711 Ocean Drive
Despite a heavy-handed framing device, 711 Ocean Drive (1950) remains a better-than-average example of the Fifties crime film due to an effectively staged climax on Hoover Dam and an especially strong lead performance by Edmond O'Brien. Usually considered a character actor, O'Brien (1915-1985) stood out in supporting roles for such films as 1954's The Barefoot Contessa (for which he won an Oscar®), Seven Days in May (1964) and, most memorably of all, The Wild Bunch (1969). While perhaps not as well known as his lead role in the cult noir favorite D.O.A. (1949), O'Brien's performance here as Mal Granger is, if anything, even stronger. The likeably gruff working-class persona he establishes at the beginning of the film makes his transformation into a mobster--and murderer--credible and involving.
Also noteworthy is the stark photography by Frank (Franz) Planer (1894-1963). Born in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, Planer began his career in Germany with films such as the science fiction tale Alraune (1927) and the early Max Ophuls feature Liebelei (1933). Planer left Germany in the early 1930s and worked for a few years in the UK before moving on to Hollywood. Despite working on George Cukor's star-powered Holiday (1938), he made mostly smaller pictures until 1948, when he collaborated with Ophuls on Letter from an Unknown Woman, notable for its atmospheric recreation of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Other notable films shot by Planer include Criss Cross (1949), Roman Holiday (1953), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and The Children's Hour (1961).
The real-life circumstances behind the production of 711 Ocean Drive also deserve mention. A title card at the beginning of the film states: "Because of the disclosures made in this film, powerful underworld interests tried to halt production with threats of violence and reprisal. It was only through the armed protection provided by members of the Police Department in the locales where the picture was filmed that this story was able to reach the screen." While this might seem like a low-rent publicity ploy, in fact the film's producer, Frank Seltzer, testified before the Senate Crime Investigating Committee that the film's subject matter--which included a detailed exposure of racing wire operations and their use of "past posting" to cheat bookies--caused a number of problems during shooting.
According to Seltzer, he was also refused permission to shoot in Las Vegas, presumably because of its negative depiction of gambling, and similarly pressured to halt shooting at Hoover (Boulder) Dam, though it was on government property. He claimed in a June 1950 interview for the Los Angeles Times that his cameramen were told to "go back to Los Angeles where you belong." He added: "I never expected physical violence because they don't work that way. [...] I was concerned for the safety of the film."
Producer: Frank N. Seltzer
Director: Joseph M. Newman
Photography: Frank (Franz) Planer
Script: Richard English, Francis Swann
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson
Film Editor: Bert Jordan
Music: Sol Kaplan
Cast: Edmond O'Brien (Mal Granger), Joanne Dru (Gail Mason), Otto Kruger (Carl Stephans), Barry Kelley (Vince Walters), Dorothy Patrick (Trudy Maxwell), Donald Porter (Larry Mason), Howard St. John (Lt. Pete Wright), Robert Osterloh (Gizzi), Sammy White (Chippie Evans), Bert Freed (Marshak). BW-102m.
by James Steffen