Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Two of a Kind (1951)

Over the last couple of evenings I've watched a romantic comedy starring Edmond O'Brien and a film noir set in Los Angeles. Tonight I combined those themes and watched O'Brien in an L.A. noir, TWO OF A KIND.

O'Brien plays Michael "Lefty" Farrell, a ne'er-do-well recruited by Brandy Kirby (Lizabeth Scott) and Vincent Mailer (Alexander Knox) to pose as the long-lost son of a wealthy couple. If Michael convinces them that he's the little boy who disappeared at age three, he stands to inherit a cool ten million dollars, which would be split with Brandy and Vincent. Michael is so hard up for cash that he's even willing to have part of a finger severed in order to match the correct description. Talk about a cringe-inducing sequence! (It's rather amusing to think that these days a simple DNA test would unravel the entire scheme...)

This Columbia noir is fairly entertaining, though it lacks a certain something to take it to the next level. O'Brien is always good at playing a working-class type who initially seems to be something of a loser but proves to have some rough charm and even values of a sort. The film is also aided by bubbly Terry Moore as Kathy, the wealthy couple's idealistic niece, and Griff Barnett, a favorite character actor, as the cagey father of the missing son.

I think part of the reason the film isn't completely successful is the enigmatic performance of Lizabeth Scott. While Michael's hard luck background is explained, the script doesn't provide any motivation for the extreme lengths to which Brandy is going; a woman that determined to grift money probably could have put the same determination to work and married it instead!

Scott smiles and laughs at O'Brien incessantly, especially in the early going, sort of like a mother humoring a cranky child. She also leads on both Michael and Vincent romantically, hiding where her true affections lie until near the end of the movie. Scott is hampered by the script, but there aren't really any shadings to the character, other than the jealousy that crops up in the second half of the film.

I also had issues with the too-neat resolution which forgets to tie up the loose ends between Michael and young Kathy, who might be a "screwball" (Mike's affectionate term) but has fallen for him hard.

That said, it's an enjoyable movie made by some top-flight talent including cinematographer Burnett Guffey and gown designer Jean Louis. The script was cowritten by James Edward Grant, a frequent collaborator with John Wayne on films such as ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947), HONDO (1953), and the Wayne-produced BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951).

The director of this 75-minute film was Henry Levin.

The supporting cast includes Robert Anderson, Virginia Brissac, and Louis Jean Heydt.

TWO OF A KIND is available on DVD in a beautiful print as part of the set Bad Girls of Film Noir, Vol. I. The set also contains BAD FOR EACH OTHER (1953), THE GLASS WALL (1953), and a title previously reviewed here, THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950).

The DVD can be rented from Netflix or ClassicFlix.

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