Flaxy Martin (1949)

Approved   |    |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Flaxy Martin (1949) Poster

Mob attorney Walter Colby is manipulated by showgirl Flaxy Martin into taking the rap for a murder committed by mobster Hap Richie's goons but he escapes and tries to get revenge.


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13 September 2009 | dougdoepke
Doesn't Gel
Catch that great scene where Flaxy (Mayo) beats up a blackmailing Peggy, (Westcott) with the timid hotel clerk hovering outside the door. Big-eyed Westcott really delivers in spades. Too bad the rest of the movie fails to reach that intense level. Looks to me like Warner Bros. used the film as an A-team try-out for cast principals and director. Now, Scott, for one, comes through perfectly as the lawyer with a wobbly compass— I'm just sorry this fine, exotic actor never got the recognition his talent deserved. The material, however, with its nifty double- cross, really merited an A-team director, like Walsh or Curtiz. Instead, the studio gave featurette director Richard Bare a shot, and the result shows he had little feel for the dark material.

Unfortunately, the movie is inferior grade noir, lacking in both style and edge. Take the early scene where Walt (Scott) and Hap (Kennedy) iron out wrinkles in the plot to free Caesar (Overman) from a murder rap. They're standing stock still in Hap's living room, talking, and that's the trouble: they stand stock still for about two minutes doing little more than delivering their lines. Thus, a potentially dramatic scene of rivalry calling for an expressive dynamic falls flat, drained of needed energy and tension.

But Bare seems most at sea in directing the lead actresses. Mayo looks lost in her key scenes with Scott— the second side of Flaxy's devious personality, the calculating side, fails to appear, and thus we're left with a very pretty girl speaking the lines, but without the necessary depth. Catch Malone too in the graveside scene. She's an unsophisticated librarian staring into the open pit of her own doom, but judging from the absence of needed emotion, she might as well be reading a book. Now, Malone later proved a fine actress of many dimensions, (e.g. Written on the Wind {1955}). Here, however, she's stuck in a thankless good girl role, so likely director Bare is at fault for not giving her the necessary cues. I suspect the movie would have improved had actresses Malone and Mayo switched roles.

Then too, Walt's sudden turn-around with 40 grand in his pocket is awkwardly handled. Even an A-grade filmmaker would have trouble making this bit of Production Code hokum believable, but in Bare's hands it comes across as little more than a clumsily developed happy ending. Thus, it's not surprising that the studio returned the director to making the humorous shorts he was so good at following this failed experiment. I also better understand why editors Silver and Ward omitted this entry from their highly successful tome Film Noir. Unfortunately, the movie may have all the trappings of the genre, but like bread dough in the hands of a neophyte baker, the loaf simply fails to gel.

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