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Dan Duryea Fans Alert - UNDERWORLD STORY today 6:15pm (EST)


TomJH
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TCM will have a premiere (I believe) of UNDERWORLD STORY today, for those interested in crime and newspaper dramas, or those who are fans of the film's star, Dan Duryea.

 

Yes, Dan has the lead, for a change, as a big city reporter out of work who comes to a small town and starts working for its paper, thinking of how he can exploit a local murder for the headlines. Sound a bit like Ace in the Hole?

 

This little drama was made the year before Billy Wilder's production, and while it's not in the same league as the other newspaper tale, it's still a pretty good one. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is in Duryea's ambiguous portrayal of the reporter- you can't be quite certain if he's going to be a good guy in this film, or crummy one.

 

underworldstory_zps036939fc.jpg

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One of the pecularities of Underworld Story relates to the significant role of a "black" servant in the film accused of murder. She is played by a Caucasian actress, Mary Anderson (probably best remembered today as one of the survivors in Hitchcock's Lifeboat).

 

I found it unexpected that as late as 1950, when this film was made, that this kind of casting would still be occurring in a smallish role in a film.

 

images2_zpsc7157517.jpg

 

Don't let this stop you from seeing Underworld Story, however. It's still a good film.

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I had marked this as the only movie over a several day period as a must watch.  Dan Duryea was to me another one of those that is hard to classify.  He had a couple of very interesting roles in Route 66 TV series.

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One of the pecularities of Underworld Story relates to the significant role of a "black" servant in the film accused of murder. She is played by a Caucasian actress, Mary Anderson (probably best remembered today as one of the survivors in Hitchcock's Lifeboat).

 

I found it unexpected that as late as 1950, when this film was made, that this kind of casting would still be occurring in a smallish role in a film.

 

images2_zpsc7157517.jpg

 

Don't let this stop you from seeing Underworld Story, however. It's still a good film.

 

I'm planning on watching Underworld Story since it is a movie with our man Dan that I have never seen.

 

I'll be looking for how the movie tells us this servant is black.   It doesn't look like how they used make-up would tell us.  (put please don't say so until after the film is over).

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I'm planning on watching Underworld Story since it is a movie with our man Dan that I have never seen.

 

I'll be looking for how the movie tells us this servant is black.   It doesn't look like how they used make-up would tell us.  (put please don't say so until after the film is over).

I won't say, James. But I was stunned as I looked at her and thought, who are you kidding, saying this lady is black?

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Interesting that Tom should be bringing up the subject of our favorite "no good" , "Slimy Dan" .  (Saying this in a most respectful way, of course).  ;)  In the past few weeks I have caught glimpses of Dan in  episodes of "Naked City" and "Bonanza" , both times playing fellows  of questionable character.  --- I'm not sure if I ever saw THE UNDERWORLD STORY, but with both Dan Duryea and Herbert Marshall it has to be worth a look.

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Interesting that Tom should be bringing up the subject of our favorite "no good" , "Slimy Dan" .  (Saying this in a most respectful way, of course).  ;)  In the past few weeks I have caught glimpses of Dan in  episodes of "Naked City" and "Bonanza" , both times playing fellows  of questionable character.  --- I'm not sure if I ever saw THE UNDERWORLD STORY, but with both Dan Duryea and Herbert Marshall it has to be worth a look.

I think that Duryea fans will be pleased with this one, mrroberts.

 

It was also one of Howard Da Silva's final film appearances before the blacklist temporarily killed his film career. Da Silva's effective in this little number, as well. He would have to wait for the better part of a decade before he started to get employment in Hollywood once again.

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One of the pecularities of Underworld Story relates to the significant role of a "black" servant in the film accused of murder. She is played by a Caucasian actress, Mary Anderson (probably best remembered today as one of the survivors in Hitchcock's Lifeboat).

 

I found it unexpected that as late as 1950, when this film was made, that this kind of casting would still be occurring in a smallish role in a film.

 

images2_zpsc7157517.jpg

 

Don't let this stop you from seeing Underworld Story, however. It's still a good film.

Just the year before,.the lily white Jeanne Crain had the title role of a light skinned black girl who had passed for white in PINKY. That studio, 20th Century Fox, didnt have guts, or more importantly to them, didnt want to risk an expensive production, being carried.at the boxoffice on the shoulders of a Lena Horne, say, when they knew that it would be banned in certain cities and areas of the country. So it isnt too surprising, but as you say, a supporting role would not have been much of a risk.

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I won't say, James. But I was stunned as I looked at her and thought, who are you kidding, saying this lady is black?

 

Well I see that they make it clear more since they have the actress say that she is a negro.   When filming her I assume she was instructed to keep her head down,  and the way the lighting was used it shaded her face (to some degree),  making her face look a litter darker.   

 

As noted with Pinky,  I can understand why a studio wouldn't case a black actress in a lead part since that could (would) impact the box office take, especially in certain parts of the country,  as well as the fact that casting a well known actress in the was something all studios did (even if that means the lead was miscast,  e.g. My Fair Lady).    But for a supporting role,  it just doesn't make sense.    The women  being a servant and black was key to the plot so they had to keep true to that but they should have cast a black actress.   Even given the times would that have hurt the box office take?   I would like to say NO,  but given the times,  maybe I'm wrong about that.

 

Anyhow,   very good movie and better than I expected.   

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As I watched Underworld Story this evening (beautiful crisp print, by the way), I appreciated the performance of Howard Da Silva as the gangland chief. Constantly smiling or laughing, with the confidence of a man who felt in control and knew he was feared, Da Silva, rather than seeming like a mere hood, was a more modern kind of gangster. He played the part like a practical businessman, doing "favours" for others, fully knowing that they would be in his debt in return.

 

I liked his first scene in the film, in which he gives Duryea $5000 to help him out, his way of thanking him for a newspaper article of Duryea's that worked out to his advantage. It was a kind of street honour code by which Da Silva's character seemed to operate in that scene (later in the film his more vicious side would appear).

 

A very interesting performance.

 

howarddasilvaisupset.jpg

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As I watched Underworld Story this evening (beautiful crisp print, by the way), I appreciated the performance of Howard Da Silva as the gangland chief. Constantly smiling or laughing, with the confidence of a man who felt in control and knew he was feared, Da Silva, rather than seeming like a mere hood, was a more modern kind of gangster. He played the part like a practical businessman, doing "favours" for others, fully knowing that they would be in his debt in return.

 

I liked his first scene in the film, in which he gives Duryea $5000 to help him out, his way of thanking him for a newspaper article of Duryea's that worked out to his advantage. It was a kind of street honour code by which Da Silva's character seemed to operate in that scene (later in the film his more vicious side would appear).

 

A very interesting performance.

 

 

 

I agree it was a very interestng performance but if I was the director I would have had him tone down the laugher angle in that later scene.   Like you noted he came off as a business like type of modern kind of gangster.   To me the overuse of the laugher made him come off as sadistic which played against the in control business like gangtster persona. 

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I agree it was a very interestng performance but if I was the director I would have had him tone down the laugher angle in that later scene.   Like you noted he came off as a business like type of modern kind of gangster.   To me the overuse of the laugher made him come off as sadistic which played against the in control business like gangtster persona. 

I liked it when Stanton (Herbert Marshall) plugged his own worthless son. Durham (Da Silva) looked stunned. :)

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As I watched Underworld Story this evening (beautiful crisp print, by the way), I appreciated the performance of Howard Da Silva as the gangland chief. Constantly smiling or laughing, with the confidence of a man who felt in control and knew he was feared, Da Silva, rather than seeming like a mere hood, was a more modern kind of gangster. He played the part like a practical businessman, doing "favours" for others, fully knowing that they would be in his debt in return.

 

I liked his first scene in the film, in which he gives Duryea $5000 to help him out, his way of thanking him for a newspaper article of Duryea's that worked out to his advantage. It was a kind of street honour code by which Da Silva's character seemed to operate in that scene (later in the film his more vicious side would appear).

 

A very interesting performance.

 

howarddasilvaisupset.jpg

I felt Da Silva was underused. He appears briefly in the first few minutes, then he doesn't reappear until the 70 minute mark (it's only a 91 minute movie). I also thought the scriptwriters delayed Marshall's appearance in the film unnecessarily-- and I get that they were establishing the relationship between Duryea and Storm-- but the murder plot really does not get underway until after this long prologue plays out.  And the relationship between Duryea and Storm gets seriously backgrounded in the last third of the movie, so what was the point of introducing a romantic subplot only to drop it?

 

At times I thought the casting of Gar Moore as Marshall's son was off. Clearly, he was the film's weakest actor. I noticed he had done a series of films in Italy in the 40s before signing with Universal (where he undoubtedly met Duryea), and maybe his acting style was a bit unsteady because he was not used to working with these kinds of actors.  

 

The film was obviously shot on a lower budget than most studio productions and its cheapness is evident in the newspaper office scenes which seem to have been shot in some warehouse. But the use of black and white film and lighting that cast shadows on the proceedings to add a level of depth worked to cleverly conceal the cheap looking sets. It helped tremendously when they filmed outdoors in the streets and at the cemetery, which seemed quite authentic. 

 

What I loved most about THE UNDERWORLD STORY was its deliberately slow pacing. If this was a studio B film, the narrative would have been rushed and crammed into 60 minutes. But because they have stretched this out to an hour and a half, we get a lot of extra pauses and reflections and insights to the characters and their motivations. The dialogue was poor in some spots, but pros like Herbert Marshall and Howard Da Silva kept it interesting-- if not for the words they were uttering but for the reactions they were generating and the careful tense stares that seem to go so well with this kind of story.

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Just the year before,.the lily white Jeanne Crain had the title role of a light skinned black girl who had passed for white in PINKY. That studio, 20th Century Fox, didnt have guts, or more importantly to them, didnt want to risk an expensive production, being carried.at the boxoffice on the shoulders of a Lena Horne, say, when they knew that it would be banned in certain cities and areas of the country. So it isnt too surprising, but as you say, a supporting role would not have been much of a risk.

Watched it and its a good movie.  Good script, good acting and directing and kept me interested throughout. Lived in the South my entire life. In the 1950's, very few theaters would have shown a movie where an African-American had a featured role.  Especially one where the Negro girl is innocent and being framed and/or manipulated or used by the whites.

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Lived in the South my entire life. In the 1950's, very few theaters would have shown a movie where an African-American had a featured role.  Especially one where the Negro girl is innocent and being framed and/or manipulated or used by the whites.

That may be.

 

But, if that is the case, especially considering the black person being framed by whites story aspect that you pointed out, I suspect that the makers of a fairly modest little production like Underworld Story had few illusions about significant box office in the South anyway. Even before the casting. How much more of a financial gamble would it have been for them to have cast an African American in the small role of the maid?

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As I watched Underworld Story this evening (beautiful crisp print, by the way), I appreciated the performance of Howard Da Silva as the gangland chief. Constantly smiling or laughing, with the confidence of a man who felt in control and knew he was feared, Da Silva, rather than seeming like a mere hood, was a more modern kind of gangster. He played the part like a practical businessman, doing "favours" for others, fully knowing that they would be in his debt in return.

 

The "we're now practical businessman" angle was featured in more than a few noir movies around that time.  One that jumps to mind was the 1951 version of The Racket, in which the old school thug Nick Scanlon, perfectly played by Robert Ryan, is constantly chafing at the bit whenever his crime bosses tell him to lay off the violence, in favor of more "modern" and "businesslike" methods.  And way back in 1937's Marked Woman, while Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Cianelli) is about as vicious a hood as can be, he was also preaching the gospel of racketeering as a "business".

 

Da Silva's constant laugh was also a character trait that could often be found in gangsters of all types in gangster movies, from mob bosses like Da Silva all the way down through the street hood Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.   IMO Da Silva played his part beautifully.

 

My only problem with The Underworld Story was that we didn't get the satisfaction of seeing Marshall's character being put on trial.  That would have elevated the film to another level, but I suppose the producer figured that at 91 minutes it was already pushing the envelope.

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As I watched Underworld Story this evening (beautiful crisp print, by the way), I appreciated the performance of Howard Da Silva as the gangland chief. Constantly smiling or laughing, with the confidence of a man who felt in control and knew he was feared, Da Silva, rather than seeming like a mere hood, was a more modern kind of gangster. He played the part like a practical businessman, doing "favours" for others, fully knowing that they would be in his debt in return.

 

The "we're now practical businessman" angle was featured in more than a few noir movies around that time.  One that jumps to mind was the 1951 version of The Racket, in which the old school thug Nick Scanlon, perfectly played by Robert Ryan, is constantly chafing at the bit whenever his crime bosses tell him to lay off the violence, in favor of more "modern" and "businesslike" methods.  And way back in 1937's Marked Woman, while Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Cianelli) is about as vicious a hood as can be, he was also preaching the gospel of racketeering as a "business".

 

Da Silva's constant laugh was also a character trait that could often be found in gangsters of all types in gangster movies, from mob bosses like Da Silva all the way down through the street hood Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.   IMO Da Silva played his part beautifully.

 

My only problem with The Underworld Story was that we didn't get the satisfaction of seeing Marshall's character being put on trial.  That would have elevated the film to another level, but I suppose the producer figured that at 91 minutes it was already pushing the envelope.

 

The fact that you mention Da Silva's gangster type in the same sentence with Tommy Udo makes my point that the use of laughing was overdone.     A s-a-d-i-s-t can't be a businesslike gangster since to be businesslike one has to retain control over their emotions and a s-a-d-i-s-t can't do that.     So I feel the use of laugher was overdone.  Of course maybe the intent of the director with the laugher was to show that the gangster only pretented to be an in control businessman but at the end of the day he was just another hood.

 

As for Marshall going to trial:  For what,  not turning in his son for murder?   Didn't the son die at the end?   While Marshall did commit some crimes the state would have a hard time getting a conviction due to lack of evidence.    The gangster wasn't going to help the DA. 

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The fact that you mention Da Silva's gangster type in the same sentence with Tommy Udo makes my point that the use of laughing was overdone.     A **** can't be a businesslike gangster since to be businesslike one has to retain control over their emotions and a **** can't do that.     So I feel the use of laugher was overdone.  Of course maybe the intent of the director with the laugher was to show that the gangster only pretented to be an in control businessman but at the end of the day he was just another **** hood.

 

Disagree, James. I thought Da Silva nailed it...though when I saw Tom mention yesterday that he was going to be in this film, I pretty much guessed he would play it that way. And his laughter wasn't nearly as "maniacal" as Widmark's was in his movie debut, though I can see why Andy attempted his comparison here.

 

 

 

As for Marshall going to trial:  For what,  not turning in his son for murder?   Didn't the son die at the end?   While Marshall did commit some crimes the state would have a hard time getting a conviction due to lack of evidence.    The gangster wasn't going to help the DA. 

 

Though here I agree with you, and think Andy's "wish" wouldn't have made for a better ending at all. 

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The fact that you mention Da Silva's gangster type in the same sentence with Tommy Udo makes my point that the use of laughing was overdone.  

Really disagree with that assessment, James. Da Sllva's laughing again, to me, denoted his confidence and the fact that he was in control. Widmark in Kiss of Death was a giggling psycho who enjoyed killing, an entirely different thing.

 

I thought there was a revealing insight into Da Silva's character in the scene in which his hoods dump Duryea into the car with him. Duryea's face is down by Da Silva's feet. Da Silva is laughing and telling him to get up. When Dan doesn't rise fast enough to suit him, Da Silva responds by giving Duryea a little kick in the jaw. Then he's smiling and laughing again.

 

You could see by this scene that the meaness can come out in this gangster in a split second.

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Disagree, James. I thought Da Silva nailed it...though when I saw Tom mention yesterday that he was going to be in this film, I pretty much guessed he would play it that way. And his laughter wasn't nearly as "maniacal" as Widmark's was in his movie debut, though I can see why Andy attempted his comparison here.

 

 

Though here I agree with you, and think Andy's "wish" wouldn't have made for a better ending at all. 

To me "wasn't nearly as maniacal as Widmark's" was still a little too maniacal for this character.    My comment wasn't a reflection on Da Silva's acting (yea, he nailed it IF that was what the director wanted from him).    I clearly said in my prior post that IF I was the director I would have had the actor tone it down just a little AND only in that one scene at the end.   I just felt that it was a fairly unique gangster interpetation in the prior scenes but in that later one the laughing was just a little (a little), overdone.  

 

Either way a fine movie and the second one played so far for SUTS that I hadn't seen before  (the other being Crossroad with Powell). 

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Da Silva's constant laugh was also a character trait that could often be found in gangsters of all types in gangster movies, from mob bosses like Da Silva all the way down through the street hood Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.   IMO Da Silva played his part beautifully.

 

The fact that you mention Da Silva's gangster type in the same sentence with Tommy Udo makes my point that the use of laughing was overdone.     A **** can't be a businesslike gangster since to be businesslike one has to retain control over their emotions and a **** can't do that.     So I feel the use of laugher was overdone.  Of course maybe the intent of the director with the laugher was to show that the gangster only pretented to be an in control businessman but at the end of the day he was just another **** hood.

 

I didn't mean to equate Da Silva's laughter with Widmark's.  I only meant to note that many noir gangsters share the Forever Laughing habit.  In Widmark's case, it was more of a nervous tic, but with Da Silva I thought it was a very effective means of portraying a gangster with a supreme self-confidence in his own invulnerability.

 

My only problem with The Underworld Story was that we didn't get the satisfaction of seeing Marshall's character being put on trial.  That would have elevated the film to another level, but I suppose the producer figured that at 91 minutes it was already pushing the envelope.

 

As for Marshall going to trial:  For what,  not turning in his son for murder?   Didn't the son die at the end?   While Marshall did commit some crimes the state would have a hard time getting a conviction due to lack of evidence.    The gangster wasn't going to help the DA.

 

It wouldn't have been beyond the screenwriter's imagination to introduce a plot twist whereby Duryea puts 2 and 2 together and starts piecing together evidence that Marshall was integral to both the coverup and the use of Da Silva to keep everything under wraps.

 

The point is that while the movie faded out on an "all's well that ends well" note, it still left two of the three major architects of the coverup plot unscathed. Given that the movie was made in 1950, it's an interesting exception to the usual Production Code insistence that criminals don't get off scot-free.

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Da Silva's constant laugh was also a character trait that could often be found in gangsters of all types in gangster movies, from mob bosses like Da Silva all the way down through the street hood Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.   IMO Da Silva played his part beautifully.

 

The fact that you mention Da Silva's gangster type in the same sentence with Tommy Udo makes my point that the use of laughing was overdone.     A **** can't be a businesslike gangster since to be businesslike one has to retain control over their emotions and a **** can't do that.     So I feel the use of laugher was overdone.  Of course maybe the intent of the director with the laugher was to show that the gangster only pretented to be an in control businessman but at the end of the day he was just another **** hood.

 

I didn't mean to equate Da Silva's laughter with Widmark's.  I only meant to note that many noir gangsters share the Forever Laughing habit.  In Widmark's case, it was more of a nervous tic, but with Da Silva I thought it was a very effective means of portraying a gangster with a supreme self-confidence in his own invulnerability.

 

My only problem with The Underworld Story was that we didn't get the satisfaction of seeing Marshall's character being put on trial.  That would have elevated the film to another level, but I suppose the producer figured that at 91 minutes it was already pushing the envelope.

 

As for Marshall going to trial:  For what,  not turning in his son for murder?   Didn't the son die at the end?   While Marshall did commit some crimes the state would have a hard time getting a conviction due to lack of evidence.    The gangster wasn't going to help the DA.

 

It wouldn't have been beyond the screenwriter's imagination to introduce a plot twist whereby Duryea puts 2 and 2 together and starts piecing together evidence that Marshall was integral to both the coverup and the use of Da Silva to keep everything under wraps.

 

The point is that while the movie faded out on an "all's well that ends well" note, it still left two of the three major architects of the coverup plot unscathed. Given that the movie was made in 1950, it's an interesting exception to the usual Production Code insistence that criminals don't get off scot-free.

 

The screenplay is written where the audience has a lot of sympathy for the Marshall character (this plays out in the early scene with his son where the son explains why he killed his wife).   The father isn't a bad man but instead a father with a really bad son.    Ok, the father is weak when it comes to dealing with his son but this a very common trait with most parents.   There would be few parents in the audience wishing for the Marshall character to get punished especially after he finally took action by killing his own son.   I assume most would feel that was punishment enough.   Maybe the Production code bozos felt the same way.  

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I clearly said in my prior post that IF I was the director I would have had the actor tone it down just a little AND only in that one scene at the end.   I just felt that it was a fairly unique gangster interpetation in the prior scenes but in that later one the laughing was just a little (a little), overdone. 

 

Do you think that the scenes with Marshall and his son were also overdone? I thought they were pretty over-the-top, and I got the impression that the director probably wanted them to lay it on thick. I have to say that those scenes, as well as those with Da Silva, did make me giggle. I didn't have any issues with it, though, I like over-the-top acting, but it seems that Marshall in particular wouldn't have done it that way unless he was asked to.

 

Great movie, I really enjoyed it. Herbert Marshall day might turn out to be my favorite day this month.

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