One of my favourite actors of Hollywood’s Robert Mitchum. A pot-smoking, wisecracking playboy, he embraced the hedonistic heyday of Hollywood’s post-war golden age and still managed to deliver some truly mesmerising performances (Out of the Past, Angel Face and the notorious Night of the Hunter are pretty great starting points).
A new-ish kid on the block, Mitchum turned up in the 1947 crime thriller Crossfire, directed by war-drama pioneer Edward Dmytryk. With a typically noir plot of a murder investigation amongst war vets, headed by the tempetuous Montgomery (Robert Ryan). It’s down to man of morals, Robert Young’s gumshoe detective to track down the murderer at loose amongst the ranks, meanwhile the captivating Gloria Grahame crops up briefly to throw some sexy mystique into the mix as a high-profile lady of the night.
An ensemble cast of excellent players, the maladroit, message-laden script fails to give them any space to perform. That is with the one notably exception of the towering Robert Ryan, who’s natural menace brings some life to the languid plot.
It’s unfortunate that Crossfire’s context of production is far more interesting than the movie itself. Adapted from the Richard Brooks novel (the man behind 1967’s In Cold Blood adaptation), screenplay writer John Paxton and Dmytryk had to shift the subject of prejudice from homophobia to anti-semtism, as the former was still considered as a ‘sexual perversion’ by America’s Motion Picture doctrine. It’s a great shame, as the bubbling subtext of four reckless men at war together, struggling with their loneliness and emotions, would have made for a far more interesting movie.