Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Railroaded (1947)

Ward Cleaver, I never knew you.

This movie buff was born after Leave It to Beaver aired. Actually, I've never seen any of the 234 episodes of the family comedy that ran on television between 1957 and 1963.


A decade before Hugh Beaumont appeared in that beloved series, he made this film directed by Anthony Mann (The Glenn Miller Story, Winchester '73).

Railroaded has its moments, including several very fine performances. Beaumont is not one of the reasons why I'd recommend this film.

But, John Ireland is solid as bad guy Duke Martin. He's the best thing in this 76-minute black and white effort.

Duke and his girl, beautician Clara Calhoun (Jane Randolph), scheme to rip off a gambling operation in the back of Calhoun's salon. What appears to be a straightforward heist goes awry when Calhoun's co-worker, Marie Weston (Peggy Converse), screams and alerts police. She's not aware of Duke and Clara's scheme. Her version of events doesn't line up with her co-worker's. Will police believe her or think her memory is blurred by trauma from the robbery?


An officer walking the beat is killed, but not before plugging henchman Cowie Kowalski (Keefe Brasselle). Cowie fingers innocent Steve Ryan (Ed Kelly) as his accomplice before he dies. Kowalski had a thing for Ryan's sister, see, and Steve told him to buzz off. This is a chance for Kowalski to even the score -- for good.

Steve's supposed involvement brings Ferguson to the Ryan household. What a coincidence. The investigator used to live in the neighbourhood. Golly, he has been away from the 'hood for so long he didn't know that Rosie has matured into quite the fine-looking young lady.


The two are at odds. Ferguson wants to put Steve in the slammer. His boss, Capt. McTaggart (Charles Brown) is more direct. "Only the gas chamber will satisfy me." Meanwhile, Rose wants to clear her brother.

"Facts. That's what I'm interested in," he tells Rosie.
"Feelings don't count in my racket."

Meanwhile, Duke keeps killing just about everyone who is somehow tied to the caper. Clara's fondness for the bottle grows as she is tormented by the death of the police officer and Kowalski. Duke casts an eye on Rose, but it's not exactly romance that's on his mind.


Beaumont and Ryan have next-to-no-chemistry. This film fan was stunned when they kissed. Really? The script called for it, but there's no believable romance going on with those two.

But, hey, where else can you see a cat fight between Randolph and Ryan?

When was the last time you saw a jail guard check a cake for a hidden handgun?

Savour some classic lines including, "Go peddle your troubles to the fire department," and "Can't you talk without asking questions?" Ireland gets the best line in the film when he tells a piano player, "You with the fingers, go home."

So many of this film's cast did better work elsewhere. It's neat to see them in a movie that just doensn't quite gel.

Ireland earned a best supporting Oscar nomination for All the King's Men a couple of years later. Jane Randolph was in Cat People. She only appeared in 21 films between 1941 and 1955. She died in Switzerland in 2009. What's her story?

Railroaded was Ed Kelly's film debut. What happened to him? He appeared in another film in 1950 then disappeared for 20 years. He returned in the rated X comedy, Miss Nymphet's Zap-In, directed by the Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Why?

Charles Brown appeared in some of Hollywood's best films of that era, The Big Sleep, Notorious and The Grapes of Wrath. He's fine as the police boss who wants to find the killer of one of his men.

How many actors can say they appeared in government films warning the troops about sexually transmitted diseases? Well, Keefe Brasselle played Chicken in USS VD: Ship of Shame.

There are so many great stories here. Too bad Railroaded isn't one of them.

RATING: 6/10

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