Despite the unfortunate Hollywood ending, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this remake of Le Jour se leve (1939).
The film begins with the sound of a shot and a man falling down the stairs dead. It sets up the character of Joe Adams (Henry Fonda) barricaded in his apartment with no means of escape and contemplating how he got himself in this mess. The story then segues into flashback.
Joe is an ordinary working class guy who returned from the war to take up his old job as a welder. He meets young, naive Jo Ann (Barbara Bel Geddes) who comes to his workshop to deliver flowers. The two are taken by how much they have in common, starting with their first names. In addition, they were both raised in the same orphanage and seem to share a fundamental loneliness. It is love at first sight for Joe. The two start seeing each other.
Unfortunately, magician Maximilian the Great (Vincent Price) has already set his sights on the gullible girl. He is the worst kind of cad as is well known by his former mistress and assistant Charlene (Ann Dvorak). Charlene ends the relationship and tries flirting with Joe but he only has eyes for Jo Ann. Maximillian remains intent on getting into the pants of his victim and resorts to increasingly desperate lies and intimidation. The rest of the story focuses on Joe’s disillusionment and rage. With Elisha Cook Jr. as a blind man.
This film gets kind of mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it despite the corny Hollywood ending that undercuts the tragic tale told in the original. I really like Fonda when his character is at war with the world and he is excellent here. It was a treat to see Ann Dvorak back on screen after too long. I didn’t even recognize her until I saw her name in the credits. Price is suitably smarmy and despicable. Added to all these pleasures is some gorgeous noir cinematography by Sol Polito and excellent staging by Anatole Litvak.
Clip -near the conclusion