Tonight the Noir City Film Festival celebrated the career of actress Geraldine Fitzgerald by screening two 1946 films she made with director Jean Negulesco.
First on the double bill was THREE STRANGERS, costarring Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and the evening concluded with NOBODY LIVES FOREVER.
John Garfield plays Nick Blake, a veteran who receives an honorable discharge after a long stay at a military hospital. Upon his return to New York, Nick discovers that his girlfriend Toni (Faye Emerson) has blown the money he left with her and also taken up with a new man (Robert Shayne), so Nick decides to make a fresh start on the West Coast.
Nick was a con artist prior to the war; military service seems to have changed Nick, as he resists the entreaties of his pals (George Tobias and Walter Brennan) to go back to "work." However, Nick reluctantly changes his mind when presented with the opportunity to bilk a wealthy young widow, Gladys (Fitzgerald), out of a large sum of money.
Nick is surprised to discover he's falling hard for Gladys and he backs out of the deal, intending to pay off Doc (George Coulouris), the mastermind of the swindle, out of his own funds. Doc is none too pleased, however, and matters quickly go south.
NOBODY LIVES FOREVER is a strong effort but it doesn't quite fire on all cylinders. Garfield and Fitzgerald are both very appealing, and there's a moment where the two characters admit their love for one another and embrace with such heartfelt fervor that one wishes the entire film were made with that level of deep emotion. Instead, it's mostly played in a lower key, and the ending could have been better written.
Nonetheless, this is a very likeable film which I enjoyed a great deal. It was a real joy to see so many wonderful movie "faces" on the screen in a beautiful 35mm print. In addition to the actors previously named, memorable actors such as Richard Erdman, Richard Gaines, and Grady Sutton put in appearances. They're all great, with Erdman a nosy hotel bellboy and Gaines playing Fitzgerald's golf-obsessed financial advisor; Sutton is particularly fun in a small role as the counter man in a diner who hates being called "buddy" and hates the word "java."
Fitzgerald's character is completely different from the malevolent creature she portrayed in THREE STRANGERS. In NOBODY LIVES FOREVER she's a sweet, trusting woman whose steadfast love for Garfield isn't shaken even when she learns he's a con artist. It was fascinating seeing Fitzgerald's range, playing two such contrasting characters in the course of the evening.
I also very much liked Garfield in this as a man of dubious character who is reformed partly by Uncle Sam and then completely by love. It's very enjoyable seeing Garfield turn action hero in the movie's final sequence, backed by Brennan and Tobias.
It was a particular pleasure to watch Fitzgerald and Garfield touring Mission San Juan Capistrano. It has changed very little in the ensuing decades, and the areas where they were filmed were recognizable to me as places I have walked myself.
The screenplay was by W.R. Burnett, who then wrote the book of the same name while waiting for his screenplay to be produced.
The movie was filmed in black and white by Arthur Edeson, who also filmed THREE STRANGERS. It runs 100 minutes.
NOBODY LIVES FOREVER is not available on DVD or video. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available on the TCM website.
Update: A newly remastered print of this film is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive.