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Shed No Tears

Posted by martinteller on January 28, 2013

Sam Grover (Wallace Ford), a used cars salesman, has cooked up a scheme with his wife Edna (June Vincent).  He stages a fire, complete with a corpse acquired from an undertaker, so Edna can collect the $50,000 life insurance policy.  He hides out on the other side of the country, waiting for his wife to show up with the cash.  But Edna has other plans.  She intends to leave Sam high and dry while she takes off with her boyfriend Ray (Mark Roberts).  Meanwhile, Tom (Dick Hogan), Sam’s son from a previous marriage, smells a rat.  He thinks Edna killed his father, and hires the eccentric private dick Huntington Stewart (Johnstone White) to prove it.  Huntington immediately catches on to Edna’s scheme and starts trying to cut in on the payoff.

For many years, this long-lost noir was impossible to see.  It had never been aired on television, never had a home video release.  Then a couple of years ago, a print turned up.  It’s not the greatest print, but it’s watchable.  Is it a forgotten masterpiece?  Well… no.  Director Jean Yarbrough cranked out movies by the bucketful, and this is just one of many cheapo quickies in his career.  There’s little in the way of impressive shots or deep atmosphere.

But it ain’t half bad.  Not bad at all, really.  The plot keeps dishing out twist after twist, packing a lot of fun development in its lean 68 minutes.  It’s a blast to see who will go the farthest to get what they want, to see how one person will try to get over on the next guy.  Some of the dialogue is clunky, but some of the lines are pretty juicy.  Performances are mixed.  Vincent isn’t the greatest femme fatale, but she manages well enough with a couple of fine scenes.  And noir regular Ford has some nice, vulnerable moments.  Hogan (a.k.a. the guy who gets killed in Rope) is wholesome and boring.  White comes off best of them, a funny and memorable performance.  For a while you’re not sure if he’s unscrupulous or if he’s just working an angle to get at the truth.  Also keep an eye out for great character actress Mary Treen in a very small role.

It’s a fun story with a killer ending.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in, to the point where you don’t really mind the generally bland camerawork or occasional flat line delivery.  Not a forgotten masterpiece… but a pretty enjoyable noir fix.  Rating: Good (77)


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