Tight Spot

Tight Spot is a 1955 American film noir directed by Phil Karlson and written by William Bowers, based on the play Dead Pigeon, by Leonard Kantor. It stars Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith, Lorne Greene, and Eve McVeagh. The story was inspired by Senator Estes Kefauver's tactics in coercing Virginia Hill to testify in the Bugsy Siegel prosecution.

Tight Spot
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Produced byLewis J. Rachmil
Screenplay byWilliam Bowers
Based onDead Pigeon
1953 play
by Lenard Kantor[1]
Starring
Music byGeorge Duning
CinematographyBurnett Guffey
Edited byViola Lawrence
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 19, 1955 (1955-03-19) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Plot

Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers) is a model who is in prison for a crime she did not knowingly commit. She is offered a deal for her freedom by U.S. attorney Lloyd Hallett (Edward G. Robinson) if she will testify as a witness in the trial of mobster Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene). Hallett hides her in a hotel under the protection of a squad of detectives led by Lt. Vince Striker (Brian Keith), where she stalls making a final decision while she enjoys expensive meals from room service. Despite the presence of the prison matron escort Willoughby, sparks begin to fly between cop and potential witness.

Through his corrupt inside contacts, Costain finds out where Conley is being kept. She survives an assassination attempt when Striker kills the assailant, but Willoughby is shot and seriously injured. Costain and his thugs ostensibly abduct Striker, who is revealed to be one of Costain's insiders. Costain has learned that Conley is being transferred to jail, where Striker will have to kill Conley himself if he does not arrange another attempt at the hotel. He is told to leave a window unlocked for another killer. Conley remains uncooperative, especially after Hallett attempts to use her sister Clara (Eve McVeagh) to persuade her.

Inadvertently, Striker almost reveals his duplicity to Hallett, but a phone call to Hallett interrupts. Willoughby has died in the hospital. Conley, who shared a respect for and friendship with Willoughby, then agrees to testify against Costain. Striker, who cares for Conley, fails to dissuade her and reluctantly proceeds with the plan. Hallett returns to escort Conley to jail moments before the killer strikes. Talking with Striker while she changes her clothes in another room, Hallett's banter brings a jumpy Striker to a breaking point. Striker abruptly kicks open her door and saves Conley, but at the cost of his own life. The opened window tells Conley and Hallett that he had set up her murder but changed his mind.

Conley takes the stand at Costain's trial, giving her occupation as "gang buster".

Cast

  • Ginger Rogers as Sherry Conley
  • Edward G. Robinson as Lloyd Hallett
  • Brian Keith as Vince Striker
  • Lorne Greene as Benjamin Costain
  • Eve McVeagh as Clara Moran
  • Katherine Anderson as Willoughby
  • Allen Nourse as "Rickles"
  • Peter Leeds as Fred Packer
  • Lucy Marlowe as Prison Girl
  • Helen Wallace as Warden
  • Frank Gerstle as Jim Hornsby
  • Gloria Ann Simpson as Miss Masters
  • Robert Shield as Carlyle
  • Norman Keats as Arny

Production

The film was originally called Dead Pigeon based on the play of the same name. The play featured only three characters; people referred to but not seen in the play such as the DA were added to the film version.[2]

Principal photography on Tight Spot took place from September 7 to October 28, 1954.[3] For Edward G. Robinson, Tight Spot was the second film of a two-picture deal struck with Columbia, when his age and political activity had relegated him to his "B-movie" period. For Ginger Rogers, she was playing against type in the role of a "tough, street-smart gangster's moll."[4]

Reception

When Tight Spot was released, The New York Times reviewer Howard Thompson gave the film a positive review, writing, "'Tight Spot' is a pretty good little melodrama, the kind you keep rooting for, as generally happened when Lenard Kantor's 'Dead Pigeon' appeared on Broadway a while back ... Along the way are some nice, realistic trimmings Mr. Karlson, or somebody, had the bright idea of underscoring the tension with sounds of a televised hillbilly program (glimpsed, too unfortunately). For our money, the best scene, whipped up by scenarist William Bowers, is the anything-but-tender reunion of Miss Rogers and her sister, (Eve McVeagh) — no competition to the two 'Anastasia' stars down the street, but an ugly, blistering pip ... Indeed, Miss Rogers' self-sufficiency throughout hardly suggests anybody's former scapegoat, let alone a potential gone goose. But she tackles her role with obvious, professional relish. Mr. Keith and Mr. Robinson are altogether excellent. Lorne Greene makes a first-rate crime kingpin and Katherine Anderson is a sound, appealing matron."[5]

In a recent review, film historian Leonard Maltin characterized Tight Spot as a "solid little film" with a virtuoso performance by Ginger Rogers. "Rogers, key witness at a N.Y.C.'s crime lord's upcoming trial, does a lot of high-volume Born Yesterday-like verbal sparring with Keith, her police lieutenant bodyguard."[6]

Preservation

The Academy Film Archive preserved Tight Spot in 1997.[7]

See also

References

Notes

  1. Kabatchnik, Amnon (2011-04-14). Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection. ISBN 9780810877849.
  2. NADER TO REPLACE CHANDLER 2D TIME: Actor Will Be Co-Star With Maureen O'Hara in 'Lady Godiva' Film at U.-I. By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 26 Aug 1954: 24.
  3. "Original print information: 'Tight Spot' (1955)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 11, 2016.
  4. Arnold, Jeremy. "Articles: 'Tight Spot' (1955)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 11, 2016.
  5. Thompson, Howard (H.H.T.) "Movie review: The Screen; 'Tight Spot'; Crime drama bows on bill at Palace." The New York Times, March 19, 1955. Retrieved: May 11, 2016.
  6. Maltin 2011, p. 1421.
  7. "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.

Bibliography

  • Maltin, Leonard, ed. Leonard Maltin's 2012 Movie Guide. New York: New American Library, 2011 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-23447-6.
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