Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Good Die Young

Earlier this week, I mentioned The Voice of Bugle Ann, which I happened to watch back in July not realizing it would be part of Summer Under the Stars. Another movie that I watched some weeks back not seeing that it would show up in this year's Summer Under the Stars is The Good Die Young. It aired last year as part of a day of Gloria Grahame films; this year you can see it during a day of Laurence Harvey movies, at 8:00 AM, Thursday, Aug. 11.

Grahame definitely wasn't the star here; Laurence Harvey is closer to the star. However, it's Richard Basehart who handles the narration and shows up enough that I guess he'd be the nominal star. He plays Joe Halsey, who at the start of the movie is in the car on the way to a bank robbery with three people he had a modest acquaintance with. He's wondering how all of them got themselves into this situation, which fairly obviously means we're about to get a flashback, or a series of them since we've got four different characters with back stories.

First up is Joe, an American with a British wife Mary (Joan Collins). Mary has a clinging mother who claims that she's got some sort of illness that's going to kill her soon, which is why Mary returned to the UK. And now, Mary's mom (Freda Jackson) won't let her go, which is why Joe has run off from his job to come over to the UK to get Mary. The fact that Mary is pregnant complicates matters and makes things more urgent for them.

Another American abroad is Eddie (John Ireland), who is serving in the Air Force and somehow wound up with a trophy wife in the form of actress Denise (Gloria Grahame). However, she's only a trophy in the prestige department, as she's carrying on an affair with the star of the movie she's making over in Britain. This leads Eddie to commit desertion to try to get his wife back, and that's a serious problem. He needs money and a way to figure out his legal problems.

The first of the two Brits is Mike Morgan (Stanley Baker). He's a boxer who is going to have to retire from the fight game due to his injuries. However, he was at least modestly intelligent enough to try to save up some money. Except that his wife took that money and used it to bail out her brother, who promptly jumped bail. (Send your wife to jail.)

The other Brit is Ravenscourt (Laurence Harvey), a wannabe playboy and layabout who has been living off his wife's (Margaret Leighton) largesse until his father (Robert Morley) finally kicks it and the will comes into effect giving Ravenscourt his own money. He's also the charismatic leader of the four men who wind up meeting by chance at a pub, and gets them in on the plot.

Ravenscourt knows about how old currency notes are exchanged overnight at one of the big banks in London, and his plan is to rob the armored truck carrying those notes just as it gets to the bank. Somehow, everybody else winds up going along with it, something you could see teenagers doing, but these are all much older men who really ought to know better. The heist, of course, goes wrong, with Ravenscourt making things far worse by using his gun when he told everybody else there would be no shooting. Will any of the characters be able to avoid the enforced Production Code ending? Does that even matter since the movie was made in the UK?

Well, yes, it does matter, which is largely because the movie was made by one of those smaller British production companies that had the very good idea of bring over American stars to appear in the movies they were making, so that it would be a lot easier to get a distribution deal in the States, the language not being an issue. That would certainly explain Grahame's presence, as the big name who had already won an Oscar. Basehart was in Europe on his trip that would also result in his appearance in La Strada -- apparently, Fellini loved Basehart's work in Fourteen Hours, a movie I blogged about ages ago and is definitely worth watching. The main thing, however, is that since the production company was intending the movie to get shown in the US, they had to deal with the Production Code.

And that, unfortunately, results in a smallish flaw of the sort that a lot of movies like this have. You know that there can really only be one type of ending because the other kind would violate the code. However, the way that The Good Die Young gets there is pretty good, even if the Laurence Harvey character is thoroughly unlikeable. (That is, of course, a testament to Harvey's acting ability.) Richard Basehart gives another of the sort of good performaces that make you wonder why he didn't become a bigger star. The atmosphere of the movie is also quite good, from London at night to the world of boxing. If you haven't seen The Good Die Young before, you should definitely record this one.

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