The Gangster (1947)

“I knew everything I did was low and rotten. I knew what people thought of me. What difference did it make? What did I care?” An offbeat film noirish crime drama directed by Gordon Wiles, The Gangster was based on a 1937 novel Low Company by Daniel Fuchs (who also wrote the screenplay). Barry Sullivan stars as small-time criminal “Shubunka,” a truly tragic figure who is rapidly losing his grip on the sleazy Neptune Beach waterfront in New York City. With his obsessive preoccupation with beautiful but rather bland nightclub singer “Nancy Starr” (Belita, a former champion skater from the UK) and a rival gang led by “Cornell” (Sheldon Leonard, “Nick the Bartender” from It’s a Wonderful Life) making moves on his territory, Shubunka is on a downward spiral from which there is no escape. It’s not long before Shubunka is wandering aimlessly through the streets alone. The excellent supporting cast includes Joan Lorring, Akim Tamiroff (“Uncle Joe” from Touch of Evil), Harry Morgan, John Ireland (All the King’s Men), Shelley Winters and Elisha Cook Jr. (who appears briefly enough to get slapped around a bit on the beach). Warning: The Gangster is somewhat stagy, takes place primarily at a soda fountain shop (!) and features a lot of phony backdrops. According to rumor, blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo worked on the screenplay. Sullivan and Belita also appeared together in Suspense (1946). Wiles won a Best Art Direction Oscar for the 1931 comedy Transatlantic.

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