(see this week’s shopping list for that info) and no it’s not a Queen song, it’s a neat Negulesco noir (awesome alliteration, ain’t it)
here to keep your mind off the heat is a little excerpt from a little something I wrote in a recent Dark Pages issue…
Nobody Lives Forever tells the story of a con man, played by John Garfield, gone to war and returned home to find, like many noir protagonists, that things have changed a lot, and not for the better. In this case, Garfield comes back to New York to find his lounge singer girlfriend (Faye Emerson) and partners have double-crossed him and misused the tens of thousands of dollars he left in her charge, opening a club then losing everything. By getting back into his old criminal ways, Garfield manages to get his “investment” back, then goes to the west coast for a change of scenery but not a change in his ways, because he’s soon involved in a new scam. The mark this time is a millionaire widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald), but things get complicated when Garfield actually falls in love with her. When he wants to back out of the scam, his ex, his partners, his past acts and reputation catch up to him, threatening to wreck his credibility and plans before he has a chance to explain or prove his love is real and no longer motivated by money. The story was based on the W.R. Burnett novel I Wasn’t Born Yesterday, which is an equally great, if not even better noir title. Burnett’s work was fertile ground that yielded such classics as Scarface, High Sierra, Little Caesar and The Asphalt Jungle.
Garfield is great (as he usually was) as the former con man who’s found his heart and conscience while away at war, and lost his stomach for a swindle, a man who’s equal parts tough as nails and soft on the inside, charismatic, dangerous and romantic. Director Jean Negulesco guides the proceedings with a sure and steady hand (some might even say an overly slow one) letting events unfold at a deliberate pace, but with tons of noiry mood and atmosphere, contrasting New York grit with the California sun, dumpy hotel rooms, and fog-concealed scheming and romancing on the Pacific shore. George Coulouris, Walter Brennan and George Tobias provide great support, as Garfield’s fellow con men of widely varying ages and levels of ruthlessness and/or conscience. Nobody Lives Forever marked a break from Warners studio for two of its leads, representing one of the two films with which Garfield finished up his contract with Warners, (for the second, Humoresque, Garfield again worked with Negulesco). Nobody was also Geraldine Fitzgerald’s last film for the studio. This was part of the reason the movie was started in 1944 but held back two years before its postwar release; in this way Warners capitalized on Garfield’s name long after his departure from the studio for independent work.
for more great noir coverage, check out the latest issue of the Dark Pages