Lee J. Cobb

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.

Green Mansions (1959)

Green Mansions PosterAfter his father is killed by rebels, Abel (Anthony Perkins) heads into the Venezuelan wilderness to avenge his death and find a rumored cache of gold. Along the way, he encounters a tribe of natives and wins the respect of their chief Runi (Sessue Hayawaka) and his son Kua-Ko (Henry Silva). Abel is allowed to stay with the tribe, as long as he doesn’t hurt them. Kua-Ko warns Abel to stay out of a nearby jungle, which of course only makes Abel want to go explore them. While getting a drink at a pond, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious woman in the reflection.

When the tribe finds out that Abel has gone into the forbidden jungle, Runi wants Abel to go back to kill the woman. Instead, he goes back to warn her, but before he can, is bitten by a very poisonous snake. He awakens two days later to find himself being cared for by the mysterious woman, named Rima (Audrey Hepburn), and her grandfather Nuflo (Lee J. Cobb). Abel will need a few more days to fully recover, and while staying with Rima, who has been living in the jungle with her grandfather since she was a child. She shows him around the jungle and while he falls in love with her, Rima is confused by her feelings for him.

Abel returns to the tribe a few days later and after explaining that he couldn’t kill Rima, the tribe doesn’t believe him and Kua-Ko vows to kill her himself. Abel runs to warn Rima and Nuflo and together they flee, but along the way, Rima learns some upsetting truths about her grandfather and the childhood she longs to remember.

Oh, dear. I took a break from  the Every Simpsons Ever marathon on FXX for this? Green Mansions is just a mess of a movie. Anthony Perkins is one of the least believable adventurer types I have ever seen. He is woefully out of place here and his performance is as wooden as a lumber yard. Audrey Hepburn isn’t particularly good in it, either, which is hugely disappointing. There’s absolutely no chemistry between her and Perkins, the story wasn’t very interesting, and the whole thing just left me wishing I had spent those two hours watching something else.