ever have expected to be cast that way but he did it perfectly making his character one of that superb film's great strengths.

That shows something about actors and acting, I believe, especially in Hollywood movies, where typecasting was so much a part of things, and certainly for the best in so many movies. It's up to actors to act, to make you believe in what they play--that's far more important than any acting tricks that win awards. My experience is that good actors can sell the roles they are given, even if it's not what they were usually given, and allowing that he is a decent looking guy even if "charismatic" is not the first thing that comes to mind, it really shouldn't be so surprising that given the role, a capable professional like DeFore could do it so well.

With the greatest actors, there seems to be no limit to they can convince us of along these lines. Have you seen THE SUSPECT (1945), a brilliant period murder story directed by Robert Siodmak? This stars Charles Laughton as an uhappily married man dominated by a shrewish wife. But beautiful young Ella Raines falls in love with him (and he with her). Would Ella Raines fall in love with a character played by Laughton? I can only say he sells it--100%, and the film is quite moving.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Robby Cress said...

This movie sounds fantastic! The second you mentioned that the film had locations like Owl Drug and Coffee Dan's that make an appearance you had my interest. And I think Don DeFore is an entertaining actor. I really enjoyed him in the Christmas film, IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE. I just sometimes forget about him as an actor. I'm glad to hear that the film is available through the Warner Archive. Thanks for sharing!

6:20 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, I love your comments. RAMROD is coming out soon (11/16/12) on DVD and after this discussion I'm anxious to take a fresh look at it! DeFore in RAMROD is surely one of the great examples of an acting pro moving beyond typecasting.

I also think it's kind of interesting how some actors have become typed for some of us based on their later TV roles, which is how we first "met" them. Seeing not only DeFore but Fred MacMurray in his younger roles has been a revelation for me. Robert Young, too. What exquisite performances Young gave in films like CLAUDIA and THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE.

Robby, I'd actually been thinking of perhaps going to your blog and saying "Do I have a movie for you!" LOL. This movie will be right up your alley. I paused the film here and there just to take a second to better read some of the signs. :) I found a little bit of interesting history on some of the locations seen via Google; I'd absolutely love for this film to get the "Dear Old Hollywood" treatment!

I just saw IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE for the very first time last Christmas Day. I'm definitely becoming a DeFore fan. :) I love that DeFore also has a significant Disneyland connection, as proprietor of Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbecue from 1957 to 1961.

Moving THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO, in which DeFore has a significant role, higher up in my "hot stack" of movies to see...

Thanks to you both!

Best wishes,

6:45 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

Just ordered "Southside 1-1000" (and "The Las Vegas Story") from the WB Archive, based upon Glenn Erickson's (and now yours' Laura)reviews......


7:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wonderful, Brad! I hope you'll enjoy them both. If you think of it, please drop back and let me know what you think of THE LAS VEGAS STORY, that title's definitely of interest to me.

Do also be sure to check out Mark's review at Where Danger Lives, linked at the bottom of my review -- he liked it too! Hope you'll make it a fourth. :)

Best wishes,

7:30 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Another movie you might move up to see soon is H.M. PULHAM ESQ., which I know is on TCM again in the next few months. Mentioning this because of Robert Young, a superb actor and could do many kinds of roles (for example, a very immoral guy in THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME). You're right that if we knew him first on FATHER KNOWS BEST and then MARCUS WELBY it defined his range, but that's just wrong. Nor was he in life a happy, calm, settled and balanced guy as he played so well in those shows. He was apparently a depressive and life was a real struggle for him.

Anyway, H.M. PULHAM, ESQ. is a superb romantic melodrama from a novel by John Marquand and one of the best of director King Vidor. Definitely one of Robert Young's best roles and probably the best of Hedy Lamarr.

Have to add I felt a pang seeing the name "Coffee Dan's"--I liked that coffee shop, from the really good days of coffee shops, and ate their quite often when it was around.

12:59 AM  
Blogger DorianTB said...

RAMROD sounds well worth seeing, not the least of which is the chance to see Don DeFore in a film noir rather than HAZEL's boss on TV. I had to smile when you mentioned that the characters played by DeFore and Andrea King (terrific in RIDE THE PINK HORSE) happened to be named Nick and Nora -- no relation to those lovable sleuths from THE THIN MAN, surely? :-) Thanks for the tip!

11:52 AM  

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