Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Great Villain Blogathon: William Talman as Dave Purvis in "Armored Car Robbery" (1950)



Run for cover! The Great Villain Blogathon is once again upon us hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy, Ruth of Silver Screenings and Karen of Shadows and Satin.  Cinema is filled so many extraordinary villains that the blogathon will run from from May 15th to 20th.  Contributions:  Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6.

Armored Car Robbery, directed by Richard Fleischer in 1950, is as tidy and dandy a noir-procedural as you are likely to come across.  At this stage of Fleischer's varied career he was becoming the master of the tightly-paced, low-budgeted crime picture with 1948s Bodyguard, 1949s The Clay Pigeon and Follow Me Quietly.  The Narrow Margin would follow in 1952 and Fleischer would move on to more prestigious and bigger-budgeted films such as The Vikings, The Boston Strangler and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.



The film's use of Los Angeles locations including Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs farm team, is one of the strengths of the picture.  You are put right into the action from City Hall, Police Headquarters and Communications, to highways and wharves.  The other highlight of this 67 minute treat is the intriguing mastermind of the armored car heist, Dave Purvis, and his portrayer, the gifted William Talman.



William Talman

Immortalized for his outstanding performance as tenacious, but luckless district attorney Hamilton Burger on TVs Perry Mason (1957-1966), Talman made his Broadway debut in 1940, his film debut in 1949 and his television launch in 1955.  In between was Army service in the Pacific rising from private to major.  His many movie and television roles highlight the actor's versatility.  He was equally believable as a brave young policeman in 1951s The Racket and a real-life psycho in 1953s The Hitch-Hiker.

In the annals of film-noir, Dave Purvis is one of the coldest and coolest villains you will come across.  Dave Purvis is a meticulous and calculating individual.  Constantly on the move, Purvis is careful to leave no clue to his identity.  He goes so far as to remove labels from clothing and have nothing in writing.  He plans his capers down to the last detail.  His reputation among the underworld types he uses is enough to ensure their obedience.  His obsession with self-preservation, however, sorely taxes their loyalty.



William Talman, Douglas Fowley 

Purvis' number one underling is Benny McBride played by Douglas Fowley (Battleground, TVs The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp).  Benny is desperate for a big score to impress and hold onto his estranged wife, Yvonne LeDoux.  Yvonne is a burlesque dancer with expensive tastes and a roving eye played by Adele Jergens (The Dark Past, Side Street).  If there is a sentimental bone in Yvonne's body, she hides it very well.  She's stringing Benny along all the while she's having an affair with Purvis.  Yep.  Benny is being played for a sap by his wife and his pal.

Benny recruits the two other men required for the job by bringing Al Mapes played by Steve Brodie (Crossfire, Winchester '73) and "Ace" Foster played by Gene Evans (Park Row, Steel Helmet) on board.  They are strictly no imagination types, but know how to follow orders and the heist is promised to yield half a million dollars.  Having timed police response time, the plan involves creating a diversion in front of a stadium which is the last stop on an armored car route.  Gas will knock out the guards and in the three minute wait time the car will be emptied of its treasure.  Only one little thing has to go wrong and it does.  A patrol car is closer than anticipated and before the three minutes is up there is a shootout resulting in the death of a police officer and the wounding of Benny.



Don McGuire, Charles McGraw

Lt. Cordell has a vested interest in this case as he was on the scene and has lost his partner of many years.  "You get used to a guy."  Cordell is played by Charles McGraw (The Narrow Margin, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue) and this actor's cops are as tough as his villains.  When it comes to focus, Cordell and Purvis are perfectly matched adversaries.  Cordell's new partner is Danny Ryan played by Don McGuire (writer - Bad Day at Black Rock, Tootsie).  He's a solid worker, but maybe a little too eager to impress Cordell.



Gene Evans, Douglas Fowley, William Talman, Steve Brodie

Dressed as road workers, the gang comes up against a road block and it is the first test after the mostly botched heist.  Mapes, the driver, is a nervous wreck and almost draws undue attention their way.  Purvis' bullying snaps them into place, even the desperately wounded Benny.  Reaching the hideout, Benny's pleas for a doctor go unheeded by Purvis to the point where Benny pulls a gun on  him.  Purvis' cool response is to end Benny's suffering by putting three bullets in him.  "Ace" takes care of dumping the body and their car in the harbor while Mapes keeps an eye on Purvis.  Even these mooks have caught onto the fact that the man is not to be trusted.  Mapes suggestion that now the loot be cut three ways is dismissed by Purvis who says he is going to make sure that Benny's widow gets her share.  Mapes has seen Yvonne strut her stuff and sees clearly through that altruistic statement.



Adele Jergens, William Talman

The police close in on the waterfront digs and Purvis is the only one to keep his head.  "Ace" is shot down and a panicked Mapes makes a noisy exit in a motorboat.  Purvis risks one quick meeting with Yvonne advising her to keep her distance and her nerve for the next couple of weeks.  When he gives the signal they will leave town with the dough.  Mapes has payback plans, but when he is picked up and put on the spot for the cop killing Mapes comes clean about Purvis and, once again, the police close in on the criminal.



William Talman

You can well imagine that someone with Purvis' smarts is not going to be easy to catch.  His habit of changing addresses often and quickly comes in handy.  Even Detective Ryan's undercover rouse does little to break Purvis' composure.  It is nothing to him to shoot to kill another cop.  Deft police work lead to an airfield and a chartered plane.  Even as things start to unravel, Purvis battles to the end.

All of the characteristics of a villainous mastermind are displayed in William Talman's riveting performance.  Purvis is smart, with a smartness that leads to arrogance.  He is cool under pressure and equally as calm about using violence when it suits him.  As ruthless as they come, Dave Purvis is due a spot in the movie villain Hall of Fame.






29 comments:

  1. Whoa! To CUT OUT the labels from your clothes?! That is very calculating. This Dave Purvis sounds like a real piece of work.

    I've not seen this film, but I can tell I'm missing out on something good. So glad you joined the blogathon, and brought the wiley Mr Purvis with you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Purvis is one super cold dude. Talman was an extraordinarily good actor. The more I see of him, the more I appreciate that fact.

      So many great posts to read in the blogathon. Thanks for putting it together again.

      Delete
  2. Great post about a film noir gem! William Talman is such a good baddie. "No loose ends, Baby!" Thanks for your kind comments about my Dracula (1931) post. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We know a gem when we watch it. "No loose ends" indeed! How does a guy get to be that way?

      You're welcome. Your "Dracula" post is terrific.

      Delete
    2. William Talman was so good at playing despicable characters. The creepy Emmett Myers with his "bum eye" comes to mind. http://www.kizoa.com/Video-Editor-Movie-Maker/d26338332k6096206o1l1/hitch-hiker

      Delete
  3. Reminds me a little bit of Anthony Mann's noir pics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mann and Fleischer were coming up at the same time and experimenting with noir. I find Mann has more of an emotional touch, but Fleischer is a pacing master.

      Delete
  4. Loved your post on one of my favorite films. You want to cheer when Purvis's plans all go wrong!
    Vienna

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm going to be doing The Hitch-hiker for my Film Noir Blogathon in August. I was unaware that Talman had a film career as a bad guy until I saw that. Now you've added another must see. Good review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Film noir blogathon in August? That will be great.

      Talman is incredible to watch. Glad I could add to your must-see list. If it is anything like my list we'll never get to the end.

      Delete
  6. Such a great run of movies from Fleischer around this time, in the run up to his masterpiece The Narrow Margin.

    I've seen Armoured Car Robbery three or four times but you've made me want to see it again right away.

    Bravo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so pleased. As you know, the movie holds up to repeat viewings very well. Much work to admire.

      Delete
  7. Remembering him from THE HITCHHIKER, I can say that Talman knows how to make his face *darn* creepy. I haven't seen this one, but will check it out, as I need to see more of his films.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Talman really was a phenomenal actor. I love this quote from Erle Stanley Gardner regarding Hamilton Burger: "Bill Talman is really a wonder. He actually looks as if he expects to win a case."

      Delete
  8. Cool! Another noir I get to know through your blog. Thanks for being always a source for new discoveries!
    THanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure. We learn from each other.

      Delete
  9. A great B Movie that I have watched a few times. Talman is one of the best villains to ever grace the screen. Nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not surprised. It really holds up on repeat viewings. And sometimes, it is just the thing you are in the mood to see.

      Delete
  10. I have never seen this ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, but I'm a William Talman fan and he sounds like a fantastic villain in this movie. I'll be looking for this one on TCM's schedule.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The note I made in my journal regarding Talman the first time I saw the movie was "the coldest bird ever!"

      Delete
  11. How did I miss this one the first time around? I like William Talman from all those years feeling sorry for him on Perry Mason. :) I don't have cable anymore, but maybe I'll be able to catch the movie online at some point. Douglas Fowley is another guy I liked. He practically lived forever didn't he? I know I saw him as a very old man on some shows years ago. Yeah, he lived to be 87 and seemingly worked all the while. Love these ancient character actors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you get to catch it sometime. Talman is so interesting to watch.

      Fowley went from being a smart-ass Cagney type in the 30s to old coot wandering in the desert in westerns in the 70s. It is like he was always there.

      Delete
  12. I am still making my way through these wonderful blogathon posts and what a joy to see Talman featured. Well deserved since he was such a great actor and memorable creep and baddie. Need to rewatch this one soon! Thanks for being a part of the blogathon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure.

      So many interesting articles. I haven't finished them all yet. One of these days...

      Delete
  13. I wish they showed movies like this on today's TV channels in India instead of repeating all the new and early 2000's movies as an excuse of English Movie channels! Great post.. Love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was a time when TV channels gave us so many of the classic films, but now we have to look for them or hope TCM answers our call.

      I never thought about setting up a "follow" section for myself. However, if for now you remember the name "Caftan Woman" every once in a while, we'll be sure to connect.

      Delete
  14. I love Talman in anything. He's absolutely my favorite actor.

    ReplyDelete