18 November 2006 | ROCKY-19
OK melodrama that tries hard
This film should have been more interesting with the potential of such a cast. The script tries to be important. Indeed, we again get a "Les Miserables"-themed story of a parolee trying to go straight but finding all of the rules and society's prejudice forcing him back to crime. But Lloyd Bacon's sluggish direction holds everything back and it is never interesting storytelling.
How can a film with George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden not be compelling? Thank you, Mr. Bacon, for demonstrating. Raft tries hard to be the nice guy but the script gives the character no depth. He could be any ex-con coming home after a stint in Sing Sing. He seems handcuffed throughout. He does believably make a (much) older brother for Holden - the voice, the nose - but he surely can't pass for 27. Holden is so young and enthusiastic and all his acting mechanics are hanging out there for everyone to see. As few as his scenes are, Bogart is a steady if smarmy hand to get the action started.
Flora Robson, as the mother of Raft and Holden, is the most sympathetic character. The actress had a tremendous soul to give weight to what could be a thankless part. Only through her does any real feeling come into this melodrama. And though nearly seven years younger than Raft, just a little age makeup makes her look as if she could at least be his aunt.
It is interesting that the film never shows the cons in actual prison stripes. The only two scenes of Raft and Bogart in prison are in the shower (thank you) and in the warden's office before leaving.
I do like to show this film to friends after they've seen John Ford's "Mary of Scotland" just so they can be amazed at Moroni Olsen's range.