Cast & Crew
While walking home late one rainy night, off-duty police detective Johnny Damico hears the gunfire of a shootout. A man at the scene identifies himself as a fellow officer and hastens to summon police backup as Johnny examines the victim. When the officer fails to return, Johnny grows suspicious and telephones his commanding officer, Lt. Banks. After Johnny relates the events, Banks summons him to headquarters, where he informs Johnny that the badge shown to him by the man at the scene was taken from an officer murdered a few hours earlier. The victim is identified as the principle witness for a grand jury investigation into the waterfront rackets. Although Johnny cannot provide a clear description of the murderer and is chastised for letting him escape, Banks assigns him to go undercover on the waterfront to find the top rackets man, who is known only as Blackie and is the suspected killer. Publicly, the police declare Johnny suspended and run a phony picture of him in the newspaper. Johnny is to pose as Tim Flynn, a small-time crook from New Orleans and, before leaving for New Orleans, he visits his girl friend, Mary Kiernan, and proposes, telling her only that he will be out of town for some weeks. Soon after, Johnny returns from New Orleans by freighter and, as Flynn, checks into a cheap waterfront hotel, The Royal, where he meets Tom Clancy, a longshoreman. The next day, Johnny secures a work permit and Tom advises him that kickback payments are required in order to obtain work. Having overheard several men mention the name Joe Castro, Johnny repeats the name to the dock manager when he checks in for work and is assigned an easy job. The worker he supplants, Culio, reacts angrily at being replaced and threatens Johnny. That evening, a man named Gunner forces Johnny into a car and takes him to see the dock manager and the apparent racket boss, Castro, who questions him at length. The next day on the dock, Johnny is arrested for the murder of Culio, who was killed with a gun like his own. After being harshly grilled at headquarters, Johnny suspects Sgt. Bennion is working in collusion with Castro. When Banks discovers that "Flynn" has been arrested, he interrupts the questioning and soon clears Johnny with a ballistics report. Johnny divulges everything he has discovered about Castro to Banks, and states his belief that he is not Blackie. Banks then advises Johnny to investigate Tom. Back at The Royal, Smoothie, the bartender, repeats a rumor circulating the docks that Johnny was set up for Culio's murder and tells him that Gunner was involved. When Johnny is unable to force information from Gunner, he has Banks arrest him for Culio's murder without any publicity. The next day Tom invites Johnny for an evening out with two friends, Doris and Peggy. Unknown to Johnny, Peggy is Mrs. Clancy and her husband has asked her to get Johnny drunk and find out more about him. After Johnny passes out at Tom's, he awakens the next morning in his room at The Royal with an armed Castro standing over him, demanding to know Gunner's whereabouts. Tom bursts in and knocks Castro unconscious and calls Johnny by his real name. As they bind Castro up, Tom reveals he is a government investigator also working on the rackets scam and has just identified Johnny through fingerprints. While Tom places Castro under arrest, Smoothie tells Johnny that someone has asked to hire him to kill a cop. Johnny reports to Banks that he has made contact with Blackie, and Banks arranges to place a transmitter in Smoothie's car before he drives to the meeting. Inadvertently, however, while tracking Johnny, the transmitter's signal is obstructed. At the meeting place, Smoothie reveals that he is Blackie and informs "Flynn" that he has had Mary kidnapped and tortured to discover Johnny Damico's identity and whereabouts. When Johnny tries to rescue the injured Mary, Smoothie escapes, but not before being wounded by Johnny. A few days later in the hospital, Johnny's visit to Mary is interrupted by Smoothie, who is convalescing down the hall. Realizing Johnny's identity at last, Smoothie is about to kill him, but is shot from the neighboring building by a police sniper. His reputation on the force restored, Johnny and Mary celebrate with Tom and Peggy.
Frank De Kova
Don De Leo
Mary Alan Hokanson
Paul Dubov Johnson
Frank [a.] Tuttle
Hollywood crime films had long been tailored to their times, the formulae renewing themselves every decade or so. Between world wars, The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) chronicled the rise and fall of charismatic criminal anti-heroes ultimately crushed under the dead weight of their ambitions, while postwar film noir offered world weary protagonists snared in webs of corruption that they were powerless to overcome. Before the Kefauver hearings concluded in July of 1951, a wave of new crime films hit the screens telling of vast underworld "syndicates," a veritable "Murder, Inc." whose "hitmen" accepted "contracts" to assassinate "squealers," rivals and meddlesome members of law enforcement. The titles were punchy and vivid: The Enforcer (1951), The Racket (1951), Hoodlum Empire (1952), Chicago Syndicate (1955), The System (1955) and Underworld USA (1961). Early out of the pipe was Columbia's The Mob (1951), released between the conclusion of the Kefauver hearings in July and publication of its official report that fall. The script, by reporter-turned-scenarist William Bowers, was based on Waterfront by Charles Weiser Frey (aka "Ferguson Findley"), which had been serialized in Colliers for five weeks in the summer of 1950. The filmmakers were also surely familiar with the "Crime on the Waterfront" articles Malcolm Johnson had written for The New York Sun in 1949; the 24-part series won the Pulitzer Price for journalism and inspired Arthur Miller's original screenplay The Hook, which Budd Schulberg rewrote as On the Waterfront (1954).
The Mob went before the cameras in April of 1951 as Remember That Face, a shooting title retained for the British market (where the word "mob" evokes images of a torch-bearing throng). The production was entrusted to former editor Robert Parrish, making his sophomore stand as a director-for-hire. Born in Georgia in 1916, Parrish had come to Hollywood upon the transfer of his father, a salesman for the Coca-Cola Company. Squeezing their family of six into one room of an Alvarado Street boarding house, the Parrishes made do on Robert Sr.'s meager salary until wife Laura (called "Reesie") learned that the studios were paying $5 a day for child extras. All of the Parrish "picture kids" got work in John Ford and Hal Roach projects and Bob had prominent bits in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and City Lights (1931). Sadly, both of Bob Parrish's sisters died young Beverly from the effects of diabetes at age 11 within days of completing the 1930 Our Gang short A Tough Winter and Helen of cancer at age 37 in 1959. As he matured, Bob Parrish slipped behind the camera, becoming a valued member of John Ford's team. On his own, he shared an Academy Award® for editing Robert Rossen's Body and Soul (1947) with Francis Lyon and was nominated (with Al Clark) for editing All the King's Men (1949). When Parrish told John Ford that he wanted to direct pictures, his mentor cracked him across the skull with the viewfinder of his Mitchell camera, drawing blood. The gesture was not meant to be discouraging.
Robert Parrish's first films as a director are marked by technical proficiency in defiance of obviously limited budgets. Dick Powell was the star of the Los Angeles-set Cry Danger (1951) and served the production both as an unbilled executive producer and as a sub-director. In an interview published in 2002, supporting actress Jean Porter told film historian Tom Weaver that Powell directed her exclusively, letting Parrish take full credit. If it was Powell's intention to help Parrish get a leg up as a director, the tactic worked; Variety praised Parrish's "strong directorial bow." That same year, Parrish flew solo with The Mob, a classic "man undercover" drama in the tradition of White Heat (1949) and Reservoir Dogs (1992). Critics were generally enthusiastic. Variety recommended The Mob as "solid corner of the mouth stuff for the leather jacket and bluejeans trade." The New York Times was less condescending, with Hollywood correspondent Oscar Godbout allowing that the film "makes no attempt to be pretty, and its violence is as exciting and fast-paced as you could ask for...what it offers, precisely, is an hour and a half of physical mayhem, served up hot with pistols and blackjacks."
At the time of its release, The Mob's only "name" was star Broderick Crawford, fresh from his Academy Award® win in All the King's Men. In very short order, however, many of the film's supporting players would distinguish themselves and even eclipse Crawford's fame. For his Hollywood screen test, Ernest Borgnine had punctuated an improvised interrogation scene with a burst of physical violence that assured him steady income playing tough guys up to and after his award-winning leading man performance in Marty (1955). Chicago-born radio actor Richard Kiley's patrician bearing doomed him to egghead roles in Pickup on South Street (1953) and Blackboard Jungle (1955) until his Broadway success as Man of La Mancha in 1965 gave him a low key gravitas and a wider variety of roles. Neville Brand would go on to tenured villainy in Hollywood and foreign films of wildly fluctuating quality over the next thirty years but sadly ended his career in bottom barrel exploitation pictures.
Rounding out The Mob in lesser roles are a young Charles Bronson (then studying diction at The Pasadena Playhouse), The Godfather's John Marley, Frank DeKova (later a regular on F-Troop) and big Don Megowan, destined to inhabit the monster suit in Universal-International's The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), second sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). The Mob was the penultimate credit for cinematographer Joseph Walker. DP of choice for Frank Capra, Walker was also an early pioneer of the zoom lens, developing a prototype as early as 1917.
Producer: Jerry Bresler
Director: Robert Parrish
Screenplay: William Bowers, Ferguson Findley (novel)
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Film Editing: Charles Nelson
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Music: George Duning
Cast: Broderick Crawford (Johnny Damico), Betty Buehler (Mary Kiernan), Richard Kiley (Thomas Clancy), Otto Hulett (Police Lt. Banks), Matt Crowley (Smoothie), Neville Brand (Gunner).
by Richard Harland Smith
Who are the girls?- Johnny Damico
Would you know any more if I gave you the names? They're women.- Thomas Clancy
Be careful.- Lt. Banks
Yeah, sure. I'll carry real bullets in my gun.- Johnny Damico
Working titles for this film were Waterfront and Remember That Face. Ferguson Findley's novel The Waterfront was serialized in Collier's magazine (22 July-19 August 1950). The exact setting for the film is vague. A review mentions California, but it appears to be Chicago. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, stage actor Walter Klavun made his screen debut in The Mob.