DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SHAKEDOWN (director: Joseph Pevney; screenwriters: story by Nat Dallinger & Don Martin/Martin G. Goldsmith/Alfred Lewis Levitt; cinematographer: Irving Glassberg; editor: Milton Carruth; cast: Howard Duff (Jack Early), Brian Donlevy (Nick Palmer), Peggy Dow (Ellen Bennett), Lawrence Tierney (Harry Coulton), Bruce Bennett (David Glover), Anne Vernon (Nita Palmer), Josephine Whittell (Mrs. Worthington), Kenneth Patterson (Fred Thurman); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ted Richmond; Universal; 1950)

 
"A routine story that is more about a depiction of the American drive for material success than an exposé newspaper story."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Joseph Pevney adequately directs this minor film noir about a ruthless opportunistic shutterbug, Jack Early (Howard Duff), who will do anything to get his foot in the door of a San Francisco newspaper. It's adapted by writers Martin G. Goldsmith and Alfred Lewis Levitt from a story by Nat Dallinger & Don Martin.

Jack Early (Howard Duff) snaps a photo of a gangland beating by the docks and talks his way into a probationary job for a week with the San Francisco Daily Record. The editor, David Glover (Bruce Bennett), reluctantly hires him against his better judgment when newspaper executive Ellen Bennett (Peggy Dow) goes to bat for him. By stepping over other photographers on the newspaper Jack delivers two more great photos that boost newspaper sales. Glover assigns Jack to get a posed exclusive photo of shady businessman Nick Palmer (Brian Donlevy), who never poses for such photos. The fast-talking Jack gets the photo and works a deal with the hood to get an incriminating photo of Nick's ex-partner Harry Coulting (Lawrence Tierney) while he's committing a department store robbery so he can be cleanly removed from Nick's turf without suspecting who it was that tipped him off. Jack takes two photos, one a blurred one he gives to the newspaper and the other a clear shot of Coulton's gang in action which he keeps hidden in Ellen's apartment to blackmail the crime boss for $25,000 from ever being published. Jack also begins a romance with Ellen, breaking up her relationship with a Portland dentist. Ellen fights for him to get a permanent job on the newspaper, which Glover agrees to but shows disdain for Jack's blind ambition and total disregard of others. When Jack tips Coulton off that it was Nick who framed him, Coulton's hoods detonate a car bomb killing Nick while Jack is there to get the photo. Jack is riding high with national professional recognition and turns down the newspaper job despite Ellen begging him to take it. The ambitious guy becomes a famous freelance photographer and gets hired to be the exclusive photographer for socialite Mrs. Worthington's house party, where he arranges for Coulton to rob the place of its million dollar worth of jewels. Jack is in love with Nick's beautiful widow Nita (Anne Vernon), and hopes to get enough money from this heist to live with her in Europe. But Coulton double-crosses Jack and informs Nita that her hubby was killed by Jack. In the end, Jack gets his comeuppance in a wild shootout at Mrs. Worthington's mansion, where Jack gets a snapshot of the thug who killed him.

It was a routine story that is more about a depiction of the American drive for material success than an exposé newspaper story. Howard Duff does a credible job as the cad, while Lawrence Tierney is in his element as the menacing hood. 

REVIEWED ON 3/25/2005        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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