Subscribe Now!
GannettUSA Today

Thursday, April 13, 2006


It's such a rare and beautiful thing to suddenly discover an old movie that becomes an instant favorite.

I'm watching one now, courtesy of my lunch buddy, Larry. It's called "Odds Against Tomorrow." Amazingly, this black-and-white film noir from 1959 avoided detection on my Old Movie Radar, despite the fact that I'm a lifelong buff. Larry thinks this movie is underdiscovered because it's a noir that technically came out AFTER the noir revolution.

First of all, it was directed by Robert Wise. I defy you to name a mainstream Hollywood director with a more diverse resume. Can you believe the same man directed Karloff and Lugosi in "The Body Snatcher" ... Michael Rennie and Klaatu in "Day the Earth Stood Still" ... the Jets and the Sharks in "West Side Story" ... Nazis, nuns and singing children in "The Sound of Music" ... and Kirk and Spock in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" ? Me, neither.

"Odds Against Tomorrow" is a heist movie with racial overtones -- sort of like "The Asphalt Jungle" meets "The Defiant Ones." What a cast: Harry Belafonte as a jazz singer with a gambling problem; Robert Ryan as a racist ex-con with a violent temper; Ed Begley as a pathetic old-timer with a dream; Shelley Winters as Ryan's fretting wife; and Gloria Graham as a needy neighbor. (Before surrendering to Ryan's advances, Graham says resignedly: "Just this once."). A baby-faced Wayne Rogers even shows up to take a brutal punch from Ryan.

Robert Ryan is a secret weapon. He's an under-the-radar guy; you never here people talk about him. But I'll tell ya -- when they showed "Billy Budd" at Cherry Hill High School East in the '70s, EVERYONE was talking about Claggart. Few actors can play mean like Ryan.

But for me, the center of "Odds Against Tomorrow" is old man Begley. Neither Belafonte nor Ryan want any part of the heist, or each other, but they both need the money. Begley -- old, fat and forgotten -- desperately tries to boost morale with upbeat projections. "This will work," he tells the other men.

No, it won't.


Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Hey, glad you dug it Vog! One of my all time faves (as is 'Billy Budd' which I haven't seen in years).

2:03 PM, April 14, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home