Monday, July 13, 2015

T-Men

The 1947 Blogathon is exactly what it says on the tin, hosted by Speakeasy and Shadows & Satin. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the link at S&S.

T-Men
YouTube viewing

T-Men continues my foray into the film career of director Anthony Mann. You may remember my post earlier this year on Raw Deal and, much earlier, Bend of the River. I think what I like about Mann's movies is the direct approach he took with his stories. He didn't fool around with too much in the way of subplots or characterization, but that may have been a by-product of the genres he worked in - crime and westerns.

This one's a "true crime" story about undercover treasury agents busting up a counterfeiting ring. Watching this, I was reminded a little bit of the old crime comics from the same period of time, such as Crime Does Not Pay and the EC Comics such as Crime SuspenStories and Crime Patrol. These and other genre titles were the medium's equivalent of pre-code films; they were known for pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in comics before the moral watchdogs of society stepped in and forced the industry to adopt their own version of the Hays Code. 



T-Men, like many of those true crime comics, particularly Crime Does Not Pay, takes an authoritative approach to its story. It begins with an introduction by an actual former Treasury Department bigwig who explains the real life case this film is based on, drawing comparisons to the Al Capone case, and then a Naked City-type narrator takes over for the rest of the film. Dennis O'Keefe, who was the bad guy in Raw Deal, is the good guy here. His tough guy persona kinda reminds me a bit of Sterling Hayden or even William Holden - a very no-nonsense type who never descends into camp.



T-Men is quite dark visually. Even the interiors in places like hotel rooms and fancy apartments are shrouded in menacing shadow at times. The cinematographer was named John Alton, who worked with Mann on Raw Deal (I noted some of the clever compositions in that film) and other movies of his, and would go on to share an Oscar win for his work on An American in Paris. He also worked on Father of the Bride, The Brothers Karamazov, Elmer Gantry and The Birdman of Alcatraz, among many others.



I don't know how big a problem counterfeiting is today, but I remember it was something I was taught to be cognizant of, at the least, when I worked in retail. We'd have one of those special pens that you had to use to mark the big bills to test the paper, and we'd have to hold the big bills up to the light to look for a certain strip woven into the paper, things like that. And of course, there'd always be one dumbass customer who'd say "Oh, yeah, it's real, I made it myself!" or something like that.

Anyway, this is another cool movie from Anthony Mann. Now I gotta get back into his westerns...

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Other films from 1947:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Miracle on 34th Street
Lady in the Lake
Dark Passage
Nightmare Alley

14 comments:

  1. In my alternate movie universe, Wallace Ford gets an Oscar nomination as Schemer and Jane Randolph gets a credit; a big credit.

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  2. Um... which character was Jane Randolph?

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    1. Jane Randolph was Diane Simpson, the face of the mob. A real big shot. She was one of the leads in another of Mann's 1947 releases, "Railroaded!" and it is very odd to see someone with such an important role go uncredited.

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    2. Okay, I know who you're talking about now. That is odd. That wasn't exactly a blink-and-you-miss-her cameo.

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  3. Great pick -- I'm a big fan of Anthony Mann and John Alton, and this one ranks up there with their best, in my opinion. It's been years since I've seen it, though -- and you've just made me plan on re-watching it soon! Thanks so much for this interesting contribution to the blogathon!

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  4. Good choice, nice raw little crime picture, O'Keefe is great. Thanks for posting on this one for the blogathon.

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  5. Ooh – an Anthony Mann noir that I haven't seen. Your description of the cinematography sounds fantastic. This is gonna be great – thanks!

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  6. In T-MEN in particular, the unusual camera shots serve the story, and for the time period, they can't help but stand out.

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  7. I've recently discovered an appreciation for Mann so good to know he still has films I'm yet to watch. 1947 really was a stellar year!
    (Vicki, GirlsDoFilm - I can't comment with my wordpress account!)

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  8. The Jimmy Stewart westerns are supposed to be the best ones. I'd start there.

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  9. Well done, Rich. But this cracked me up: "... there'd always be one dumbass customer who'd say "Oh, yeah, it's real, I made it myself!" or something like that."

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  10. It's true! Or at least it was.

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