THE GLASS KEY—-“No, I don’t want you hangin’ around. I might start makin’ passes at ya. Besides, that lousy brother of yours needed killin‘.” That’s Alan Ladd, flipping it to a minxing Veronica Lake, in the hospital where her brother lies plugged. Just one of a trove of sarcastic exchanges that ripen the Jonathan Latimer script to this boss 1942 mystery. Taken from a book by Dashiell Hammett, it’s a great oldie entertainment, plotted with just the right convolutions, directed by Stuart Heisler with a with foot on the accelerator for 85 minutes.
“My first wife was the second cook at a third-rate joint on 4th Street.”
Coming on with assured Movie Star cool, Ladd plays the trouble-shooter pal of a rough politician on the make (the ever solid Brian Donlevy), making wise with every line. Jealousy and the old double-cross dice things up. Twenty-three-year-old blonde ‘dish’ Lake adds the needed slink factor to the ballsiness. William Bendix comes on memorably in a classic rendition of a hulking, brutish bodyguard. It’s a great bad guy part, pure to the era, and Bendix is allowed to deliver Ladd a couple of nasty pulpings, stopping to growl petulantly in his best Brooklynese “Aww, you mean I don’t get to smack Baby no more?” He’s funny, but believably scary, and all four stars give the most to the screenplays generous array of insults. *
With Bonita Granville, Richard Denning, Joseph Calleia (“You talk too much with your mouth“), Frances Gifford, Donald MacBride, Moroni Olsen and Dane Clark. It took in $2,830,000.
*Bendix accidentally knocked Ladd out during one of their scenes and was so effusive in his apology that Ladd was deeply touched. The two became lifelong friends.