Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Big Steal (1949)

Mitchum & Greer Are Back!

- After starring together in the classic 1947 film noir thriller Out Of The Past, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer team up again for 1949's The Big Steal. Directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry (1971); a virtually unknown talent at the time) The Big Steal has a great combination of romantic comedy, action-adventure, and film noir aspects that make it a very well-made and enjoyable film. Clocking in at only 71 minutes, The Big Steal is a short burst of incredible comedy noir entertainment with the delightful screen duo of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer at the center of it all.

The story is very simple - one big steal leads a chain of people after each other in a cat-and-mouse game throughout Mexico - but is an effective enough MacGuffin to allow the viewer to be highly entertained by the characters and adventure, rather than a deep plot, without blinking an eye.

When it comes to The Big Steal, plot matters not as the showings of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer are what puts cheeks in the seats. Mitchum exercises his signature toughness and coolness in his performance as the wronged and rambunctious Duke Halliday and Greer is as bittersweet as can be as the feisty and quick-witted Joan Graham (a.k.a. "Chiquita"). Watching two actors work perfectly together is a lot of fun and Mitchum and Greer make this film worth while by themselves.

Because many in Hollywood wanted to distance themselves from Mitchum's drug use, jail time, and tabloid drama as a result of his recent and very public marijuana bust, the filmmakers found it difficult to cast the Joan Graham part. However, it was Mitchum's friend and former co-star Jane Greer who happily stepped into the role.... well sort of happily; Greer was all-to-eager to work with Mitchum again but she was newly pregnant and had to work with ex-boyfriend producer Howard Hughes. The pairing would prove to be the best choice after all as Mitchum and Greer have excellent chemistry together, dishing out light-hearted sarcastic comments to each other like an old married couple with each one giving as good as they get.

A debate rages on as to whether or not The Big Steal is even a film noir because it is heavy on the romantic and screwball comedy elements. Had it not been for the featured handful of hardboiled sequences and shadowy final act, I might not call the film "noir" either. However, I am a bit more liberal than most in my noir categorizing and, for me, while not one of the most archetypal films noir, the featured hardboiled scenes, shadowing, cynical Robert Mitchum lead and cat-and-mouse crime angle is enough to make The Big Steal a hybrid noir in my eyes.... and a very entertaining one at that.

CBC Rating: 9/10

No comments: