Friday, November 12, 2010

There's something about Van Heflin

To be honest, Van Heflin isn't the greatest actor out there. I shudder, for example, at the thought of him doing comedy. And yet, he's been enjoyable in almost everything I've seen him in. That's true even when he's miscast, as in The Prowler, airing tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM ET on TCM.

Van Heflin stars as Webb Garwood, a Los Angeles police officer partnered with Bud Crocker (John Maxwell). One night the two get called to investigate the presence of a possible prowler at the home of femme fatale Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes). They don't find a prowler, but Webb finds Susan irresistible. She apparently finds him the same way too, as she strikes up a relationship with him, even though she's already married to a disk jockey who does the overnight shift. One night when Webb tries to see Susan, he's interrupted by her husband, who happens to be home. Webb mistakes(?) the man for the original prowler, and shoots him dead.

This turns out to be a blessing in disguise for Webb and Susan, as they can now live their relationship relatively unencumbered, as long as he quits his job and moves with her to another state where nobody will recognize the two of them. They just have to get through the coroner's inquest first, which requires the two to perjure themselves. The Production Code won't let them get away with perjury, of course, so when the inquest finds accidental death, we know that there's going to be a twist. Sure enough, it comes once the pair has gotten married and bought a motel in Las Vegas. Susan informs Webb that he's knocked her up, and Webb realizes their goose is cooked. The presence of this unborn baby will prove that the two were carrying on a relationship before her first husband died, and get them convicted on those perjury charges. So they have to figure out a way to solve their baby problems.

When I first watched the movie I thought they should just go to Mexico, but apparently the suits in Hollywood are brighter than I am, and decided that twisting the plot beyond any semblance of reality was a better idea. Suffice it to say that crime doesn't pay; how it doesn't pay is an exercise left to the viewer. Even though there are plot problems, The Prowler is still an entertaining movie. And even though Heflin looks so out of place in that uniform, he still does a good job and makes the movie worth watching.

Sadly, The Prowler isn't on DVD, so you'll have to catch the TCM showing.

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