Sunday, February 3, 2013

Try And Get Me (1950)

By Monica Sullivan

It was the last Saturday night in November, 1933, exactly one month before Christmas.  The body of one of the best and brightest young men in San Jose had just been found and his two confessed killers were in jail, awaiting trial.  Only there was no trial.  The town's angry citizens tried and executed the defendants that night and California governor Sunny Jim Rolph praised their actions as he justified his own decision not to send in additional protection for the prisoners.  This may sound like the plot for more than one movie, and it has, in fact, been filmed at least twice before.  (German emigre director Fritz Lang first chose the story for his 1936 American film debut, "Fury")  The San Jose lynching of 1933 was never interpreted better than by the soon-to-be-blacklisted director Cy Endfield in 1950.  

"Try and Get Me" is a little-known film noir classic, focusing on Frank Lovejoy as an ordinary man with no money and no prospects.  His wife and child don't mind, they love him, anyway, but he turns out to be an absolutely vulnerable target for Lloyd Bridges' smooth-talking con man.  Before long, they have pulled several small town robberies, but their big score arrives in the form of a rich young man whom they kidnap and rob.  On a casual, but deliberate, impulse, Bridges kills his victim, sickening Lovejoy whose conscience, too late, kicks into gear.  The two men 'celebrate' their new-found riches by taking in a nightclub with two goodtime girls, but the fundamental decency of Lovejoy's character won't permit him to deny his horror and nausea over the killing.  He pours out a confession to his pickup girl and then staggers home while she summons the police.  Richard Carlson plays a newsman whose articles on the killing stir up the emotions of the townspeople to the point where he feels guilty for his part in the ultimate fate of the prisoners.  However, director Endfield reinforces this point far more effectively by sticking with Frank Lovejoy who conveys anguish with such conviction that he forces audiences to identify with his feelings, if not his actions.  Lloyd Bridges never got a part that demanded more of him than as Lovejoy's amoral partner in crime.  

It was a real loss for American audiences that Endfield, who got his start making "Our Gang'comedies, was forced to leave the country as a result of the Hollywood red scare of that era.  There are some movies that almost defy the term, they seem so real that you'd swear you were tailing real people and eavesdropping on them.  (And the superb, offbeat black-&-white camera work by Guy Roe certainly contributes to that illusion.)  Endfield would later make some excellent British adventure films like "Mysterious Island", but "Try and Get Me" forces viewers to confront their feelings about retributions in a way that no other film then or now has quite been able to match.  It's also known as "Sound And Fury."
© 2013 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 01/23/13
Movie Magazine International

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