Another great thing about doing this here blog is discovering actors I had previously missed. Robert Ryan is one such actor. I know his face well from a couple of classic films, two big favourites of mine too. Playing Deke Thornton in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Col Everett Dasher Breed in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen but you know what I’m ashamed to say I never knew his name or filmography.
The beauty now is I’m on a discovery mission finding heaps of his incredible old films. Just in 2017 I watched all these superb films of his, Act Of Violence (1949), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), The Set-Up (1949) On Dangerous Ground (1951), Executive Action (1973) and Men In War (1957).
Plus I have these lined up to see this year, Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), House Of Bamboo (1955) The Naked Spur (1953) and The Outfit (1973). Plus add to that The Professionals (1966) I’ve seen it but so long ago I can’t really remember it, can’t wait for a refresher.
The guy is like an enigma, what with his tall 6ft 4in imposing frame, good looks and forthright approach, he easily makes a convincing detective, army officer or even sheriff. Contradictory to this though we often find that he switches between not only playing good guys but also just plain bad guys or a character on a curve to redemption. It’s really a flip of a coin to which Robert Ryan you gonna get this time!
From being in the United States Marine Corps, holding a heavyweight boxing title throughout school to becoming a pacifist and hands on Civil Rights activist, some of his films performances must of been tough on him. With that flippable switch into prejudiced and violent characters must of been against a lot of what he stood for. Being the talented actor he is though doesn’t seem to stop him giving absolute, fantastic heartfelt, sometimes broken, convincing and wonderful moments on screen.
I’m always trying to step away from reading any or very little plot detail as I possibly can, it’s always a pleasure to discover which character trait he will be taking on. So just a few days ago I got to see the noir classic Crossfire (1947) and what a tour de force performance by Mr Robert Ryan once again. He was so good alongside the excellent cast but hey which way is he going to go? Good or bad?
Crossfire is a brave film by director Edward Dmytryk tackling anti-semitism only a few years after the end of World War 2. After a Jewish man Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene) is found dead, a murder investigation is lead by pipe smoking police investigator Captain Finlay (Robert Young). He has to unravel the puzzle of what happened when a bunch of drunk soldiers are caught hanging around the murdered victims apartment.
Lead by Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) and his company of men including Montgomery (Robert Ryan) and Cpl. Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper) and a bunch of of soldiers, they all find themselves being interrogated to discover who would do such a violent crime with no real motive. Can Captain Finlay and his trusty team of cops find who the guilty man is?
This was based on a book called The Brick Foxhole by Richard Brooks with the hate crime being switched from homophobia to anti-semitism. I guess what with the war just finishing and with the inevitability the film censor’s would of had kittens back then for the controversial homosexual content. I’ve read that Robert Ryan knew the author from his army days and requested if the book is ever put into film production that he would love to play a part.
This is a real bonafid classic noir drama and with Edward Dmytryk at the helm he deals out a stylish, fast paced mystery whodunit with a deep message.
Hate Is Like A Loaded Gun!