Film Review – THE GLASS KEY (1942)

THE GLASS KEY (1942, USA, 85m, PG) ***½
Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures; d. Stuart Heisler; w. Jonathan Latimer (based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett); ph. Theodor Sparkuhl (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Victor Young; ed. Archie Marshek; ad. Haldane Douglas, Hans Dreier.
cast: Brian Donlevy (Paul Madvig), Veronica Lake (Janet Henry), Alan Ladd (Ed Beaumont), Bonita Granville (Opal Madvig), Richard Denning (Taylor Henry), Joseph Calleia (Nick Varna), William Bendix (Jeff), Frances Gifford (Nurse), Donald MacBride (Farr), Margaret Hayes (Eloise Matthews), Moroni Olsen (Ralph Henry), Eddie Marr (Rusty), Arthur Loft (Clyde Matthews), George Meader (Claude Tuttle).
This complex film noir was the second adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s 1931 novel, which had previously been filmed in 1935 as a vehicle for George Raft. Donlevy is the crooked politician who finds himself being accused of the murder of the son of a prospective Baltimore governor by a gangster (Calleia) from whom he refused help during a re-election campaign. Ladd is Donlevy’s right-hand man who is encouraged by the victim’s sister (Lake) to find the real killer whilst protecting his boss’s interests. Ladd gets to essay his tough-guy persona, whilst Lake’s alluring performance and the pair’s obvious chemistry helps elevate the film’s stature. Bendix is also memorable as Calleia’s heavy – the beating he gives Ladd is particularly brutal. The plot twists, however, are perhaps too plentiful whilst Heisler’s direction and Latimer’s dialogue is often heavy-handed. The film’s production followed hot on the heels of the previous year’s successful adaptation of Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON. Ladd and Lake, who had earlier appeared in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), would go on to make seven movies together.