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 book by Dashielle 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. 23-year-old blonde ‘dish’ Lake adds the needed slink factor to the ballsiness and 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 of the 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.
*He 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.