Barbara Lawrence

Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Thieves Highway 1949

After an extended trip away from home, Nick Gracos (Richard Conte) returns home full of optimism for the future. He’s eager to marry his girlfriend Polly (Barbara Lawrence) and looking forward to starting a business with her father. The last thing he expects is to find that his truck driver father has lost his legs after getting on the wrong side of Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb), the corrupt owner of a produce market in San Francisco. Now Nick’s father can’t work, has no money, and had to sell his truck to Ed (Millard Mitchell), who is behind on his payments on it.

After meeting with Ed, Nick decides to put his plans on hold and goes into business with Ed. For their first gig, they transport trucks full of apples to the market in San Francisco that’s owned by Figlia. Despite having truck problems along the way, they make it to the market on time. As soon as Nick gets to the market, he has to deal with Figlia trying to scam him and sabotage his truck. He even hires Rica (Valentina Cortese) to distract Nick while Figlia tries to sabotage him. Since Nick is exhausted, she lets him rest in her apartment, but even though she’s working for Figlia, she begins to have feelings for Nick.

When Figlia tries to shortchange Nick on his apples, Nick successfully gets more money and it seems his first shipment went very well. So well, he asks Polly to come down so they can be married right away, much to Rica’s dismay. She insists that Polly is only after his money. But then some of Figlia’s thugs attack him and steal his money, Nick is left empty handed when Polly does arrive — and she doesn’t stick around long once she finds out he’s broke. But now, Nick is in great danger of losing his life in addition to his money.

Aside from the really forced ending, Thieves’ Highway was a highly enjoyable noir. Exactly the caliber of movie I’ve come to expect from Jules Dassin. It’s not often I use the words “gritty,” “sincere,” “heartfelt” together, but they both apply to Thieves’ Highway. The performances by Lee J. Cobb and Richard Conte absolutely make the movie one worth seeing. Lee J. Cobb was absolutely brilliant as the corrupted to the soul Figlia and Conte was perfectly determined to do right by his father without laying it on too thick. The ending was the only thing I didn’t like about it; it just felt really forced and tacked on.

Margie (1946)

Margie PosterWhile Margie (Jeanne Crain) and her teenage daughter Joyce are looking for something in the attic, Joyce gets a kick out of finding some of Margie’s things from when she was a teenager and asks Margie what she was like when she was young.  Margie thinks back to 1928 at a time when all the girls at her school, including Margie, were fawning over Ralph Fontayne (Glenn Langan), the handsome new French teacher.

At the time, Margie was living with her grandmother (Esther Dale) right next door to her friend Marybelle (Barbara Lawrence).  One day, just as Margie is about to get a ride home with Marybelle and her boyfriend, the elastic on her bloomers breaks and, not wanting Marybelle’s boyfriend to find out, Margie ducks into the school library to fix it.  While hiding in the stacks, she meets none other than Mr. Fontayne.

But despite their awkward first encounter, Mr. Fontayne is quite fond of Margie and goes out of his way  to compliment her when she does well on assignments, which makes her the envy of the other girls in school.  One night, Margie goes ice skating with some of her classmates and unfortunately, that elastic in her bloomers breaks again.  She falls and sprains her ankle trying to fix it and everyone, including Mr. Fontayne, rushes to see if she’s okay.  Mr. Fontayne sees her fallen bloomers and discreetly takes them so nobody else will see.  Later that night, he visits Margie at home and to return her bloomers.

Just before the prom, Margie’s boyfriend Roy (Alan Young) gets sick and can’t bring her.  Margie’s grandmother helps by arranging for Margie’s father to take her to the dance and she tells Margie she will have a surprise escort.  So when Mr. Fontayne stops by her house just before the dance, Margie is thrilled.  However, he’s only there to drop off a grade.  He’s taking the school librarian to the dance instead, but he says he’d like to take Margie to the next dance.  Although Margie is disappointed, she’s happy to see her father.

Margie has a wonderful time at the prom and lots of guys, including Mr. Fontayne, are eager to dance with her.  But once again, Margie has problems with her bloomers.  This time, she tries to hide it by pretending to faint and, of course, Mr. Fontayne comes to help again.  Cutting back to modern day, Margie and Joyce are in the attic having a good laugh at the story and it turns out Margie went on to marry Mr. Fontayne.

Chris HansenOh, dear.  Talk about your movies that did not age well.  I’m sure audiences found Margie very charming when it was released in 1946.  From my 2013 perspective, though, it’s a movie about an inappropriate relationship disguised as a cute movie.  It’s just hard for me to see it as anything other than a movie about a teenage girl with a harmless crush on an adult teacher with major boundary issues.

If they tried to remake Margie today, no doubt it would feature a special cameo appearance by Chris Hansen from To Catch a Predator, emerging from behind a corner to ask Mr. Fontayne to have a seat.  I really wish I could have been able to see Margie for the sweet, harmless, wholesome movie it was intended to be, but I can’t.