The Glass Key (1942)
“The Tougher They Are – The Harder They Fall”
Director: Stuart Heisler
Cast: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy
Synopsis: Political boss Paul Madvig falls for reform politician Ralph Henry’s attractive daughter Janet, despite the caution of his best friend, Ed Beaumont.
I’m not really surprised that Veronica Lake’s movie career didn’t survive beyond the 1940s. There’s a glacial quality to her features, a coldness that prevents her from being a true beauty, and which makes it difficult to warm to her character. Add to that the fact that she was a mediocre actress at best, and you have the probable reasons why her career faltered so quickly. She made a number of movies with Alan Ladd in the 1940s — probably because at under 5ft tall she was small enough to look natural opposite the diminutive leading man without him having to stand on a box — and they were by far the best movies of her career.
In The Glass Key, Ladd plays Ed Beaumont, the sidekick to crooked politician Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy), who is backing Taylor Henry (Richard Denning) for election after falling for Henry’s daughter, Janet (Veronica Lake), much to the irritation of gangster Nick Varma (Joseph Calleia), whose nightclub Madvig closes down as one of his measures to aid Henry’s campaign. When Henry’s son is murdered, Varma implicates Madvig through a newspaper he owns, but Madvig’s pre-occupation with Janet means he fails to see the vulnerability of his position.
The Glass Key is a typically polished Paramount production which was released to cash in on the success of Ladd and Lake’s This Gun for Hire (1941). The solid story is enhanced by an impressive cast of character actors including Joseph Calleia as an agreeably slimy hoodlum complete with a suitably sleazy moustache, and the ever-dependable William Bendix as a thoroughly unlikeable goon of Varma’s who takes inordinate pleasure in administering vicious beatings to Beaumont, whom he refers to as his rubber ball (because he keeps bouncing back). Ladd and Bendix actually became firm friends during the making of the movie, to the point where they actually bought houses on opposite sides of the same street.
(Reviewed 15th August 2013)