8 March 2011 | jimjo1216
Film noir at an art museum
A thriller in the popular post-war noir style, CRACK-UP (1946) is not a top-grade film noir, but it does incorporate some interesting ideas, like x-raying paintings to determine if they are forgeries.
Pat O'Brien (ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES) is a WWII vet and art curator who gives lectures on paintings at an art museum. While trying to account for his actions one strange night, he finds himself pretty deep in some kind of criminal racket. On the lam from the law, he decides to get to the bottom of things on his own. (O'Brien is a street-smart art curator, knowing how to evade the police, sneak into and out of buildings, and arrange meetings in shady places.) He's mixed up in something serious. He knows too much. His life is in danger. Can he trust *him*? Can he trust *her*? Should he be trusting anybody at this point?
There are a handful of secondary characters, but the film doesn't take the time to explain who they are or what their deal is. We only know that they are associated in some way with O'Brien and/or the museum. And we know that one of those people in the room must be the "bad guy". And so the guessing game begins.
Why is Herbert Marshall so interested in O'Brien's activity? What was that person doing on the night of the murder? Is that a crooked cop? Why didn't the cigarette boy recognize him? Who's that lurking in the shadows? Could O'Brien be betrayed by *them*?
The final solution to the art theft mystery seems like too much work, too much risk, and too much bloodshed to be worth it all. (And what good is a painting that's too hot to be displayed for anybody?) But what do I know about great art?
Pat O'Brien is past his 1930s prime and looking a bit William Bendix-y around the edges. He is joined by the lovely Claire Trevor, a film noir staple, as an old friend and his only true ally. The cast also includes Herbert Marshall, Wallace Ford, and Ray Collins. The film has some typical noir touches, and the art theme is unique. Seeing the x-rayed paintings is fascinating, so the movie has that going for it. But the film overall doesn't stand out. It's okay, but not great.