Wednesday, September 4, 2019

THE ALAN LADD BLOGATHON: Appointment with Danger (1950)


Pale Writer Gabriela is hosting The Man Who Would Be Shane: The Alan Ladd Blogathon on September 3-6. Click HERE for the tributes to the beloved star.

The danger alluded to in the title of this film is in the form of a gang with plans for a big heist from the Postal Service, specifically one member of the gang with little regard for lives other than his own. The mastermind is Earl Boettiger played by Paul Stewart, a businessman with the brains to organize a plan and the personality to manage underlings.

Violence is built into the DNA of Joe Regas played by Jack Webb. Murder is his go-to solution to every problem. His most recent problem was Postal Inspector Gruber who was getting too close to the gang's plans. Regas and George Soderquist played by Harry Morgan take care of the problem and dump the body in a neighbouring city to keep the cops off their tails. 

Alan Ladd

Keeping this dangerous appointment with Gruber's murderers is Postal Inspector Al Goddard played by Alan Ladd. He is single-minded when it comes to getting the job done and cynical when it comes to people in general. This worries Goddard's superior Maury Ahearn played by Dan Riss, but the department can't argue with results and Goddard gets results.

Ahearn: "Let me tell you about you, Al. That badge and a few law books have turned you into a nut. You don't like anybody. You don't believe anybody. You don't trust anybody. You think everybody has a pitch."
Al: "Everybody has. You and I and a guy back there. A better job, a little more dough, a round of applause. One way or another, everybody you meet is a pitch artist."

Alan Ladd, Phyllis Calvert, Herb Vigran

Happenstance has brought Sister Augustine, a Catholic nun played by British actress Phyllis Calvert (Madonna of the Seven Moons, Crash of Silence) into this dangerous appointment. Unknowingly, she is a witness to the murder of Postal Inspector Gruber, or at least to the men disposing of his body in an alley on a rainy night. This teacher has a world view which includes healthy doses of compassion and forgiveness. She is also able to identify the men in the alley which leads the authorities and Sister Augustine to Gary, Indiana and a pool hall full of suspects.

Al: "You don't think very much of me do you, Sister?"
Sister Augustine: "I think much of everything, Mr. Goddard, but I feel sorry for you. I don't think you have a heart."
Al: "Call it muscle. That's the way it is with a cop." 
Sister Augustine: "I don't believe it."
Al: "When a cop dies they don't list it as heart failure. It's Charlie horse of the chest."

It becomes evident that a trucker employed by the Postal Service, Paul Ferrar played by Stacy Harris is key to the plan to hijack a million dollars which is vulnerable during a transfer between trains. Goddard easily convinced gang boss Boettiger that he is crooked and wants in on the deal. His inside knowledge will come in handy in such a caper. Some fancy footwork concerning Goddard's background fools everyone but the suspicious and violent Joe Regas. He's already gotten rid of his partner in the Gruber killing, Soderquist, and he's got that nun on his mind. Taking out another Postal Inspector won't be a bother at all.

Alan Ladd, Jan Sterling

Goddard has moved into a Boettiger run hotel so the gang can keep an eye on their new partner. Boettiger puts his girlfriend/stenographer Dodie played by Jan Sterling on Goddard watch. She doesn't mind at all. Dodie introduces Al to her collection of bop recordings.

Dodie: "Have you heard Joe Lily's Only Mine? Come up to my place and hear it." 
Al: "As a favor to Joe."
Dodie: "What he can do with a horn. He belts it, melts it and rides it all over the ceiling."
Al: "Can he play it?"

All of the conflicting intentions bump against each other as the deadline for the heist approaches. Goddard is busy keeping his cover and still keeping in touch with headquarters. It is not an easy line to traverse. Sister Augustine has, quite naturally, refused Goddard's offer of a gun for protection. At the same time, no one is aware of Regas' escalating efforts to silence the good Sister.

The human factor plays a major role in the resolution to this case. Who can be coerced, who will overhear what, and will everyone with a part to play be able to do so, or will the unforeseen take circumstances out of their control? 

Appointment With Danger has a dandy script by Richard L. Breen (Titanic, Pete Kelly's Blues) that is filled with wry sarcasm expertly delivered by Alan Ladd and the cast of crime picture veterans. Director Lewis Allen (The Uninvited, Suddenly) knows how to keep the story moving and at 90 minutes doesn't waste any time getting down to cases, so to speak. Cinematographer John F. Seitz (Lucky Jordan, Double Indemnity) brings some nice noirish touches to the soundstage set as well as the Indiana and Illinois locations, including railyard sequences which heighten the action. 

Alan Ladd was in his late 30s at the time of Appointment with Danger in 1950. A busy actor at his home studio of Paramount during the 1940s including breakout roles early in the decade, his demand would continue in the 1950s although the projects would vary in their worthiness. Appointment with Danger and the brittle yet reliable character of Goddard was a fine start to the years which would see his greatest role, that of Shane, just ahead.


Taxi!:

Murray Alper
1904-1984

Murray Alper appears in Appointment with Danger as a cabbie who helps Goddard track down the elusive witness to a murder. Some actors specialized in cops or butlers, or newspapermen. Murray was an expert in transportation.

Murray was Frank, the cab driver who took Sam Spade nowhere in The Maltese Falcon. He was the obliging trucker who picks up Saboteur suspect Robert Cumming. And the operator of those boats that take Marion and Bruno over to the island in Strangers on a Train. Yep, he was the bus driver in Trouble Along the Way.

You'll spot Murray hacking in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Murder on a Bridle Path, My Favorite Spy, Lady in the Dark, Angel on My Shoulder and many more movies. In On the Town, Murray was promoted to the owner of the cab company.


There must have been a Dragnet out on this movie:

Jack Webb
1920-1982

Jack Webb's character of Joe murders Jack Webb's future TV partner Harry Morgan in this movie written by Richard Breen, who wrote the 1954 Dragnet feature and the Dragnet 1966 reboot.  Stacy Harris and Dan Riss, a crook and cop respectively in Appointment with Danger were card-carrying members of the Webb stock company.
















30 comments:

  1. Good cast. I read somewhere—perhaps it was here—about Jack Webb and how he was more than just the guy from DRAGNET. My perception of the show has always been a bit skewed because of the Dan Akroyd movie, but one day I’ll have to sit down with it.

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    1. I love Akroyd's take on Dragnet. It is a truly affectionate spoof. It came from much watching of the show.

      Have you seen Jack's "copper clapper" routine from The Tonight Show? It's probably on YouTube. He was a very self-aware fellow.

      Appointment with Danger is a dandy crime picture and the Webb/Morgan bit adds another layer to the proceedings.

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    2. **watches it on YouTube**

      Clearly very clever.

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    3. I'm chuckling just thinking about it.

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    4. I've just watched this clip for the first time as well. Good way to start the morning, thanks for pointing the way.

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  2. Fabulous review, Paddy! You manage to capture why this is one of Alan’s most suspenseful films so well! I’m so glad you quote quite a few times, because as you say, it’s a great script. I always giggle at Alan’s deadpan delivery, which was one of his many talents. I don’t watch this movie at all for the gratuitous shirtless squash ball scene, or because Alan manages to have great chemistry with a nun.
    Thanks so much for contributing another lovely article to one of my Blogathons 🔫

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. We don't even need the squash ball scene at all!

      It was my pleasure to revisit this film for the blogathon. It is a fine script and expertly put over. Thanks.

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  3. Speaking of cab drivers HERB VIGRAN played a cabbie on an ep of KNOTS LANDING the first season. He drove the cab that brought LILLIMAE to KL to see her daughter Val. Val wasn't at home so her neighbor KAREN had her wait at her house. So Herb worked with JULE HARRIS and MICHELE LEE.

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    1. What a coincidence. I rewatched The Love Bug last night with Michele Lee, and Herb Vigran played a cop as he does in Appointment with Danger.

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    2. HERB VIGRAN also did some eps of DRAGNET with JACK WEBB and HARRY MORGAN. Plus he did 11 eps of GUNSMOKE as a judge. He was in two that I know you really like-the CHRISTMAS ep and the one about a quiet day(or night?) in DODGE.

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    3. Herb is a familiar face, and voice. If you hear him from another room, there is no mistaking who just came on the scene be it in a comedy or a drama.

      Yes. You are recalling P.S. Murray Christmas and A Quite Day in Dodge.

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  4. Dear Paddy Lee,

    This sounds like a great movie! I just heard about it for the first time from another article for this blogathon. I am looking forward to seeing it! You wrote a great review. It has a lot of information but a lot of captivating content, as well.

    I just nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/09/04/the-blogger-recognition-award-and-the-lucy-m-montgomery-blogging-award/. In the article, I invited you and the other nominees to join our blogathon, The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/08/14/its-here-the-phantom-of-the-opera-blogathon/. I hope you will be able to join!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

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    1. I thank you very much, Tiffany.

      I'm not feeling inspired to write about "Phantom", but I look forward to reading the many contributions.

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    2. Dear Paddy,

      You're welcome. Hopefully we will have a lot of interesting articles join the blogathon even without you! I look forward to your possible participation in another blogathon.

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan

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    3. There's always another blogathon!

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  5. Another fun Ladd noir in his most productive and successful period. I love that you quoted some lines from Ladd's scene with Jan Sterling. I was taken aback by the overt seduction that takes place there, but feel both actors pull it off so convincingly (also Jan Sterling seems so dependably good). The script is terrifc there and through most of the film as you say.

    Thanks for the info. about Murray Alper -- who knew that certain actors could be in demand for drivers of all kinds in classic movies?!

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    1. I had forgotten how sharp the script was for Appointment with Danger until I rewatched it for the blogathon. What a treat!

      It took me years to put Murray Alper's name to his face, but now he and I are like "that." Hee-hee.

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  6. Alan Ladd always handled this no-nonsense role with aplomb. For me, though, this film's greatest strength (as you pointed out) is its on-location shooting in the Midwest. It provides an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Plus, it's just grand fun to see the stars of DRAGNET as bad guys!

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    1. There are unexpected treats to be found in this picture. The murder of Morgan's character gave me nightmares when I was a kid! Especially his line "What did I do, Joe?" Omigosh.

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  7. I've enjoyed reading this review, and thanks for having a look at mine! - VT

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  8. I enjoyed your post, like so many others here. Alan Ladd is good in so many noir films. He's great in Appointment with Danger. Thanks for a very entertaining write-up!

    And good luck with the Blogger Recognition Award!

    Marianne
    Make Mine Film Noir

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  9. Love Appointment With Danger and it's one of my favourite Alan Ladd films. It's a tight film and Ladd is such a seasoned performer by this point in his career that he's a thrill to watch. A fantastic write-up (as always!) and I really enjoyed reading your work.

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    1. It is so true what you say about Alan Ladd, especially at this point in his career; he knew his business, he knew how to be a movie star, and he carried it off with such ease that the audience never had to worry.

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  10. This is such a fun, sleek film -- really liked your writeup! You've made me want to pull it out for a rewatch this evening :-)

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    1. It is indeed a dandy! Enjoyable any time. Thanks.

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  11. HARRY MORGAN again! His name/image turns up a lot. I mentioned his name on a post. Then he turned up here then in THE SNOWBALL EXPRESS on TCM then on that MURDER, SHE WROTE ep. I read that he played HARRY TRUMAN and I said yeah, that was a really good choice for casting.

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    1. He told a story once about a young actor who was the son of an actor, came up to him and said "You were in my dad's first movie." Harry responded, "I was in everyone's first movie."

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