5 Against the House
Cast & Crew
Korean war veterans and law students Al Mercer and Brick and their college friends, Ronnie, and Roy, visit Harold's Club and Casino in Reno, Nevada, where they promise one another to spend only one hour gambling. When Ronnie's intricate system for roulette fails, he is forced to cash a check, and while standing in line with Roy, the young men are mistakenly associated with a hoodlum who attempts to rob the club. Al prevents the pair from being arrested, and they hastily return to Midwestern University to begin the new school year. Al reunites with longtime girl friend Kay Greylek, while Roy hazes gullible young freshman Francis Spieglebauer, who is impressed to learn about Al and Brick's war service and Brick's near fatal head wound. One evening at a club where Kay sings, Brick is involved in a fistfight, thrashing his opponent until Al pulls him away. Al pleads with Brick, who has spent time in a veterans' mental ward, to control himself and Brick promises to try harder. Later that night, Al proposes to Kay, who asks him for more time before deciding. Later in the term, Ronnie devises a scheme to rob Harold's. When Brick is skeptical, Ronnie insists it can be done and claims he will prove it with their help. Ronnie buys a trailer under a phony name and builds a cart exactly like the ones used by the roving cashiers in the club. Ronnie explains to Brick and Roy that they can enter the club in disguise because Reno will be celebrating Jamboree Week and all the casino patrons will be expected to dress like miners. Ronnie then shows them a recording device he has placed in the cart, which plays a recorded threat to convince the cashier that a man is hiding in the cart. After Ronnie promises a worried Roy that they will return the money as soon as his scheme works, Brick grows enthusiastic about the idea. Ronnie then reveals they will need another participant to carry out the carefully timed heist and wonders if Al would be willing to go along. Brick asks Al to join the others on the trip, but Al hesitates about leaving Kay for an entire week. When Kay suggests the time apart might be good for them, however, Al responds angrily and agrees to go with Brick. Later, Kay visits Al at his dorm room to apologize and admits her fears about marrying him have been foolish. She asks to accompany Al to Reno so they can marry and Al happily agrees. Before the trip, Brick secretly purchases a gun. On the trip, the men all take turns driving as the others ride in the trailer. When Al accidentally discovers the cart and recalls it being similar to the ones at Harold's, he demands an explanation. Ronnie is proud of his device and scheme, but Al is dismayed. Al tries to convince Brick of the folly of commiting the heist simply to prove a point, but Brick pulls his gun and tells Al he intends to rob the club for real. Brick fears being sent back to the hospital and believes that he is owed easy money for his war-time sacrifices. Brick forces Al to drive the rest of the trip, while in the trailer, Ronnie tells Kay the robbery details. When Kay insists she will go directly to the police, Ronnie convinces her to agree with Brick to drive the car to a safe place and provide them train tickets as planned, swearing that after the robbery, they can turn Brick in safely. In Reno, Kay agrees with Brick's request to hide the car, and the men dress in their disguises. Inside Harold's, Al and Brick converge on roving cashier Eric Berg, forcing him to leave his cart in the back, then at a side entry, Ronnie and Roy provide Eric with their cart. When Eric hesitates to go into the vault, Ronnie sets off the recording device, convincing Eric to comply. The robbery goes off as expected, but when the men race into the alley afterward and shed their disguises, Ronnie attempts to stop Brick. Brick knocks Ronnie down, snatches the money bag and flees for the train station, but the split second timing of the heist has been disturbed and he misses the train. Kay finds the others and reveals she has summoned the police, but Al insists on going after Brick, who is still armed. Al chases Brick and confronts him in a high rise garage as the police surround the building. Al soothes the distraught Brick, recalling their war days, and Brick finally breaks down. Al retrieves the gun and when turning Brick over to the police, insists that he be treated as a shell-shocked veteran, not a criminal. Relieved, Al and Kay head off to get married with Ronnie and Roy's approval.
J. P. Catching
Frank [a.] Tuttle
5 Against the House
Billeting the Chicago-born actress in the YWCA-run Studio Club (an all-girls dormitory with a curfew, a house mother and only one entrance), Cohn had her tailed by private detectives even on her short walk from her quarters through the studio gates of Columbia Pictures. During this time, Novak was romantically involved with millionaire real estate developer Mac Krim, whom Cohn forbade her to marry on pain of excommunication. "You're a nobody," Cohn is purported to have told the actress. "All this can vanish overnight." While she and Krim were forced to canoodle privately and only on the weekends, Novak was assigned a series of publicity-mongering studio-mandated dates with a roster of Columbia contract players. Her escort to the 1954 Academy Awards ceremony (to which she wore her dress from Pushover , her first significant film role) was Kerwin Mathews (himself clad in a pair of pants so tight that he could not sit down), one of her four costars in 5 Against the House.
5 Against the House originated with a novel of the same name by Jack Finney, best known as the author of The Body Snatchers (serialized in Colliers), which Don Siegel turned into the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers the following year. The punchy crime tale, about a quintet of college friends who dream up and nearly execute the heist of a Reno, Nevada casino was first serialized in, of all places, Good Housekeeping in 1954 (Martin Scorsese has claimed that Karlson's movie adaptation of the book influenced his own 1995 film Casino).
Independent producer/screenwriter Stirling Silliphant obtained an option on the property as a film for United Artists with Frank Tashlin tapped to direct and Tashlin's wife, Mary Costa, slated for the female lead. When Tashlin (who made the Martin and Lewis vehicle Artists and Models instead) dropped out of the project, British émigré Peter Godfrey (Christmas in Connecticut, 1945) was announced as the project's new helmsman with Italian actress Milly Vitale rumored to be cast in the role vacated by Mary Costa. At some point, the projected shifted to Columbia, where crime film specialist Phil Karlson (Kansas City Confidential, 1952, 99 River Street, 1953) was announced as the director and Kim Novak the film's female lead. The names of Novak's costars were announced in the October 5, 1954 edition of Variety: Guy Madison, Alvy Moore, Robert Horton and Roddy McDowall. Only Madison and Moore (at the time recovering from polio) would make the final cut, with Brian Keith replacing Horton and Kerwin Mathews chosen over McDowall to play the collegiate brain whose overactive intellect compels his friends to become 5 Against the House.
Principal photography for 5 Against the House proved just as interesting during preproduction, with Reno and Las Vegas engaging in a bidding war to attract the production to their respective environs. (Representatives for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce even offered up a $50,000 in credit as an inducement.) In the end, filming took place in both cities, after which shooting commenced without incident (apart from complaints from the cast about the frigid desert locations).
Cast as a nightclub chanteuse, Kim Novak had trained with Freddie Karger, the head of Columbia's music department, for her vocals but ultimately was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer. Returning to Hollywood after the completion of principal photography to her chaste room at The Studio Club, Novak's first home-cooked meal was cold soup and crackers. Favorable, albeit condescending, notices from critics ("an attractive dish," hooted The Los Angeles Times) raised her stock at Columbia. Harry Cohn made $100,000 loaning her to United Artists for The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and subsequent high profile roles in Picnic (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and Pal Joey (1957) solidified Novak's star status. Able to move out of the Studio Club into her own apartment, Novak still had to contend with the Columbia publicity machine, which specified that the lavish flat be painted in lavender because some PR mouthpiece decided it should be her favorite color right down to the porcelain in her bathroom. Harry Cohn's godfatherly lock on the private life of Kim Novak lasted until his dying day in February of 1958, when he succumbed to a fatal heart attack after reading about the actress' affair with black entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.
Producer: Stirling Silliphant
Director: Phil Karlson
Screenplay: John Barnwell, William Bowers, Stirling Silliphant; Frank Tashlin (uncredited); Jack Finney (novel)
Cinematography: Lester White
Art Direction: Robert Peterson
Music: George Duning
Film Editing: Jerome Thoms
Cast: Guy Madison (Al Mercer), Kim Novak (Kay Greylek), Brian Keith (Brick), Alvy Moore (Roy), Kerwin Mathews (Ronnie), William Conrad (Eric Berg), Jack Dimond (Francis Spiegelbauer 'Spiegy'), Jean Willes (Virginia).
by Richard Harland Smith
Kim Novak, Reluctant Goddess by Peter Harry Brown
Kim Novak on Camera by Larry Kleno
King Cohn: The Life and Times of Harry Cohn by Bob Thomas
5 Against the House
Jack Finney's 5 Against the House was serialized in Good Housekeeping magazine July-September 1951. According to October 1954 Daily Variety news items, United Artists was originally set to release 5 Against the House with Frank Tashlin directing and his wife Mary Costa starring. Tashlin and Costa withdrew from the production when Columbia took over. Daily Variety news items record that Peter Godfrey was scheduled to replace Tashlin. According to the same items, Milly Vitale was under consideration for the role that eventually went to Kim Novak. Roddy McDowall and Robert Horton were also announced in starring roles but did not appear in the picture.
According to a September 1954 New York Times article, portions of the film were shot on location in Reno and Las Vegas, NV. A January 1954 Daily Variety news item indicates that filming was also set for Mill Valley, CA. The Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter reviews incorrectly include actors John Zaremba, George Brand, Mark Hanna, Carroll McComas and Hugh Sanders in the cast. The actors actually appeared in the 1955 Columbia release Chicago Syndicate.
Released in United States Summer June 1955
Released in United States Summer June 1955