Looking Backward: Larceny, Inc. (1942)

21 Jul

larcenyincLike Rififi, except with all the bleakness and ennui replaced with Wacky, Larceny, Inc. was a fun little fluffball. But plot machinations are no fun to recapitulate, so let’s talk abot

The Warner Brothers character actor bench was bottomless, wasn’t it?* And in the studio system’s glory days, one week’s major supporting role was next week’s glorified walk-on.

Exempla gratis: the fellow Robinson buys the luggage shop, who summarily disappears, are Harry Davenport (to me, Merle Oberon’s gleefully wicked uncle in The Cowboy and the Lady, but also a director of early silents, Dr. Meade in Gone With the Wind, Mr. Dr.Barnes in Little Women (1949) and a plethora of Judges (Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer) and Grandpas (Meet Me in St. Louis).

The minor role of nearby merchant Sam Bacharach went to John Qualen, already playing an old man before he had even had a chance to talk in an extravagant Swedish accent in random Westerns, sea adventures, and of course His Girl Friday, The Grapes of Wrath, The Seventh Seal and Casablanca. Reasonable pedigree for a man who never was nor shall be a household name.

There’s even a tiny turn by a young Jackie Gleason doing a modified early version of a Joe the Bartender/Poor Soul amalgam. Young Jane Wyman. Young Anthony Quinn as a convict. Broderick Crawford as a lunkhead whose head keeps getting lunked. It’s packed, for a forgotten little bit of silliness.

And did I mention Edward Brophy?

edward-brophy-1-sizedOn another front, I don’t want to ruin something lovely by mentioning it in a way that will make it evident instead of seamless, but watch Edward G. Robinson’s, anytime but especially in comedy. The gestures are simultaneously a little clichéd and perfect. It’s also entirely possible that they only seem cliché because so many actors looked to Robinson for inspiration. The man is inarguably awfully good at his job.

Again, a relaxing fluffball, but one packed with quality people who did their jobs with clarity and precision. And also Jack Carson.

 

 

 

*Unless you count Jack Carson as the bottom. I’d hear that argument.

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