THE GOOD DIE YOUNG, a nifty, unsung, despair-turns-fateful crime drama from 1954 Britain fields a solid cast, ably directed by Lewis Gilbert. Gilbert co-wrote the script with Vernon Harris (Carve Her Name With Pride, Oliver!), off the novel by Richard Macaulay (The Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night).
Circumstance meets happenstance when four men, each faced with a personal crisis, meet over drinks in a London pub. War hero-turned-leech ‘Miles “Rave” Ravenscourt’ (Laurence Harvey) lives off his wife ‘Eve’ (Margaret Leighton, soon to be Harvey’s real-life spouse); his aristocratic father (Robert Morley) has had enough: “I don’t hate you. I Ioathe and despise the very sight of you.” Unemployed American office worker ‘Joe Halsey’ (Richard Basehart) has come to England to try and wrest his young wife ‘Mary’ (Joan Collins) away from her domineering witch of a mother. His Air Force buddy ‘Eddie Blaine’ (John Ireland) is so distraught over his cheating actress wife ‘Denise’ (Gloria Grahame) that he’s gone AWOL. ‘Mike Morgan’ (Stanley Baker) is a crippled ex-boxer who can’t find work: his wife ‘Angela’ (Rene Ray) has given his hard-won savings to her wastrel brother. Rave has a “foolproof” plan, but will casual commiseration augur deliverance or disaster?
Great blend of types, with the four distinctive male leads each notable for their skill at conveying levels of quiet desperation, bottled anger with a volatile edge. Except for Grahame, who’s frankly awful here, the women score as well, with 20-year-old Collins showing to best advantage. Harvey skirts close to being as femmy as Ernest Thesiger at times; Ireland is more jocular than usual; Basehart a smart mix of cerebral with idealistic. Best of all is Baker, who unloads one of his most emotionally raw performances.
George Auric’s score gives it a rousing introduction. With Freda Jackson (hateful as the mother-in-law from Hell), Lee Patterson, George Cole, and if you don’t blink, Edward Judd and Patricia Owens.
* Though all the actors (with the glaring exception of Grahame) do good work, it was Collins who received the best boost. Showcased in five films the year before, after this did reasonably well in the States (109th place, $2,900,000), she went transAtlantic and upscale for Land Of The Pharaohs, The Virgin Queen and The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing.
The flamboyant Harvey could go a swish too far on occasion (The Long and The Short and The Tall, The Magic Christian) but playing it straight (as it were) he was dynamic in The Alamo and spot-on in The Manchurian Candidate. He bats both zones in The Good Die Young, but his tendency to challenge audience patience is more than compensated by the unfussy at-ease-in-their-skins interpretations of his sturdy castmates.