5 September 2006 | blanche-2
odd movie starring William Powell
Everything is odd about "The Hoodlum Saint," a 1946 film starring William Powell, Esther Williams, Angela Lansbury, Frank McHugh, and James Gleason. It's a film about a returning World War I veteran when people were returning from World War II; it has the look and feel of a '30s film about it. At 54, the wonderful Powell is a little old for the role of an ex-soldier, and his love interest is 24-year-old Esther Williams. Apparently Williams wrote in her autobiography that she thought it was ridiculous to be cast opposite someone so much older, and states that Powell had to have elaborate makeup and wear a girdle. My question is, did she have anything nice to say about anybody in her book? The last oddity, which couldn't have been predicted back then, is that now Angela Lansbury's dubbing sounds very strange indeed as audiences have become more familiar with her singing voice.
All that being said, the story concerns a returning vet, a newspaper journalist, who has difficulty finding work. He crashes a wedding that has a lot of influential people attending. There he meets Williams and gets a job on another paper, only leaving it to join the very stockbroker he's been writing exposes about, deciding to go after the almighty dollar. This is all leading up to the stock market crash of 1929.
The acting is uniformly excellent. Williams is absolutely stunning in her role, and Powell is his usual charming, fast-talking self, delivering his lines with a good deal of irony and a light touch. Lansbury plays a club singer/love interest for Powell who becomes more sophisticated as the story evolves. Her acting is wonderful and she looks better and more glamorous in each scene. James Gleason, Frank McHugh, and Rags Ragland play Powell's somewhat crooked buddies, and they're delightful.
Powell is always worth watching, though this isn't his best.