"Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse." This hard-hitting crime melodrama offers excellent direction from the always interesting Nicholas Ray and a fine performance from Bogart as Andrew Morton a crusading attorney.
Morton's latest crusade involves saving Nick Romano (Derek), an embittered slum youth, from the electric chair. Piecing together the young man's story in flashback, Morton describes Nick's crooked early life and his brief happiness with Emma (Roberts). Already having difficulty holding down a job,
Nick really cracks when Emma tells him she's pregnant. His return to thievery gets worse after Emma commits suicide, and Nick's crime spree climaxes with his murder of a policeman. An expert liar who makes the most of his boyish good looks, Nick has convinced Morton of his innocence, only to crack
when district attorney Kerman (Macready) asks about Emma.
Ray really makes us feel the oppressive filth and poverty of slum life, conjuring considerable sympathy for the distinctly dislikable Nick Romano. A problem even he couldn't surmount, however, was John Derek. Making his film debut here, pretty boy Derek constructs his dull performance with
scissors, cardboard and library paste. The role could have ignited the screen, but Derek's high-school histrionics make for a pretty wet blanket. Bogart, on the other hand, does quite well, even if principled attorney Morton recalls the actor's fledgling days in MARKED WOMAN more than any of the
classic Bogie roles. Straightforward virtue was never his strong suit, but Bogart nevertheless does a great job with his long climactic courtroom speech.
Not as memorable as Bogart's other collaboration with director Ray, the haunting IN A LONELY PLACE, this film still makes for absorbing viewing. Sequel: LET NO MAN WRITE MY EPITAPH.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: "Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse." This hard-hitting crime melodrama offers excellent direction from the always interesting Nicholas Ray and a fine performance from Bogart as Andrew Morton a crusading attorney. Morton's latest crusade… (more)