Noir Nook: Three with Richard C
In previous posts here at the Noir Nook, I’ve mentioned the classic movie Zoom meetup group that I’ve participated in since spring 2020. One of our recent films was 20th Century Fox’s Cry of the City (1948), starring Victor Mature and Richard Conte. I’ve seen this movie many times, but in watching it again, I was stuck by how good it is, and how underrated!
But that’s not the point of this month’s column.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m a huge (ginormous, even) fan of Richard Conte, and in Cry of the City, as always, he did not disappoint. Sadly, like this film, Conte doesn’t receive the accolades these days that he so richly deserves. So, as a holiday gift from me to you, this month’s Noir Nook is taking a look at three noirs starring this talented actor that you simply must see – even the characters’ names are awesome!
Cry of the City (1948) – Martin Rome
In this Robert Siodmak-directed feature, Conte plays a character from a close-knit, loving family who’s fairly oozing with charm and intelligence. Sadly, he uses his powers for villainy rather than virtue – when we first encounter him, he’s facing surgery after killing a cop during a shootout. The film follows Martin’s path from the prison’s hospital ward and tracks the people he uses in his effort to flee the country with his angelic lady love, Tina (Debra Paget). It’s amazing the number of people who sacrifice their own safety for Martin’s sake – there’s the prison trusty (Walter Baldwin) who helps him escape, the ex-girlfriend (Shelley Winters) who finds an unlicensed doctor to treat Martin’s wound, and the middle-aged nurse (Betty Garde) who spirits Tina from her home and hides her away from the police. Martin’s final showdown with his boyhood friend-now-nemesis Lt. Vittorio Candella (Victor Mature) is a tension-thick standoff that will have you on the edge of your seat.
House of Strangers (1949) – Max Monetti
In House of Strangers, Conte is an attorney, the favorite son of bank proprietor Gino Monetti (Edward G. Robinson), who is characterized by his questionable methods. When Gino is arrested for breaching the statutes of banking, it is only Max who comes to his defense; his three brothers, after enduring years of criticism and ridicule from their father, are only too happy to see him wind up behind bars. Betrayed by his oldest brother (Luther Adler) for bribing a juror, Max is sent to prison for seven years, and emerges bent on revenge. In this feature, Conte plays one of his most multifaceted characters; his Max is at once charismatic, bitter, compassionate, bitter, loyal, and unforgiving.
New York Confidential (1955) – Nick Magellan
If Max Monetti is one of Conte’s most complicated personas, then Nick Magellan is one of his most chilling. A hitman with a heart of steel, Nick is hired by New York syndicate head Charlie Lupo (Broderick Crawford) to rub out a rogue member of his organization. Before long, Nick becomes Lupo’s right-hand man, but he is beset by Lupo’s troubled daughter (Anne Bancroft), his duplicitous mistress (Marilyn Maxwell), and the stress of upholding the syndicate’s stringent set of rules. Nick is not your typical hitman; he’s refined and intelligent, and highly proficient – and cooler than the other side of the pillow.
If you’ve never seen these Richard Conte noirs, do yourself a favor and add them to your watchlist. And if you’re already familiar with them, treat yourself to a rewatch.
You’ll be glad you did.
– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub
You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.
Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:
Another great piece, Karen. I’ve only seen one of these and will seek out the others!