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Race Street (1948)
Topic Started: Dec 30 2017, 10:31 AM (202 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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Race Street (1948) Dir. Edwin L. Marin
An RKO Picture
79 min. / B&W / 1.37:1
DVD: Warner Archive

Tough-guy mob boss Frank Faylen (there's a phrase that doesn't get typed up much) has brought his protection racket to San Francisco, and his goons are shakin' down innocent, law-abiding illegal bookies. When one intended sap doesn't play along and has to get tossed down a 3-story flight of concrete steps, the dead guy's life-long pals, nightclub owner George Raft and police detective William Bendix, work for justice, each in his own way.

A so-so installment in the seeming never-ending chain of RKO crime dramas/film noirs given us by Warner Archive, this holds interesting mainly for its cast, which includes Marilyn Maxwell as the (shockingly) brunette gal stuck between the two sides of the law; pretty Gale Robbins as the baby-faced singer; and Harry Morgan as the doomed pal. The script is no great shakes and every time I see Raft, I think he was probably the 7th or 8th guy down the list after much better actors had turned the project down. (It's also interesting that Nat Holt produced; he and director Marin took their act after this to Fox, where they made that Cariboo Trail picture I reviewed the other day.)

Million-dollar Insurance Sales Pitch:
"This guarantees you being able to keep on with your business. It covers automobiles hitting you, open elevator shafts, accidents around the house, falling down stairs. Oh, all SORTS of things."

I wish I had more enthusiasm for the film, but Raft was one of the least-interesting tough guy leading men and the film's a bit too talky. There's nothing really wrong with it, for a little under an hour and a half you'll be entertained, but with some work and maybe a couple of cast changes this could've been a winner. It was one of the last projects worked on by Dore Schary before Howard Hughes took over RKO. The DVD is fine.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
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I had Race Street on laser and didnít think much of it either. But I'd be willing to take another look at it. Didn't know about the Nat Holt / Edward Marin connection.

Speaking of Dore Schary, RKO, and Howard Hughes, Gravy, I recently read the second volume of Rick Jewell's RKO history, "Slow Fade to Black", which might interest you.

It's strictly a history of RKO from a management and business standpoint, and the last half of the book naturally focuses on the Hughes years. It's a fascinating and sad story of how one man brought down an entire studio.
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Bert Greene
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Raft made all those crime-oriented melodramas in the mid-to-late-1940s, and they seem to have such maddeningly interchangeable titles. I'm pretty certain this is the only one I haven't seen. Been meaning to eventually get around to it, but just haven't felt in any great rush to do so. Always struck me as surprising that Raft had this renewed spurt of popularity in those postwar years, as by this time he'd gotten pretty long in the tooth, and usually came across awfully tired and moribund. But apparently "Johnny Angel" (1945) and "Nocturne" (1946) were really big moneymaking hits, and they managed to recharge his career for several years. And to be perfectly honest, I rather like Raft's efforts from this era. He seems so out-of-shape and out-of-style, I think it elicits some sympathy from me! I particularly recall liking Columbia's "Johnny Allegro" (1949), and also have a longtime affection for his Lippert cheapie "Loan Shark" (1952).

Yet if I were to zero in on my favorite Raft film, it's probably one from his early days, "Midnight Club" (1933), which is a breezy delight. Also a great film to see Helen Vinson in an atypical winsome role, and she is marvelous in it.
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