Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ava Gardner in CSI: 1942

This being the first week of a new month, we get a new Star of the Month: Ava Gardner, whose movies will be seen every Thursday in prime time on TCM. Tonight's first Ava Gardner movie, at 8:00 PM ET is The Killers, and its presence in the salute to Gardner is why it wasn't used as part of the birthday salute to Burt Lancaster the other day. I'm not quite certain how far through the night the Gardner movies continue, although there are are least four of them, through the Arthurian legend Knights of the Round Table overnight at 2:15 AM. However, Gardner also shows up in a very tiny bit part later on Friday morning, in Kid Glove Killer, at 10:30 AM.

Van Heflin is the star of this movie, playing Gordon McKay, the head of a police investigative unit that's much like the CSI units of today, using his knowledge of such things as strands of fabric, paint chips, and things caught under fingernails to help track down killers. He's helped by his lovely assistant Jane Mitchell (Marsha Hunt), although he thinks she should just become a housewife and get married to boyfriend (and local rising political star) Gerald Ladimer (Lee Bowman). Unfortunately, McKay's investigations into the criminal underworld are about to hit Ladimer, as he's actually on the payroll of the mobsters. (We learn this fairly early on, and the movie is more of a suspense movie than a mystery as we know who the bad guy is.) Ladimer responds by making a car bomb, and our investigators have to figure out he's the one who did it, even though he, as a prosecutor, is in on the inner workings of the investigation.

Kid Glove Killer was designed as one of those B-movies to fill out a double bill, but it's really quite fun. This was Van Heflin just before he became a star, and he's good as the somewhat hard-boiled and cyincally sarcastic investigator. Marsha Hunt is nice, but nothing particularly special, as is Lee Bowman. What makes Kid Glove Killer interesting, though, is the 1940s look at crime investigation. I mentioned the fiber analysis and looking under fingernails already, but there's also spectrography to determine the chemical composition of an explosive; as I understand it the presentation of this isn't too inaccurate (although I don't know how much of a database of the composition of commercial explosives they had back in 1942). More humorous is a plot point involving incriminating particles caught in the guilty party's hair: Heflin looks for these by putting a Flowbee-like over the suspects' heads and vacuuming their scalps!

As for Star of the Month Ava Gardner, she appears briefly as a car hop at a drive-in restaurant scene. One other name to watch for is the director: that's Fred Zinnemann, making one of his earliest movies. Kid Glove Killer doesn't seem to be on DVD, though, so you're going to have to watch the TCM showings.

1 comment:

Ava Gardner Museum said...

The Ava movies for Thursday and Friday are TONIGHT: 8:00 p.m. The Killers, 10:00 p.m. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. TOMORROW (Friday, Nov. 5): 12:15 a.m. Show Boat, 2:15 a.m. Knights of the Round Table, 4:15 a.m. We Were Dancing, 6:00 a.m. This Time For Keeps, 7:15 a.m. Sunday Punch, 8:45 a.m. Reunion in France, 10:30 a.m. Kid Glove Killer, 11:45 a.m. Joe Smith, American, 1:00 p.m. Calling Dr. Gillespie. Yes, most of these are just bit parts.