“The Big Heat” (1953) starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, & Jocelyn Brando

[1] Glenn Ford is super bad ass in this film . He is 100% convincing as a complex man living in 2 worlds. Family life vs. the crime underworld.

It is some of the best writing in film noir history. Almost every line is a gem. There are tons of one-liners.

[2] He conveys so much in a look, a facial expression. And you are with him the whole way; he comes just close to the edge, but not so that he loses your sympathy.

[3] Glenn Ford now looks like one of the most quietly powerful actors of Hollywood`s “Golden Age”… He had a rare ability to portray a kind of slow-burn tension…

[4] Gloria Grahame was born for roles like this one, both tough and vulnerable, the ultimate tragic moll.

-Excerpts from reviews on Amazon

This (must-see) film noir is directed by a giant of this genre- Fritz Lang. It’s based on the novel by former Philly crime reporter William P. McGivern. It’s included on Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” list and received an 100% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. In the town of Kenport, Sgt Dave Bannion is an on the trail of a criminal syndicate which he suspects holds power over the local police force. Bannion is tipped off after another cop’s suicide; his fellow officers’ suspicious silence lead him to believe that they’re being paid off. When tragedy hits home, Bannion seeks revenge; he gets help from the gangster’s spurned girlfriend, Debby. They must use any means necessary to get to the truth.

Executive Producer Jerry Wald hoped to cast either Paul Muni, George Raft, or Edward G. Robinson as Bannion. It’s tough to imagine anyone else besides Glenn Ford in this role; he makes it look effortless. The best acting is in the eyes; if it’s not coming from w/in, the audience won’t find it believable. As has been said of Jimmy Stewart, I think that Ford was a great listener. You get the sense that he’s “in the moment” as he’s playing a scene opposite his fellow actors.

Bannion’s devoted wife, Katie, is played by Marlon Brando’s older sister, Jocelyn, who has looks and talent, too. In their domestic scenes, Brando and Ford have an easy chemistry, making them a relatable/happy couple. Columbia wanted to borrow Marilyn Monroe from 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Debby Marsh, but Fox’s price was too high, so Gloria Grahame was cast instead. Grahame is flirty, funny, vulnerable, and (eventually) takes control of her own story. The gangster, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin), has a quick/dangerous temper; he only fears the most powerful mobster in the area. There is violence against women (described and shown); some lines were unusual for the era. You can rent it on Amazon or YouTube.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.