The Fallen Sparrow (1943)

“Another sparrow fell.” If not for the overly complicated plot and the endless, confusing procession of minor characters, The Fallen Sparrow may have been a great film instead of merely a good one. Directed by Richard Wallace, this existential spy thriller was based on the 1942 novel of the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes. John Garfield gives a typically solid performance as John “Kit” McKittrick, who had endured two years of torture as a prisoner during the Spanish Civil War before escaping with the assistance of his longtime friend, Louie Lepetino. When Lepetino, now a New York City police officer, dies under mysterious circumstances, Kit returns home to investigate (he had apparently been recuperating from the war out in Arizona). Kit soon finds himself thrust into a world of danger and intrigue, while also falling under the charm of the alluring and always potentially dangerous Toni Donne (Maureen O’Hara). Kit also believes he is being pursued by one of his former captors, a sadistic maniac with a tell-tale limp. Is Kit losing his mind (he hears the eerie limp wherever he goes) or is he close to busting a major Nazi spy ring? Oh yeah, Kit knows the location of a captured battle flag that might have something to do with his being followed all over New York City and dead bodies cropping up everywhere. Confused yet? I sure am. Somehow Garfield’s performance keeps the film entertaining despite the occasionally inane plot twists. The guy is a total badass and when asked why he carries a gun around, he replies “to shoot people with, sweetheart.” The film features a strong cast that includes John Miljan as “Inspector Tobin,’ Patricia Morrison as Kit’s old flame “Barby Taviton,” Walter Slezak as the creepy, wheelchair-bound “Dr. Christian Skaas,” Martha O’Driscoll as singer “Whitney Parker” and Hugh Beaumont (best known as “Ward Cleaver” from Leave It to Beaver) as “Otto.” Hughes also wrote the 1947 novel In a Lonely Place, which became a classic film noir in 1950 that was directed by Nicholas Ray and starred Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame.

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