30 Days of Noir #19: Never Trust A Gambler (dir by Ralph Murphy)

Never Trust A Gambler is a 78-minute noir gem from 1951.

It tells the story of Steve Garry (Dane Clark) and his ex-wife, Virginia (Cathy O’Donnell).  Virginia divorced Steve because he was a degenerate gambler but that doesn’t mean that she no longer has feelings for him.  Or, at the very least, that’s what Steve is hoping when, out of the blue, he shows up at her door and tells her that he needs a place to hide out.

As Steve explains it, a friend of his had been accused of murder and Steve is being pressured to testify at the man’s trial.  In a move of pure gaslighting, Steve explains that his friend is innocent but, if Steve testifies, it will lead to his friend being wrongfully convicted.  Hence, unless Virginia wants to be responsible for sending an innocent man to death row, she has to give Steve a place to hide out.  Furthermore, Steve swears to her that he’s no longer a gambler and that he’ll only need to stay with her for a few days.  Reluctantly, Virginia agrees.

Later, while Virginia is at a grocery store, she’s approached by a police sergeant named McCloy (Rhys Williams).  At first, it seems like McCloy might be following her because he’s looking for Steve but, instead, it turns out that he used to date Virginia’s former roommate, Delores.  After clumsily trying to flirt with her at the grocery store, McCloy follows Virginia home.  When McCloy tries to force himself on her, Steve comes out of the shadows and beats McCloy to death.

So now, Virginia and Steve have a dead body to contend with.  Because Steve is hiding from the cops and Virginia’s been allowing him to hide out in her house, calling the police is not an option.  Steve promises Virginia that he’ll take care of the whole thing.  Steve’s solution is to put McCloy in a car and push it over the edge of a cliff.  Given that McCloy was a drunk, it’s reasonable to think that the police might assume that McCloy was driving drunk and cashed his car.  Now, Steve and Virginia both wait to find out whether or not Steve’s plan worked….

Technically, the protagonist of this film is Sgt. Donovan (Tom Drake), the detective who investigates McCloy’s death but, for the most part, Donavon’s something of a stiff.  Instead, the film really belongs to Dane Clark and Cathy O’Donnell.  Cathy O’Donnell gives a poignant performance as a woman whose efforts to escape the past and live a normal, drama-free life are continually made unnecessarily difficult by the selfish men surrounding her.  Meanwhile, Dane Clark tears through the film like a force of nervous nature.  Clark always seems to be on the verge of jumping out of his own skin and a good deal of the film’s suspense comes from wondering when Steve is going to lose control.  At the same time, Steve Garry is a character about whom most viewers will have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, he’s sleazy and selfish but, on the other hand, he saved Virginia from someone who was even worse.  Does Steve really love Virginia or is he just taking advantage of her?  This movie will keep you guessing.

Never Trust A Gambler is a well-done and intelligent film noir and definitely one that deserves to be better known.

Artist Profile: James E. McConnell (1903 — 1995)

Take a trip into the past with this selection of paperback covers, all done by the British artist James E. McConnell!  Born in Bedlington, Northumberland and educated at St. Martin’s School, McConnell went freelance in 1933 and subsequently became one of the most prominent and prolific paperback artists in Britain.  Though he worked in all genres, he is best remembered for his western and historical work.  His western covers epitomized how many in Europe visualized the American old west, complete with manly gunslingers and the women who loved them.

Here’s a small selection of some of McConnell’s work:

Music Video of the Day: Be Quick or Be Dead by Iron Maiden (1992, directed by ????)

Financial scandals are nothing new.

Long before the financial crisis of 2007 and the Great Recession that followed, 1992 saw the collapse of several economic institutions.  That was the year that the European Stock Market crashed and it was revealed that the powerful Bank of Credit and Commerce International was a massive money laundering scheme.  Following the mysterious death of British tycoon Robert Maxwell, it was discovered that he had been propping his companies up by stealing from other people’s pensions.  In the United States, the House banking scandal revealed that hundreds of Congresspeople were being allowed to bounce checks without being penalized by the House bank.

Be Quick or Be Dead, the first single to be released off of Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark, was inspired by these scandals.  If there was ever any doubt, the video, which specifically calls out both BCCI and the Federal Reserve, left no doubt that the members of Iron Maiden were as pissed off as everyone else in the world.

Be Quick or Be Dead peaked at number 2 on the UK charts.  It may be best remembered for the cover of its single, which featured Ed getting vengeance on a suit-wearing banker who bore a resemblance to Robert Maxwell.