Cast & Crew
In Los Angeles, hard-nosed police lieutenant Jim Cordell and his partner, Lt. Phillips, respond to a robbery call at Wrigley Field. When they arrive at the baseball park, they discover that the call was a false alarm and head to the station. The caller, crook Dave Purvus, who has been clocking the police's response time, then meets with acquaintance Benny McBride to discuss a heist. Anxious to secure some money for his estranged wife, greedy burlesque queen Yvonne LeDoux, Benny agrees to participate, unaware that the self-possessed and cautious Purvus is having an affair with Yvonne. As agreed, Benny brings in two other veteran criminals, Al Mapes and William "Ace" Foster, to the plot, which involves the robbery of an armored truck at Wrigley Field. On the day of the robbery, Foster pretends to be fixing a jalopy next to the parked armored truck and, on Purvus' cue, causes the car to backfire and blow black smoke at the truck's guards. After the crooks overwhelm the surprised guards and break into the truck, Benny notifies the police. Unknown to Benny, Jim and Phillips are driving in the area and respond to the call much faster than Purvus anticipated. Jim and Phillips exchange gunfire with the robbers, who shoot Phillips and escape in their getaway car. Later, at the hospital, Jim learns that Phillips, his longtime friend, has died from his wounds and that rookie detective Danny Ryan is going to be his new partner. Aware that the crooks have changed cars and that one of them is wounded, a determined Jim orders roadblocks put up around the city. Although the robbers manage to pass through a roadblock near the harbor, the police soon discover their oversight and radio in the car's description and general whereabouts. At his dockside hideout, Purvus shoots and kills the wounded Benny when he demands his cut and insists on going to a doctor. Foster then dumps Benny's body and the car in the harbor, but before the car becomes completely submerged, a passing patrol car sees it. Having narrowed the crooks' location, Jim and Ryan comb the docks and catch Foster as he is making his way to a motorboat. The police kill Foster, but are unable to stop Mapes, who is already in the boat, and Purvus, who is still on the dock. Later, Jim and Ryan go to Benny's apartment and there find a photograph of Yvonne as well as Purvus' telephone number. Before they can arrest Purvus, however, he sneaks out of his apartment and flees. After a forensics expert identifies the lipstick on one of Purvus' shirts as being a theatrical type, the detectives go to the theater where Yvonne works. There they spot Mapes, who had come looking for his cut, and arrest him. After Mapes reveals Purvus' connection to Yvonne, the detectives put a tail on the dancer and plant a listening device in her dressing room. When Yvonne suddenly quits her job, Ryan offers to impersonate Mapes, whom she has never seen, in the hope that she will lead him to Purvus before they both flee the country. Purvus soon discovers Ryan's impersonation, however, and lures him into Yvonne's car, where he holds him at gunpoint. Unknown to Purvus, Yvonne's car is also wired with a listening device, and as she drives, Ryan mentions street names for Jim's benefit. Sensing that Ryan is up to something, Purvus orders Yvonne to stop and shoots the detective. Before passing out, Ryan lets Jim know that Purvus and Yvonne are headed for the airport, where they have chartered a private plane. The police notify the airport, and Purvus and Yvonne's plane is stopped on the runway. Purvus tries to shoot his way out, but is shot and then crushed to death by a landing plane. Later, Jim visits a recuperating Ryan at the hospital and proudly shows him a detective magazine article about the case, in which their names are prominently mentioned.
Paul E. Burns
Gerald Drayson Adams
S. H. Barton
Albert S. D'agostino
John E. Pommer
Armored Car Robbery
Armored Car Robbery also has the distinction of being one of the first of the "heist" movies, a subgenre of the crime film that did not come into its own until the 1950s. Before that, the Hollywood studios honored the Motion Picture Production Code's edict that "Methods of crime shall not be explicitly presented or detailed in a manner calculated to...inspire imitation." With the threat of television causing dwindling audiences in theaters, however, producers began bending the rules a bit. With its blunt title, explicit violence and detailed account of the title crime's planning and execution, Armored Car Robbery tested the waters and helped set the stage for such other heist films as The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and The Killing (1956).
Talman, later to play the ever-losing prosecuting attorney Hamilton Burger on the "Perry Mason" TV series, plays the vicious crook who masterminds a scheme to rob an armored car on its last pickup of the day. McGraw is the tough-as-nails cop on the gang's trail, and Jergens is Talman's hardboiled stripper girlfriend. Shot with the requisite noir camera angles and deep shadows standing in stark contrast to sunlit street scenes, the movie amounts to a documentary of Los Angeles in the 1950s with such locales as Wrigley Field, a ballpark, the harbor and a sleazy burlesque theater. Also put to effective use is Long Beach's oil derrick-dotted landscape.
Director Fleischer, the son of legendary animator Max Fleischer, would later move on to big-budget productions such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Doctor Dolittle (1967). But his claim to auteur status comes from this RKO period, when his low-budget films noir also included the classic The Narrow Margin (1952), again starring McGraw.
Producer: Herman Schlom
Director: Richard O. Fleischer
Screenplay: Gerald Drayson Adams, Robert Angus, Earl Felton, from story by Robert Leeds
Cinematography: Guy Roe
Original Music: Paul Sawtell (uncredited)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Ralph Berger
Editing: Desmond Marquette
Cast: Charles McGraw (Lt. Jim Cordell), Adele Jergens (Yvonne LeDoux), William Talman (Dave Purvis), Douglas Fowley (Benjamin 'Benny' McBride), Steve Brodie (Al Mapes), Gene Evans (William 'Ace' Foster).
by Roger Fristoe
Armored Car Robbery
Armored Car Robbery - ARMORED CAR ROBBERY - Richard Fleischer's 1950 Film Noir
Warner's "Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 5" contains eight titles, all new to DVD, bringing the total number of titles Warner has released in these volumes to 33. Each collection has had its share of lesser-known but still great obscurities (one of the great joys of film noir is that a large percentage of movies made in the style are B films), and Volume 5 is no different, with titles like Desperate (1947) and Armored Car Robbery (1950).
Armored Car Robbery is especially satisfying -- a trim, taut, tough heist film with a 68-minute running time, directed by Richard Fleischer two years before his similarly compact masterpiece The Narrow Margin (1952) (which is already out on DVD). Here, Fleischer keeps things moving with remarkable speed as ruthless, clever bad guy Dave Purvus (William Talman) organizes -- you guessed it -- an armored car robbery with his henchmen played by Douglas Fowley, Steve Brodie and Gene Evans. The robbery happens 12 minutes into the movie; the rest covers the aftermath, because of course things go a bit wrong. For awhile the movie basically cross-cuts between the bad guys trying to hide and get away, and the cops trying to track them down; later, things get more intertwined.
That Armored Car Robbery is able to simultaneously build up intriguing character relationships in a manner far more intricate than one could reasonably expect from such a brisk low-budgeter speaks to the talent and craftsmanship of all involved. Talman, for instance, is secretly sleeping with Fowley's estranged wife Yvonne, played by the sizzling Adele Jergens as one of noir's most memorable tough dames. (Fowley's blunt take on Jergens: "She's strictly high-rent and I'm broke, but I can't forget her that easily.") And McGraw deals with the loss of his partner and the introduction of a new one in a way that is substantial and affecting despite its terseness.
The story crisscrosses Los Angeles using actual locations, such as the long-defunct Wrigley Field (a minor league ballpark in south-central L.A.), the Long Beach shipping yards, oil fields, a motel and the airport. The variety of locations -- and the speed with which they change as the story goes along -- does a lot to increase the film's excitement and scope. (It also probably explains why the film's working title was Somewhere in the City.)
But it's good old-fashioned visual storytelling that Fleischer puts to the best use. Take a look at Talman's entrance into the story. His very first shot, filmed from a low, oblique angle outside Wrigley Field, instantly makes him look menacing and tells us all we need to know about his character. A sequence in a getaway car as the men must deal with a police checkpoint is superbly edited for suspenseful effect. Fleischer and his cameraman, Guy Roe, prove equally adept at building dread in day and night scenes. A sequence at a motel in the middle of the day, for instance, is just as riveting as a final tour de force at a nighttime shipping yard. In the motel sequence, Fleischer manages to find a way to create a stunning shot from Talman's point of view, where he hides behind a car pointing his gun at the unsuspecting McGraw; the brightness of the background image (McGraw) creates a suspenseful counterpoint to the menace of the foreground image (Talman's gun).
Charles McGraw was a staple of film noir with memorable turns in The Killers (1946), The Threat (1949), Roadblock (1951), The Narrow Margin (1952) and many others, excelling equally as cops and killers. He rarely got the chance to topline a film as he does here. He blazes through Armored Car Robbery with tremendous focus and purpose, and he gets his fair share of dialogue zingers, courtesy of writers Earl Fenton and Gerald Adams. When a cop points out a bullet-hole in one of the bad guys' shirts, McGraw replies bluntly: "I see it. I put it there." When told someone in a getaway car lost a lot of blood, he says: "Not enough to suit me." That's McGraw, and that's the movie: lean, terse, to the point. (For more on McGraw, look for his biography by ace film-noir historian Alan K. Rode that was published in 2007.)
Armored Car Robbery was shot in 16 days, and the advertising emphasized the realism of the story and the police methods that are depicted in occasionally semidocumentary form. "Thrilling as Today's Headlines!" screamed the newspaper ads. The picture opened in June 1950, two weeks after The Asphalt Jungle (1950), a much bigger-budget, A-level heist drama directed by John Huston that was later nominated for four Oscars. In New York, in fact, the two pictures opened on the same day, June 8! The Asphalt Jungle is a terrific movie, but in terms of unadulterated, raw, nasty noir, Armored Car Robbery, the lower-rent entry, is even more satisfying.
The fact that Armored Car Robbery, in quintessential B-movie fashion, opened in Hollywood as the bottom half of a double bill with the slapstick comedy The Good Humor Man (1950), did not keep it from being discovered by audiences and critics alike. Variety called it "loaded with suspense and the hard, glittering sex appeal of Adele Jergens," adding that it "thematically emphasizes that crime doesn't pay when a bulldog detective like Charles McGraw is on the tail."
Warner's DVD of Armored Car Robbery is sharp and clean with excellent sound, as per usual for Warner Bros. catalogue releases. The other titles in this agreeably diverse collection are Cornered (1945), directed by Edward Dymytryk, Deadline at Dawn (1946), which is based on a Cornell Woolrich novel, Anthony Mann's Desperate (1947), the Vincent Sherman-directed mystery Backfire (1950), Dial 1119 (1950), a hostage drama starring Marshall Thompson, Phil Karlson's important semi-documentary The Phenix City Story (1955), and Don Siegel's Crime in the Streets (1956), a juvenile-delinquent tale starring John Cassavetes and Sal Mineo.
A couple of the titles come with trailers; otherwise, there are zero extras, which is a huge change from previous Warner sets. Every single title in every previous volume came with an expert commentary, not to mention further material. Undoubtedly this new bare-bones approach is the result of the current economic climate. But then every distributor has cut way down on classic-film releases altogether in the past couple of years, so we're lucky to have these films available at all.
For more information about Armored Car Robbery, visit Warner Video. To order Armored Car Robbery (it is only available as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5), go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
Armored Car Robbery - ARMORED CAR ROBBERY - Richard Fleischer's 1950 Film Noir
Imagine a dish like this married to a mug like Benny McBride. The naked and the dead.- Ryan
The working titles of this film were Code 3-A and Code 3. Some scenes were shot outside Los Angeles' Wrigley Field.