Odds Against Tomorrow


1h 35m 1959
Odds Against Tomorrow

Brief Synopsis

Desperate losers plan a bank robbery with unexpected results.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Action
Crime
Adaptation
Film Noir
Release Date
Nov 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 Oct 1959
Production Company
Harbel Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Bronx, New York, United States; New York City, New York, United States; New York City, New York, United States; The Bronx, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Odds Against Tomorrow by William P. McGivern (New York, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Film Length
9,022ft

Synopsis

In New York City, David Burke, a former policeman who once served a prison sentence, asks bigoted Southern tough guy Earl Slater to rob a bank with him, promising him $50,000 in small bills if the robbery is successful. Earl is reluctant to accept Burke's proposal but feels he needs the money to support his live-in girl friend, Lorry. Burke also tries to recruit Johnny Ingram, a nightclub entertainer who is hopelessly addicted to gambling, but Johnny turns him down. Undaunted, Burke visits Bacco, an Italian mobster to whom Johnny is deeply in debt. Shortly thereafter, Bacco stops by Johnny's club and threatens to kill not only the singer but also his ex-wife and daughter unless the debt is paid in twenty-four hours. The next day, Johnny takes his daughter Eadie to Central Park, and when he realizes that two of Bacco's men are following him, he calls Burke and agrees to help with the robbery. Meanwhile, Earl accompanies Burke to Melton, a small town along the Hudson River. Burke shows Earl the bank and explains that because payday is on Friday, the bank is full of cash on Thursday evenings. Burke adds that a black waiter brings sandwiches to the small staff at the same time each week, and only an aging guard stands watch. Earl refuses the job when he learns that Johnny, a "colored boy," is to take part in it, however. Lorry assures Earl that money is unimportant to her, but he remains gloomy, ashamed that she supports them both. Finally, he decides to meet with Burke, but before he goes, he makes love to Helen, an upstairs neighbor who is fascinated with him because he once killed a man. When Johnny's ex-wife comes by to pick up Eadie, Johnny declares that he still loves her. She seems to love him, too, but complains that his gambling makes him an unfit father. Angry, Johnny replies that by trying to fit into a white world, she is only fooling herself. Late that night, the three men meet at Burke's, and when Earl calls Johnny "boy," Burke reminds him that they are equal partners in the venture. The next day, each man travels to Melton separately, meeting near the river to discuss the details of the crime. Earl continues to insult Johnny, and Burke tries to keep the two from fighting. While waiting for nightfall, Earl shoots a rabbit, and Johnny worriedly flings stones into the river. At six o'clock, Burke arrives at the restaurant near the bank. He tries to upset the waiter's tray as he carries the food order to the bank, but some small boys bump the waiter instead, spilling the coffee and food into the street. Disgruntled, the waiter returns to the restaurant, whereupon Johnny, dressed in waiter clothes, knocks on the side door of the bank. When the guard opens the door, the three robbers rush inside. While Johnny and Burke stuff money into bags, Earl needlessly hits several of the frightened employees. Then, ignoring previously discussed plans, Earl gives Burke the car keys, unwilling to trust Johnny with driving the getaway car. As Burke leaves the bank, he is seen by two policemen, and when the burglar alarm sounds, shooting begins. Burke is shot, and because he now has the car keys, Earl and Johnny, crouching behind the corner, are unable to escape. Burke calls, "Run, Johnny, I'm sorry," and dies, whereupon Earl remarks that at least the old man will not be able to confess their identity to the police. Enraged, Johnny begins shooting at Earl, who manages to escape to a nearby oil refinery. Johnny pursues Earl to the top of an oil tank, and when the two fire on each other, the refinery bursts into flame. Later, as officials are viewing the charred bodies, one of them asks, "Which is which?" "Take your pick," replies the other.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Action
Crime
Adaptation
Film Noir
Release Date
Nov 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 Oct 1959
Production Company
Harbel Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Bronx, New York, United States; New York City, New York, United States; New York City, New York, United States; The Bronx, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Odds Against Tomorrow by William P. McGivern (New York, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Film Length
9,022ft

Articles

Odds Against Tomorrow


Three men - an embittered ex-con (Robert Ryan), a former cop (Ed Begley) who was fired from the force for illegal activities, and a chronic gambler (Harry Belafonte) - try to change their lousy lot in life by forming a partnership in crime. But a plan to heist a payroll from a small-town bank in upstate New York is doomed from the start because of the racial tensions within the group.

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) is often acknowledged as one of the last films to appear in the film noir cycle which reached its height in the post-World War II era. However, this crime thriller is much more complex than the standard genre entry. While it's certainly gritty and downbeat in the best noir tradition, it also works as an allegory about greed as well as a cautionary tale about man's propensity for self-destruction. Financed by Harry Belafonte's own company, Harbel Productions, Odds Against Tomorrow allowed Belafonte to exercise complete creative control over the film's conception and to handpick an expert cast and crew to bring his project to the screen. In an article in the New York Times, Belafonte said, "The character I play is not thrown in for a racial thesis, but because the bank robbers - played by Ed Begley and Robert Ryan - need a Negro who can enter the bank as a colored delivery man. While Robert Ryan hates the Negro, it is not merely a racial antagonism. He hates everybody, and the Negro is no stereotype of sweetness and light either. No brotherly love saves everyone here. Their hatred destroys them both."

Robert Ryan gives one of his finest performances here as the pathetic, venom-spewing racist Earle Slater. Off screen, Ryan was a compassionate activist who was committed to such liberal causes as SANE and the ACLU but on-screen he was often cast as angry, misanthropic characters who occasionally expressed themselves through violence. Crossfire (1947), Beware, My Lovely, and On Dangerous Ground (both 1952) are probably the best examples of this typecasting. Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame also have minor supporting roles in Odds Against Tomorrow but while their scenes are brief, they both make indelible impressions. You can also spot Cicely Tyson, Wayne Rogers, and Zohra Zampert in tiny roles.

Odds Against Tomorrow was filmed on location in a small town in the Hudson River Valley, New York City, and at the Gold Medal Studios in the Bronx. Director Robert Wise completed the film between his Oscar-winning productions of I Want to Live! (1958) and West Side Story (1961). The screenplay was written by Nelson Giddens, blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky (who wasn't allowed to accept an onscreen credit until 1968), and black novelist John O. Killens, who later penned the revisionist antebellum drama Slaves (1969). The latter film also provided work for former blacklist victims, director Herbert J. Biberman and his wife, actress Gale Sondergaard. The moody, evocative jazz score is by John Lewis, the pianist for the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Director: Robert Wise
Producer: Robert Wise, Phil Stein (associate)
Screenplay: Abraham Polonsky, Nelson Gidding, John O. Killens, William McGivern (novel)
Cinematography: Joseph C. Brun
Music: John Lewis
Art Direction: Leo Kertz
Principle Cast: Harry Belafonte (Johnny Ingram), Robert Ryan (Earl Slater), Shelley Winters (Lorry), Ed Begley (Dave Burke), Gloria Grahame (Helen), Will Kuluva (Bacco), Kim Hamilton (Ruth Ingram)
BW-97m.

by Jeff Stafford
Odds Against Tomorrow

Odds Against Tomorrow

Three men - an embittered ex-con (Robert Ryan), a former cop (Ed Begley) who was fired from the force for illegal activities, and a chronic gambler (Harry Belafonte) - try to change their lousy lot in life by forming a partnership in crime. But a plan to heist a payroll from a small-town bank in upstate New York is doomed from the start because of the racial tensions within the group. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) is often acknowledged as one of the last films to appear in the film noir cycle which reached its height in the post-World War II era. However, this crime thriller is much more complex than the standard genre entry. While it's certainly gritty and downbeat in the best noir tradition, it also works as an allegory about greed as well as a cautionary tale about man's propensity for self-destruction. Financed by Harry Belafonte's own company, Harbel Productions, Odds Against Tomorrow allowed Belafonte to exercise complete creative control over the film's conception and to handpick an expert cast and crew to bring his project to the screen. In an article in the New York Times, Belafonte said, "The character I play is not thrown in for a racial thesis, but because the bank robbers - played by Ed Begley and Robert Ryan - need a Negro who can enter the bank as a colored delivery man. While Robert Ryan hates the Negro, it is not merely a racial antagonism. He hates everybody, and the Negro is no stereotype of sweetness and light either. No brotherly love saves everyone here. Their hatred destroys them both." Robert Ryan gives one of his finest performances here as the pathetic, venom-spewing racist Earle Slater. Off screen, Ryan was a compassionate activist who was committed to such liberal causes as SANE and the ACLU but on-screen he was often cast as angry, misanthropic characters who occasionally expressed themselves through violence. Crossfire (1947), Beware, My Lovely, and On Dangerous Ground (both 1952) are probably the best examples of this typecasting. Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame also have minor supporting roles in Odds Against Tomorrow but while their scenes are brief, they both make indelible impressions. You can also spot Cicely Tyson, Wayne Rogers, and Zohra Zampert in tiny roles. Odds Against Tomorrow was filmed on location in a small town in the Hudson River Valley, New York City, and at the Gold Medal Studios in the Bronx. Director Robert Wise completed the film between his Oscar-winning productions of I Want to Live! (1958) and West Side Story (1961). The screenplay was written by Nelson Giddens, blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky (who wasn't allowed to accept an onscreen credit until 1968), and black novelist John O. Killens, who later penned the revisionist antebellum drama Slaves (1969). The latter film also provided work for former blacklist victims, director Herbert J. Biberman and his wife, actress Gale Sondergaard. The moody, evocative jazz score is by John Lewis, the pianist for the Modern Jazz Quartet. Director: Robert Wise Producer: Robert Wise, Phil Stein (associate) Screenplay: Abraham Polonsky, Nelson Gidding, John O. Killens, William McGivern (novel) Cinematography: Joseph C. Brun Music: John Lewis Art Direction: Leo Kertz Principle Cast: Harry Belafonte (Johnny Ingram), Robert Ryan (Earl Slater), Shelley Winters (Lorry), Ed Begley (Dave Burke), Gloria Grahame (Helen), Will Kuluva (Bacco), Kim Hamilton (Ruth Ingram) BW-97m. by Jeff Stafford

Robert Wise (1914-2005)


Robert Wise, who died at age 91 on September 14, was the noted film editor of Citizen Kane (1941) and other movies before he became a producer and director, and all his works are marked by striking visual rhythms. He is best remembered for two enormously popular musicals, West Side Story (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965), which brought him a total of four Oscars® -- each winning for Best Picture and Best Director. (Wise's directorial award for West Side Story was shared with Jerome Robbins.)

Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films.

Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945).

Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox.

At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story.

The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963).

by Roger Fristoe

Robert Wise (1914-2005)

Robert Wise, who died at age 91 on September 14, was the noted film editor of Citizen Kane (1941) and other movies before he became a producer and director, and all his works are marked by striking visual rhythms. He is best remembered for two enormously popular musicals, West Side Story (1959) and The Sound of Music (1965), which brought him a total of four Oscars® -- each winning for Best Picture and Best Director. (Wise's directorial award for West Side Story was shared with Jerome Robbins.) Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films. Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945). Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox. At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story. The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963). by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

I'll kill you and everything you own!
- Bocco
What you doin' with such a big ol' dog in New York?
- Earl Slater
Never had a wife.
- Dave Burke
That's good. But it was better when you wanted it.
- Fra
Yeah, yeah, I know I got rid of the headache. Now I got cancer.
- Johnny Ingram
I'm off to make my fortune.
- Earl Slater
Aah... what kind of a fortune?
- Lorry
Just one of those... fortune fortunes.
- Earl Slater
Don't beat out that Civil War jazz here, Slater! We're all in this together, each man equal. And we're taking care of each other. It's one big play, our one and only chance to grab stakes forever. And I don't want to hear what your grandpappy thought on the old farm down in Oklahoma! You got it?
- Dave Burke
Well I'm with you, Dave. Like you said, it's just one role of the dice, doesn't matter what color they are. So's they come up seven.
- Earle Slater

Trivia

Notes

Although John O. Killens and Nelson Gidding were given screen credit for the screenplay when the picture was initially released, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) restored the credit of blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky in 1996. WGA's press release stated that the writers' credits should read: "Screenplay by Abraham Polonsky and Nelson Gidding, Based on the novel by William P. McGivern." According to a modern source, Killens was a front for Polonsky. HarBel Productions, Inc. was Harry Belafonte's independent production company. According to a November 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, Richard Widmark was in negotiations to co-star. Except for one sequence, the entire film was shot in New York City.
       An October 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Gloria Grahame threatened a $100,000 lawsuit against United Artists, demanding that they refrain from using certain photos of her in publicity for the film on the grounds that they were candid and taken without her knowledge. The photographs were taken by co-star Robert Ryan. The outcome of Grahame's demand has not been determined.
       Harry Belafonte performs vocals on one of the picture's songs, "My Baby's Not Around." According to modern sources, John Lewis' score was performed by a large orchestra that included Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass, Connie Kay on drums, Bill Evans on piano, and Jim Hall on guitar. The Variety reviewer commented on the presence of the word "ofay," a derogatory term for whites, in the film and also noted that the picture presented "a unique view (for films) of a normal, middle-class Negro home." The picture marked Wayne Rogers' film debut. Although not a crucial element in the plot, one of the characters, a henchman of the mobster "Bacco," is portrayed as a homosexual who flirts with Belafonte's character, "Johnny Ingram."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 15, 1959

Released in United States on Video August 3, 1999

Released in United States October 1997

Released in United States June 1999

Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival (Robert Wise Tribute) October 2-12, 1997.

Shown at Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York City (Walter Reade) June 11-24, 1999.

First film produced under the banner of Harbel Productions which was Harry Belafonte's production company.

Released in United States Fall October 15, 1959

Released in United States on Video August 3, 1999

Released in United States October 1997 (Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival (Robert Wise Tribute) October 2-12, 1997.)

Released in United States June 1999 (Shown at Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York City (Walter Reade) June 11-24, 1999.)