Friday, June 19, 2015

Nobody Lives Forever

TCM's Summer of Darkness, with 24 hours of noir every Friday, continues this afternoon at 3:15 PM with Nobody Lives Forever.

John Garfield plays Nick Blake, a man who's returning from World War II. One of the laws passed during World War II was that the men who went off to fight in the war would be eligible to get their old jobs back, something which is referenced for example in The Best Years of Our Lives where Dana Andrews' character can have his old job as a soda jerk back, not that he really wants it. For Nick Blake in our movie today, that old job was as a con artist. And he was good at it, to the point that when he left for the war, he had some $50,000 that he left with his girlfriend Toni (Faye Emerson) for safekeeping. He wants it back so he can go out west to California and set up shop there. After the war, a change might do Nick good. Except that Toni doesn't have the money. And she's got a new boyfriend. Of course, being a con man means that Nick will be able to get the money back, even if he does have to use a little muscle to get it.

So the action fairly quickly shits to a train bound for California, with Nick on board with his best friend Al (George Tobias). The two make it to Los Angeles, where Nick fairly quickly make the acquaintance of the various and sundry con artists plying their trade out on the west coast. One of them, Pop (Walter Brennan), happens to be an old friend of Nick's, except that Pop has fallen on hard times. As for Nick, he finds somebody who might be a suitable target for a con artist. Gladys Halvorsen (Geraldine Fitzgerald) is a widow with a substantial sum of money, enough that she's got a business manager. If you were a con artist, wouldn't you want to pursue a woman like this? Not only does she have all that money, she's still fairly young and nice looking. And so Nick starts getting to know her.

Of course, something happens along the way. That something, which you could probably guess, is that Nick starts to fall in love with her and feel some remorse over being a con artist. Well, that's not the only problem Nick is going to have. Toni shows up at an inopportune time. She obviously knows Nick's past, and spiling it to Gladys would present big problems for Nick. There's also Doc (George Coulouris), one of the west coast cons Nick has gotten to know. Doc wouldn't mind some of Glady's money himself, and if Nick is going to get cold feet about actually conning Gladys, there's something Doc could do about that.

There's not a whole lot new going on in Nobody Lives Forever, but the cast still pulls it off. John Garfield was always good at playing this sort of conman or gangster with an easy charm, and this is a role he could have played in his sleep. I don't know that Geraldine Fitzgerald is the best leading lady for Garfield, but then again, her character here is a widow, which probably has something to do with her seeming a bit distant. The supporting characters all provide nice atmosphere.

I think the best way to describe a film like Nobody Lives Forever is to say that it's an example of the good that the studio system could produce. For all the complaints about studios having control over their stars, and people getting typecast, there was also an assembly line-like quality that could churn out one competent work after another. Nobody Lives Forever is one of those works that's thoroughly competent from top to bottom.

Nobody Lives Forever is available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive.

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