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Tight Spot (1955): Ginger Rogers rediscovers her Inner Chorine


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I recently caught up with Tight Spot (1955) and must add my admiration for Ginger Rogers' tough gal opposite summer under the stars boy Edward G. Robinson (playing a DA), and Brian Keith as a troubled cop she takes a shine to during the movie. I thought that Ginger gave a pretty good rendering of a 44 year old "girl" just out of prison and whisked away to a "swanky" hotel for safekeeping when it is learned that she may have the goods on a fabled mobster boss. Emotionally hungry, toughened by her time in the joint, and still smarting from a lifetime of hard knocks, most of the people I've come across commenting on this flick seem focused on her unflattering haircut (hello, she was in prison, not beauty boot camp). I like those occasions when Rogers, who could sometimes appear too slick in her movies, tapped into her "inner chorine" as she did so winningly here and in her sparkling work in Stage Door, The Major and the Minor, and especially as Roxie Hart.

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Ginger Rogers, character actress, who was not seeking hairstyling advice from Edward G. Robinson. Isn't it funny that while at Warner's in the early '30s these two never did a movie together? (They both appeared separately in segments of the delightful Fox anthology film directed by Julien Duvivier, called Tales of Manhattan (1942). Eddie's part of that movie was among the best in that film, Ginger's was probably the most conventional, alas.)

 

While she was somewhat too flamboyant at times, (particularly in the ham-fisted scene with her sister), I thought she gave her role a great deal of flair. Her flirtation with the permanently rumpled Brian Keith, who seemed to be

a.) guilt-ridden

b.) sleep-deprived

c.) hungover

was not credible, at least to me. His transition in the movie was pretty well done. I liked the note of comedy injected into the scene in the newlyweds' hotel room after a botched hit on Ginger occurred when Keith deadpanned to the jittery bride and groom whose wedding night was marred by a violent interruption that "yes, that was blood on his shirt", but he'd been shot only twice in the chest. Another detective calms the bride after Keith leaves, explaining that he'd really been hit three times, but they hadn't broken the news to Brian just yet.

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Brian Keith, who creates a credible portrait of a detective with something nagging his conscience.

 

I might believe that events might make him sympathetic to Ginger Rogers' character, though I don't think an alliance was in the offing for this star-crossed pair. Gradually Ginger confesses that she wasn't really a good time gal who saw anything while visiting a mobster's yacht, but she does like the good life, scarfing down big meals, all the perks she can get, and devouring Keith with her eyes. Her later assertion that she doesn't really know nuthin' gives Eddie Robinson a chance to show some muted fireworks, as he vents his spleen against those who would take but not give to society. Robinson, who was said to need the work at the time thanks to being "graylisted" by the McCarthyites, does a fine job as a somewhat non-plussed DA trying to pin something on a notorious mobster that will enable him to ship the guy back to his land of origin, (for which Italy will, of course, be really grateful).

 

Director Phil Karlson does what he can, (on an obviously small budget) to open up the stagey setting of Tight Spot's hotel room, which becomes one more cell for poor Ginger as she tries to make up her mind whether or not she should spill the beans on Mr. Big to the grand jury. Karlson uses long corridor shots, dramatic light and shadowing, and delightfully corrupt Lorne Greene's apartment as the ultimate spider's web, complete with luxe moderne touches, mid-50s style. As he did in Autumn Leaves, before he rode off to the Ponderosa, Greene had the makings of a really enjoyable miscreant. Too bad he opted for a steady income and a kind of immortality as the most boring man in tv history.

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Lorne Greene as Costain, the baddie with the hooded look who eats guys like Keith for breakfast. Too bad Greene didn't come along earlier in the film noir cycle. He might have had a more interesting career.

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So glad to see your little essay on *Tight Spot* moira. To be fair, I did comment on her haircut just in passing, because I was recording the movie and hadn't the chance to watch it properly, so I couldn't really put it in the context of what was going on in the movie. Having said that, I have the recording and hope to be watching it soon B-)

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Hi Film Fatale,

You're hardly alone in disliking that 'do of Ginger's. Looking around to see what year this movie was made, I discovered a carload of haircut comments wherever one looked for movie info. I thought it was a pretty unflattering hairstyle too, (unless you were breathtakingly beautiful and quite young back then like Audrey Hepburn, Jean Simmons, or Jean Seberg) and I wondered if perhaps Ginger felt a bit self-conscious about it as well, since she keeps sweeping her fingers through her hair as if to say, "Where'd it all go?" Then I started to wonder if it was deliberately short as it might be in prison or was it added as a means to express her character's discomfort at her feminine shortcomings whenever Keith hove into view?

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  • 6 months later...

I liked this film precisely for the casting of Ginger taking over a Shelley Winters/Joan Blondell kind of role. This film might be one of my "Ya can't have a great crime film without really bad bad-guys" because I think Brian Keith and Ben Cart - er, Lorne Green just don't 'do it' for me as bad guys. Maybe I've had too much fun with Brian Keith versus Paul Ford lately. Raymond Burr makes me hate his bad guys some fierce, but I found myself impatient with the low Menace Levels from Brian and Lorne here.

 

This film won't make my Top lists except for Ginger - "Ya gotta see how different Ginger can be..." I like this film for that reason. And yes, you can stick Ginger in about any film and I'll at least enjoy seeing her. So positively no objectivity from me on this subject-!

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