Tuesday, 30 April 2013

APRIL 3O, 2013

090 BABY FACE NELSON (1957) Directed by Donald Siegel ****

Don Siegel once stated that his real forte was comedy although he didn't get much chance to try his hand at the genre. When he did make a couple of comedies at the end of his career they were pretty disastrous and very unfunny. No, I'm sorry Don, I'm afraid you will rightly be remembered for your crime films for they were your true forte, even if you didn't think so. Films like MADIGAN, CHARLEY VARRICK, DIRTY HARRY, COOGAN'S BLUFF are for me the best Siegel movies (along with his classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) and I have fond memories of some of his earlier smaller budget efforts like THE LINEUP, which like BABY FACE NELSON is so rarely, if ever, seen today. BABY FACE NELSON was part of the 1950's gangster cycle that included such excellent films as Richard Wilson's AL CAPONE and Budd Boetticher's THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND but for many years the film has eluded me. But now somebody has kindly uploaded a copy to You Tube. It is a poor copy but beggars can't be choosers and I am grateful to finally see it. I certainly wasn't disappointed. Although far from historically accurate the film is tough and gritty and thankfully makes no attempt to turn Nelson into a Robin Hood character (which would be pretty difficult!) and he is played superbly by Mickey Rooney who gives one of the best performances of his long career. Carolyn Jones, best remembered these days as Morticia in THE ADDAMS FAMILY television series is excellent as his girlfriend. The rest of the cast features some of my favourite character actors from the period - Leo Gordon (as Dillinger - see below)), Anthony Caruso, Jack Elam, John Hoyt, Elisha Cook Jr, Emil Meyer and Ted De Corsia. Sir Cedric Hardwicke also turns up, cast against type, a a lecherous old doctor. Siegel's direction is fast and snappy making this one of his best films of the period.  A nice good condition print on DVD would be a real treat.

Baby Face Nelson

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