Film Noir Matinee: The Chase [1946]

 the chase poster

Welcome!  The Deranged L.A. Crimes theater was closed for a special event on Friday night (the proprietor needed a night off). Let’s enjoy a rare Sunday Matinee–grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Today’s feature is THE CHASE (1946) starring Robert Cummings, Michele Morgan and Steve Cochran.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

Returning a lost wallet gains unemployed veteran Chuck Scott a job as chauffeur to Eddie Roman, a gangster whose enemies have a way of meeting violent ends. The job proves nerve-wracking, and soon Chuck finds himself pledged to help Eddie’s lovely, fearful, prisoner-wife Lorna to escape. The result leaves Chuck caught like a rat in a trap, vainly seeking a way out through dark streets. But the real chase begins when the strange plot virtually starts all over again…

Film Noir Friday: Black Angel [1946]

black angel

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crime theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is BLACK ANGEL (based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich) starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre and Broderick Crawford.

Wikipedia says:

A falsely convicted man’s wife, Catherine (June Vincent), and an alcoholic composer and pianist, Martin (Dan Duryea), team up in an attempt to clear her husband of the murder of a blonde singer, who is Martin’s wife. Their investigation leads them to face-to-face confrontations with a determined policeman (Broderick Crawford) and a shifty nightclub owner (Peter Lorre), who Catherine and Martin suspect may be the real killer.

Enjoy the film!

http://youtu.be/qs4QLHLC–s

Film Noir Friday: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers [1946]

strange-love-of-martha-ivers-poster

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers stars Barbara Stanwyck,Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and featuring Kirk Douglas in his film debut. The movie is based on the short story “Love Lies Bleeding” by playwright John Patrick – using the pseudonym Jack Patrick – and was produced by Hal B. Wallis. The film was directed by Lewis Milestone from a screenplay written by Robert Rossen and Robert Riskin, who was not credited.

TCM Says:

In 1928, young Martha Ivers is returned by the police to Iverstown, Pennsylvania after running away for the fourth time to escape the tyranny of her aunt. When her aunt insults her dead father, then attacks her pet cat with a cane, the child kills her aunt with the cane. Martha’s friend, Sam Masterson, with whom she was trying to run away, flees the scene and joins the circus. Mr. O’Neill, Martha’s greedy tutor, and his weak-minded son Walter, support Martha’s story that the murderer was a strange intruder. In 1946, Sam inadvertently returns to Iverstown when he wrecks his car.

Enjoy the film!

http://youtu.be/6270UcbXTdc

Benny “The Meatball” Gamson

Benny "The Meatball" Gamson

By the late 1940s mobsters from the East Coast were finally gaining a bit of a toe hold in L.A. They had been attempting to move-in and take over the city for years — but L.A. had a much different paradigm than New York or Chicago.

In L.A. corruption was a trickle-down affair with dishonest city government officials at the top of the heap in charge of vice, gambling, and (during Prohibition) liquor. A shadowy and mutually beneficial collective between the people in office and local bad guys was known as The Combination. With collusion among City Hall politicians, some members of local law enforcement (both LAPD and LASD), and vice and gambling lords like Charlie “The Gray Fox” Crawford and Tony “The Hat” Cornero, there was plenty of illegal loot to go around — not that that stopped anyone from trying to grab a bigger slice of the profane pie for himself.

I’ve lived in Southern California nearly all of my life, but I was born in Chicago, which I believe accounts in large measure for my fascination with crime. As a little kid I had an honorary uncle, a close friend of the family, not a blood relation — let’s call him Tommy. Whatever Uncle Tommy did for a living in Chicago was mysterious, at least to me. His real line of work became clear when he and his family departed for Las Vegas where he was made pit boss at the Stardust. Interestingly, the Stardust was conceived and built the previously mentioned Tony “The Hat” Cornero. The criminal world, especially back in the day, was a small one.

49339-stardust1961

In future posts I’ll introduce you to many more of the bad actors in the so-called Combination, and some of the mobsters who relocated to L.A. from places like New York, Chicago and Cleveland, but today I want to focus on one guy, a small-time hood with big ambitions, Benny “The Meatball” (aka “Little Meatball”) Gamson.

The Meatball was a Chicago transplant. It was there that he’d known Mickey Cohen who, in the 1940s, was beginning to rise in the L.A. rackets. When Benny came out to L.A. he expected his old pal Mickey to welcome him with open arms and introduce him to a couple of the city’s biggest players: Ben “Bugsy” Siegel and Jack Dragna.

Mickey was attempting to be a pal when he tried to explain to Benny that things didn’t work the same way in L.A. as they had in Chicago, but The Meatball didn’t like what he heard. In fact he pitched a fit and beat the crap out of one of Cohen’s longtime Boyle Heights buddies. Then Benny did something completely unforgivable, he went in to business with one of Cohen’s rivals, Paul “Pauley” Gibbons.

Gibbons may, or may not, have been a serious rival of Mickey’s but he was certainly a gambler on a life-long losing streak.  He was also a guy who didn’t pay his debts, and things never end well for welshers.

Whether it was for crossing Cohen, or reneging on a debt, Gibbons paid with his life. On May 2, 1946 at 2:30 a.m. the forty-five year old ex-con with an extensive arrest record, was shot and killed in an ambush.

Gibbons had parked his pricey sedan across from his apartment on N. Gale Drive. He had no idea that a gunman was waiting in the shadows. Witnesses said that as Pauley walked toward his apartment, a car came screeching out of the alley. Five shots rang out, Gibbons staggered and fell. The killer leaped from the car and as Gibbons begged for mercy he was lifted into a kneeling position and finished off with two more shots

Among the local thugs questioned in the slaying was Mickey Cohen, referred to in the newspapers as a “sporting figure”. Mickey denied knowing anything about the murder.

Benny was booked in Beverly Hills Jail on suspicion of Pauley’s murder, but he wriggled out of the net. The cops characterized the killing as a professional hit and Inspector Norris Stensland of the Sheriff’s office said:

“The job was too well done to have been thought up by any of our small-fry racketeers.”

If ever there was a small-fry it was the 5′ 1″ crook, Benny Gamson. Beverly Hills held him for two days and then kicked him loose.

bullets spray auto

A couple of weeks later two radio car officers, E.M. Kudlac and J.D. Wolfe, noticed The Meatball as he was driving on Beverly Blvd. between Ogden Drive and Genesee St.
The officers noticed that sprayed along the driver’s side of Benny’s car were five bullet holes — and another had punctured the rear window.meatball bullets flew

Old school wise guy that he was, Meatball knew nuthin’ about nuthin’. He told the cops a variety of different stories. My favorite of them was that he’d noticed the holes in his car two weeks earlier and had reported them to his insurance company as the attack of “vandals who tried to ruin my car.”

The Meatball should have seen the handwriting on the wall, but he wasn’t exactly a deep thinker.

In October 1946 Gamson, who was described as: “the pudgy 39 year old strong arm of many aliases”, and an associate, George Levinson, were shot and killed by unknown assailants.

Witnesses said that Gamson had stumbled from an apartment house on Beverly Blvd with blood streaming from five through and through bullet holes. He died on the sidewalk, screaming for help.

George Levinson dropped near the door of the apartment house with a slug through the back of his head.

A big, black sedan was observed fleeing the scene.

Mickey Cohen and his bullet proof car.

Mickey Cohen and his bullet proof car.

The police couldn’t get anyone to cooperate and nobody came forward with information on the murders.

Gamson’s wife clammed up — she knew better than to comment on the slayings.

Levinson’s wife also kept quiet. When asked by investigators if she would discuss the case, she replied:

“I got nothing to say.”

Film Noir Friday: Behind Green Lights [1946]

PhantasmagoriaTheater-BehindGreenLights477

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS starring Carole Landis, William Gargan, and Richard Crane

Turner Classic Movies says:

One night at 10:30 in a typical, cosmopolitan city, Janet Bradley goes to the apartment of Walter Bard, a private investigator who specializes in blackmail. Bard holds letters that would be damaging to someone close to Janet, and when he laughs at her admission that she could not raise enough money to get them back, she steals his gun and takes the evidence by force. As she leaves, she throws the revolver into Bard’s car. Up the street, meanwhile, cynical reporter Ames introduces cub reporter Johnny Williams to the policemen at the station house. Ames tells Johnny that Lt. Sam Carson is a good, fair officer, then introduces him to the other reporters. While the men talk, they see Bard’s car roll up in front of the station house, and his dead body is found inside. Ames smells a big story, as Bard was also involved in politics, and wonders if his murder was an attempt to discredit the current, corrupt city administration.

Enjoy the film!