“The Big Combo” (1955) starring Cornel Wilde & Richard Conte

Capt. Peterson: You’re a cop, Leonard. There’s 17,000 laws on the books to be enforced. You haven’t got time to reform wayward girls. She’s been with Brown three and a half years. That’s a lot of days… and nights.

This is a lesser-known/low-budget noir w/ snappy dialogue, a jazz score (rare for that period), and fine B&W cinematography. It has its good points, but the femme fatale isn’t compelling, and a few scenes seem slow. A determined cop, Lt. Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde from Leave Her to Heaven), is told to stop surveillance of suave mob boss, Mr. Brown (Richard Conte from Thieves’ Highway). Leonard’s captain says it’s costing the police department too much money w/ no results after 6 mos. Diamond makes one last attempt to uncover evidence against Brown by going to Brown’s girlfriend, Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace- wife of Wilde and resembling Grace Kelly), who is chaperoned by two henchmen- Fante (Lee Van Cleef) and Mingo (Earl Holliman).

Mr. Brown: I’m trying to run an impersonal business. Killing is very personal. Once it gets started, it’s hard to stop.

This was one of the very first American films to imply a man going down on a woman; I was a bit surprised! Brown maneuvers around Susan, stopping briefly at her lips, but then dropping out of frame, seemingly down past her waist. Leonard is clearly having a “friends w/ benefits” relationship w/ the burlesque dancer, Rita (Helene Stanton). Her show outfit is sparkly and skimpy, even by today’s standards. Also, the film openly infers that Fante and Mingo are a gay couple who live together, kill together, and seem to love each other (note the basement scene).

 In a performance brimming with cool menace, Conte is fond of saying `First is first and second is nobody.’

And Brown is obsessed with his prowess with women as Diamond is with capturing him and wooing his moll. The film is filled with risque sexual allusions…

What almost ruined this picture for me was the hideously annoying performance of actress Jean Wallace…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

2 thoughts on ““The Big Combo” (1955) starring Cornel Wilde & Richard Conte

  1. Me neither, until a few days back (on a Fb film noir group I joined recently)! She was one of the model-types who had a big studio contract (BUT was rarely given roles). After she married Wilde, he put her in HIS movies; she had a lot of emotional turmoil in her life.

    Liked by 1 person

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