Cast & Crew
Los Angeles auto mechanic Eddie Shannon, a devoted car buff with no family or other outside interests, frequently competes in local car races to improve his driving. The other mechanics at work tease Eddie constantly over his diminutive stature and solitary nature. One day Eddie meets Barbara Mathews, an attractive woman who invites him to the beach. Uncertainly, Eddie accepts the invitation, and at the beach Barbara introduces him to Steve Norris, a handsome businessman from the East, who is spending several weeks in a Santa Monica beach house. Eddie is surprised when Barbara shows an interest in him and shyly begins dating her. Barbara tries to learn as much about Eddie's interests as possible, but asks him if he is content to remain a mechanic all his life. Eddie confides that his dream has always been to drive in one of the top European races. Barbara takes Eddie to a party thrown by Steve and his associate, Harold Baker, and during the evening, Steve asks Eddie his opinion about the best kind of race car. After the party, Barbara advises Eddie that Steve might be able to help him realize his dream of racing in Europe. Later that evening, Steve visits Barbara, eager to discuss plans for a bank robbery, for which they hope to use Eddie's driving skill. Barbara pleads with Steve to call off the heist, as she feels sorry for Eddie, a lonely man who has never experienced love, but Steve scoffs at her. The next day Steve invites Eddie to the beach house, where he and Harold present him with their plans to hold up a bank in Palm Springs. Steve has staked out the bank and knows the routine of the teller who opens the bank and has calculated that if they make a high-speed getaway across a dangerous dirt road, they can escape the police roadblocks that will be erected after the robbery is reported. Steve promises Eddie $15,000 to drive the getaway car, but Eddie is shocked by the request and more upset when Steve suggests he ask Barbara for advice. Eddie confronts Barbara at her apartment, and she admits knowing about the robbery and declares that the money makes the risk worthwhile. Disillusioned and hurt, but still unaware of Barbara's romantic connection to Steve, Eddie again refuses and returns home, where he spends a tormented night wondering what to do. The next day Eddie telephones Barbara, who is cool to him, then visits her that evening and agrees to join in the robbery. Steve has Eddie study a film made along the escape road, then purchases a car and authorizes Eddie to make the changes necessary to prepare it for the high-speed drive. Steve also advises Eddie not to see Barbara during the preparation period to keep her uninvolved should anything go wrong. Eddie continues working at the auto shop during the day and on Steve's car at night and studies the film repeatedly. The night before the robbery, Eddie goes to see Barbara and reveals that he is doing it for her. Taken aback, she urges him not to do it if he has any doubts and encourages him to do it for the money and the realization of his dream. The robbery goes as planned and Eddie drives furiously across the escape route. The next day Eddie tries to see Barbara, but discovers she has moved out of her apartment. Bewildered, Eddie goes to the beach house, where Barbara and Steve have been quarreling over him. Barbara hides in the bedroom while Steve tries to convince Eddie that he has no idea of her whereabouts. Angered over Steve's continued lies, Barbara emerges and confesses her complete involvement in the robbery and with Steve. She apologizes to Eddie for getting him mixed up in their crime and is hostile to Steve for his indifference. Stunned, Eddie rushes out of the house, prompting Steve to accuse Barbara of ruining everything as Eddie will have no choice but to go to the police. Barbara insists that Eddie will not, but Steve orders Harold to catch Eddie. Armed, Harold forces Eddie into a car and makes him drive along the darkened road, but Eddie rolls the car down an embankment. Harold is killed and, although dazed, Eddie takes his gun and walks back to the beach house. Steve's car is quickly spotted by the police, who find Harold's body and realize that the driver has fled the scene. Discovering that the car is registered to Steve, they head toward the beach house. Meanwhile, disgusted with Steve, Barbara flees, but Steve catches her on the beach. When Eddie stumbles upon them and demands that Steve stop badgering Barbara, Steve lunges at him, but Eddie shoots and kills him. The police find Eddie gently comforting the distraught Barbara.
Charles Lawton Jr.
James Benson Nablo
Drive a Crooked Road
Despite the actor's disappointment at not being offered better material in his middle years, some of his excursions into genre fare, particularly crime thrillers and melodramas such as The Strip (1951) and The Big Operator (1959), were much better than he would admit and a few have even achieved cult status such as Don Siegel's Baby Face Nelson (1957). Drive a Crooked Road (1954), a modest but tautly directed film noir from this middle period is one that Rooney actually liked too. In his autobiography, Life Is Too Short, he wrote, "In 1954, I did the third picture in my three-picture Columbia deal, Drive a Crooked Road. Blake Edwards wrote a terrific script, about a garage mechanic (me) who falls in with some bank robbers. The film got good reviews, and it even won a Redbook Award for the best picture of the year."
In a plot that mirrored other noirs where an average Joe is seduced into crime by a femme fatale, Rooney plays Eddie Shannon, a car racing buff who competes in local Los Angeles races and dreams of going to the Grand Prix one day. When Barbara Mathews (Dianne Foster), a customer at the auto garage where he works, takes an interest in him, it quickly evolves into a love affair....a one-sided one. Barbara is merely the lure for Eddie's involvement in a bank robbery being planned by Barbara's boyfriend Steve (Kevin McCarthy) and his partner Harold (Jack Kelly). Despite his reluctance to get involved in robbery, Eddie is pressured into being the getaway driver in Steve's heist but, as we already know from the film's title, the road ahead is full of twists and turns.
Unlike some of his more bombastic, larger-than-life performances in films like The Fireball (1950) and The Atomic Kid (1954), Rooney is impressively low-key and believable here, giving a subtle, nuanced performance as a working class loner with self-esteem problems. Dianne Foster, an extremely attractive, talented actress who never graduated to major stardom despite impressive work in Bad for Each Other (1953) and The Brothers Rico (1957), makes an irresistible femme fatale. And Kevin McCarthy and Jack Kelly add dramatic weight to the tale with their smooth villainy.
While not a forgotten masterpiece by any means, Drive a Crooked Road is a fast-paced, entertaining B movie that clocks in at a tidy 83 minutes under Richard Quine's direction (Quine made several films with Rooney including Sound Off  and All Ashore , which was co-written by Blake Edwards.) Blake Lucas in his entry for the movie in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style wrote, "The lack of pretentiousness in a film like Drive a Crooked Road could be mistaken for a lack of artistic zeal; but such films take the motifs of the cycle out of the dark corners of a noir underworld and bring them into the sunlight, where human nature remains as corrupt as it is in the dark. The doomed noir hero played by Rooney is all the more poignant for being a very ordinary human being..."
Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Blake Edwards, Richard Quine; James Benson Nablo (story)
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Art Direction: Walter Holscher
Film Editing: Jerome Thoms
Cast: Mickey Rooney (Eddie Shannon), Dianne Foster (Barbara Mathews), Kevin McCarthy (Steve Norris), Jack Kelly (Harold Baker), Harry Landers (Ralph), Jerry Paris (Phil), Paul Picerni (Carl), Dick Crockett (Don).
by Jeff Stafford
Life Is Too Short by Mickey Rooney (Villard Books)
Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, edited by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward (Overlook Press)
Drive a Crooked Road
Began shooting mid-October 1953.
Working titles for the film were Little Giant, Johnny Big Shot and Speedy Shannon.
Released in United States Spring April 2, 1954
Completed shooting November 3, 1953.
Released in United States Spring April 2, 1954