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The Crooked Way

The Crooked Way
February 15, 2019 - 3:15 pm

Access every screening in the UCLA Festival of Preservation with a $50 pass.

The Crooked Way  (1949)

Preservation funding provided by The Film Foundation and The George Lucas Family Foundation.

Eddie Rice (John Payne), a decorated World War II veteran suffering from amnesia, returns to Los Angeles to find his true identity. Unfortunately, Eddie soon discovers that his past was not of the rose covered cottage variety. His real name is Eddie Riccardi and, as a former gangster, he made many enemies, including his ex-wife Nina Martin (Ellen Drew) and mobster Vince Alexander (Sonny Tufts). Distinguishing it from other contemporary films whose heroes are returning soldiers with memory loss (The Clay Pigeon, Somewhere in the Night), The Crooked Way is brought to life with some of the most dazzling noir cinematography by Hungarian-born émigré John Alton (T-Men, Border Incident). Combined with Robert Florey's dramatic mise-en-scène and the baroque art direction of Van Nest Polglase (Stranger on the Third Floor, Citizen Kane, All That Money Can Buy), the result is a visually stunning masterpiece.

John Payne, best known as the affable lawyer who saves Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street, carved a new niche as a tough guy in this film noir. His pensive, brooding expression perfectly fits the character of amnesiac Eddie Rice. Likewise, Sonny Tufts broke out of his romantic comedy leading man roles to play a villain for the first time.  What should have been a boost to his career was mitigated by his arrests for public intoxication and other off-screen shenanigans. The closing dramatic shootout between Tufts and the police is one of the reasons that, despite the censors’ attempts to tone down the violence, reviews like the New York Times said, "there is so much pointless brutality in it that one may seriously question whether the movie people are wise to go on with the making of such pictures. The human family may not be perfect, but why subject it to so-called entertainment that is only fit for savage beasts."Miki Shannon

35mm, b/w, 90 min. Production: La Brea Productions, Inc. Distribution: United Artists. Producer: Benedict Bogeaus. Director: Robert Florey. Based on the radio play No Blade Too Sharp by Robert Monroe. Screenwriter: Richard H. Landau. Cinematographer: John Alton. Production Designer: Van Nest Polglase. Cast: John Payne, Sonny Tufts, Ellen Drew, Rhys Williams, Percy Helton.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in conjunction with The Film Foundation. Preserved from four 35mm nitrate composite prints. Laboratory services by Fotokem, Roundabout Entertainment, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound and DJ Audio, Inc. Special thanks to Ignite Films BV, Jan-Willem Bosun, the Library of Congress and The Packard Humanities Institute.