Saturday, November 1, 2014

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for November on TCM



...No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
November!
- Thomas Hood

Yes, indeed!  It is that time of year again.  Have you started your Christmas shopping?  No?  Well, get cracking.  Time's a-wasting.  You'd better start on that list of favourite Christmas movies and specials as well.  No need yet to go full-on White Christmas or Scrooge, but ease yourself into the season.  Start with the office Christmas party in Desk Set or the festivities in the psych ward in Captain Newman, MD.  Better yet, enjoy Larceny, Inc. the 1942 film based on Laura and S.J. Perelman's short-lived 1941 Broadway play The Night Before Christmas.

Edward G. Robinson (The Sea Wolf, Double Indemnity) stars as J. Chalmers Maxwell aka "Pressure", a criminal mastermind.  When we meet "Pressure" he has masterminded his gang into Sing Sing.  Said gang consists of Weepy Davis played by Edward Brophy (Dumbo, All Through the Night) and Jug Martin played by Broderick Crawford (All the King's Men, Down Three Dark Streets).  Weepy is the guy who puts Pressure's ideas into action and Jug is the fellow who consistently "takes one for the team".  Once freed from the confines of Ossining and the dubious association of the cold-hearted Leo Dexter played by Anthony Quinn (Requiem for a Heavyweight, Warlock) Pressure and pals are free to pursue their next get-rich-quick scheme. 

Jane Wyman (Here Comes the Groom, Stage Fright) plays Denny Costello.  She is Pressure's unofficial adopted daughter and is determined to see him go straight.  Pressure would be happy to oblige Denny, but he needs capital and bank's require a little thing called collateral.  Is there another way to get money out of a bank?  You bet!  Located next to the bank is a luggage shop whose elderly owner played by Harry Davenport (Meet Me in St. Louis, The Ox-Bow Incident) is convinced to enjoy retirement and sell his interests to Pressure.  Once established as merchants it is a simple enough matter for Jug to start digging a tunnel from the shop to the bank. 

Pressure, however, did not reckon on the disruption of customers and his neighbouring shopkeepers, including John Qualen, Fortunio Bonanova and Barbara Jo Allen (Vera Vague).  His efforts to be left alone to deal with his preferred occupation inadvertently make Pressure a business success and a hero to his neighbours.  Denny does her bit to keep Pressure on the straight and narrow with her new beau, luggage line salesman Jack Carson (Mildred Pierce, The Strawberry Blonde).  Their courting takes place at a local drugstore under the watchful and bemused eyes of a soda jerk played by 25-year-old Jackie Gleason.

Barbara Jo Allen, Broderick Crawford, Edward Brophy
Edward G. Robinson, Jack Carson, Jane Wyman

The question of the bank's security and Pressure's changing heart become moot on Christmas Eve when Leo escapes from Sing Sing and demands his piece of the action.  Christmas and good will mean nothing to someone of Leo's temperament.  Neither does a well-made leather case or the return of Harry Davenport.  It will take nothing less than a Christmas miracle to get the gang out of this mess.

Directed by Lloyd Bacon (Brother Orchid, 42nd Street), Larceny, Inc. features typical Warner Bros. fast-paced quips and an ensemble skilled at creating memorable, likeable characters.  Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) near the end of the movie.

TCM is screening Larceny, Inc. on Saturday, November 22nd at 8:30 am.  Not only will it be a nice way to kick off holiday movie season, you may even get some ideas for gifts from Pressure's shop.   

12 comments:

  1. Is it me or does Hollywood rarely make movies anymore where Christmas is incidental to the story as opposed to being central?

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    1. Rich, they seem to pile on the Christmas like it's an endless tub of Cool Whip - and nobody can handle that much Cool Whip!

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  2. Paddy, you may not know it, but you've sent me a Christmas present, namely Larceny Inc!. My dear late mom loved Edward G. Robinson, and she made us us kids love him too as we grew older! With Jane Wyman and that delightful cast of character actors, what's not to love? You made my day, my friend -- swell choice! :-D, and Larceny Inc. was our favorite! Thanks again for perking up a blustery fall afternoon!

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    1. I knew we were part of the Great Sisterhood of EGR fans! There's something so good-natured and charming about "Larceny, Inc." that it quickly became a family holiday movie tradition.

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  3. If this is duplicate comment, please delete it (my first one seemed to disappear). CW, this is terrific selection for the month. Edward G. Robinson was technically not a comedian, but--like all fine actors--he could play any role. I quite enjoy his funny films, such as this one and BROTHER ORCHID.

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    1. So true about fine actors and Eddie was one of the best. "Brother Orchid" is another favourite around here. Don't let on, but my hubby always gets a little verklempt at the end of that one.

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  4. CW, did Edward G. Robinson ever make a really bad movie? He was amazing, and I love to see him in anything. I've seen Larceny but look forward to watching it again. By the way, I loved your "they seem to pile on the Christmas like it's an endless tub of Cool Whip - and nobody can handle that much Cool Whip!" -- fabulous line, girl! And oh so true!

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    1. EGR really was tops at his craft. Even when a movie doesn't entirely succeed, I've never known him not to excel.

      Thanks, Becky. According to my family I'm a Christmas overkill kinda gal, but the crop of made for TV movies that aim for holiday attention make me look like a real piker.

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  5. I just finished reading FIREBALL, about Carole Lombard and her ill-fated flight. The author really takes Warner Bros. to task with her film there, FOOLS FOR SCANDAL, and says Warner Bros. was absolutely the wrong studio to make comedies. I haven't seen that film so I don't know how bad it is, but LARCENY INC. is a terrific comedy all the way around. In addition to BROTHER ORCHID (fine movie) I also always liked Eddie G. in A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER. It never occurred to me that Warner Bros. didn't know how to make comedies. Maybe not of the screwball variety, but all of those movies have traces of screwball elements in them.

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    1. The author's comments are strange to me. There's a streak of cynical humour that runs through a lot of Warners product and I think that's part of what makes it hold up to this day. They knew their own style and if that style wasn't appropriate for "Fools for Scandal" (I haven't seen it either) then it is fair to say so. However, we BrotherOrchidLarceyIncNightMustFall types know it was a good thing when Warner Bros. handed out the chuckles.

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  6. Another great choice, and I love the mention of: "Their courting takes place at a local drugstore under the watchful and bemused eyes of a soda jerk played by 25-year-old Jackie Gleason." Another example of romance at the drug store. Must have this for my collection.

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