The Bribe

The Bribe is a 1949 American film noir directed by Robert Z. Leonard and written by Marguerite Roberts, based on a story written by Frederick Nebel. The drama features Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price.[2]

The Bribe
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Z. Leonard
Produced byPandro S. Berman
Screenplay byMarguerite Roberts
Based on"The Bribe"
1947 short story in Hearst's-International Cosmopolitan
by Frederick Nebel
StarringRobert Taylor
Ava Gardner
Charles Laughton
Music byMiklós Rózsa
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byGene Ruggiero
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • February 3, 1949 (1949-02-03) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,510,000[1]


Federal agent Rigby (Robert Taylor) travels to Los Trancos on the island of Carlotta (somewhere off the coast of Central America) to break up a war-surplus aircraft engine racket and finds himself tempted by corruption, namely Elizabeth Hintten (Ava Gardner), a café singer married to Tug Hintten (John Hodiak), a drunken ex-pilot.

Carwood (Vincent Price) is the brains of the outfit, aided and abetted by J.J. Bealer (Charles Laughton) and Hintten.



Box Office

According to MGM records the movie earned $1,559,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $951,000 overseas, resulting in a loss to the studio of $322,000.[1][3]

Critical reception

Film critic Bosley Crowther lambasted the drama in his film review, writing "If you plan to put down your money to see the Capitol's The Bribe, we suggest that you be prepared to write off this extravagance as a folly and nothing more. For The Bribe' is the sort of temptation which Hollywood put in the way of gullible moviegoers about twenty years ago. It's a piece of pure romantic fiction, as lurid as it is absurd. And if it didn't have several big 'names' in it, it would be low-man on a 'grind house' triple-bill...The only hint which the director, Robert Z. Leonard, gives that he may have meant it all as pure nonsense comes at the very end, when he blows up the place with pyrotechnics. That's the one appropriate move in the whole show."[4]

Time Out film guide included the following in their review: "Price and Laughton make a formidable pair of heavies in this otherwise feeble thriller shot on a cheaply rigged-up corner of the MGM backlot. Taylor isn't up to moral dilemma as a US government agent sent to crack illicit aircraft engine trading in the Caribbean, yet tempted by a lucrative cash offer and the irresistible charm of café chanteuse Gardner."[5]

Critic Leslie Halliwell wrote in his film guide "Steamy melodrama with pretensions but only moderate entertainment value despite high gloss. The rogues gallery, however, are impressive."[6]

In the book Cult Movies, Karl French and Philip French write "In classic noir style, the chain smoking Rigby (he has no Christian name) tells most of the story in flashbacks that begin as visions he sees on the rain-lashed window of his hotel room. His voiceover narration continues as he battles with his conscience and tries to retain his honour in a world reeking of corruption. Laughton and Price are splendidly hammy villains and Gardner's nightclub singer is an innocent femme fatale in the manner of Rita Hayworth's Gilda."[7]

Scenes and characters from The Bribe are used in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, a 1982 film parody by Carl Reiner, in which Steve Martin's character is named Rigby and is searching for friends and enemies of Carlotta.


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. The Bribe on IMDb.
  3. Scott Eyman, Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, Robson, 2005 p 401
  4. Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner Top Cast of The Bribe, New Feature at the Capitol," February 4, 1949. Last accessed: January 17, 2008.
  5. Time Out Archived 2011-06-07 at the Wayback Machine. Film Guide, 2008. Last accessed: January 17, 2008.
  6. Halliwell, Leslie. Halliwell's Film Guide. HarperCollins, United Kingdom.
  7. French, Karl and Philip French. Cult Movies, Pavilion Books Limited, United Kingdom 1999.
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