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Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby moira finnie » February 1st, 2013, 12:05 pm

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Just saw The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947-Felix E. Feist) for the first time recently, and a good print can be seen in its entirety here online. I loved the film, though Lawrence Tierney's cold allure has never appealed to me in any of his movies. I do wonder if being successful in roles that played upon his eerily symmetrical, mask-like face and New York tendency to talk out of the side of his mouth at the start of his career may have depressed the actor, encouraging his descent into an off-screen behavior characterized by chronic belligerence and his alcoholism. Reading a memoir by (of all people!) heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, I discovered that in her acting school period (the rich lady tried on many artistic masks in her quest for individuality), she found him to be rather sweet and appealing, until she encountered his reluctance to listen to directors and others, especially after drinking. I have also read that others found that he had a poetic streak, reciting poems and passages from Yeats and O'Neill at a certain point in his average evening ritualistic drinking. At least his brother Scott Brady seems to have escaped some of the pitfalls of his brother's life and career.

The ultimate road trip movie features Lawrence Tierney as a thief and murderer who casually commandeers an inebriated salesman (Ted North) and his slick coupe, horning his way into the car when it is merely stopped at red light. Eventually, Tierney manages to add two stranded women to the "party" and causes more mayhem along the sojourn, challenging the fragile hold of each member of the group and those they meet along the way to reassess their role in life--until a shocking development and a tidy (if rushed) denouement seems to put things on an upward path again (yeah, right!).

Regarding The Devil Thumbs a Ride, I would have been jumping out of the car the minute that jerk Steve Morgan (Tierney) started in on me with the soft soap and the once-over, but I must admit that the susceptible Nan Leslie's general guilelessness seems slightly (and chillingly) reminiscent of a girl who used to look back at me from the mirror. ( I like to think that I was never this dim or deluded about flattery or life's possibilities, but that may be one more reminder of the youthful sap I once was).

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Above: Nan Leslie, playing a sap with my sympathy.

I can't quite believe it, but in college I used to hitch hike all the time! In retrospect I now realize that I had some narrow misses (my guardian angel must have been sprouting some gray feathers in those years), I did survive--though I would never, ever recommend that anyone do this today. In the late '70s and early '80s in college communities this mode of transportation was then fairly common, and one of my more hare-brained, pathetically feeble attempts at being "cool," something I gave up on a long time ago.

In this movie, I particularly liked the floozie that Nan was traveling with played by the "chews nails, spits rust" tough gal Betty Lawford, seen below.
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That cheerful bimbo had no qualms about anything, including riding shotgun with a murderer, sleeping in a stranger's sheets, and lapping up any alcohol she could find. As I watched the movie I kept picturing her as a refugee from the thirties--I kept thinking of her as one of the more out-of-step girls in the chorus line in 42nd Street (1933), who had been on the road too long, staying until the last candle burned low at both ends. How surprised was I to learn that the English-born Lawford (who was a cousin of Peter and the daughter of an internationally known character actor E.E. Lawford) had played a chaste rose opposite Leslie Howard in the romantic Berkeley Square (1933), had originated the role of "Crystal Allen" in The Women on Broadway (I bet Crystal had a lot of brass in that production), and, well, lived quite a bit off-stage and screen. A quick search through newspaper archives reveals that Betty cut quite a striking figure on screen (she was once described as "dainty" in an early movie review), stage, as well as the night club and race track scene in her day--witnessing fights, whispering sweet nothings to everyone from FDR adviser Harry Hopkins to noted silent and pre-code director Monta Bell--to whom she was married for much of the '30s. How sad that The Devil Thumbs a Ride was her last film and she was only 48 when she died in 1960.

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Betty Lawford, Ted North, Lawrence Tierney and Nan Leslie on a road trip to the dark side in The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947).

The seemingly relentless way that the shark-like Tierney character exploited and manipulated every person's weakness was pretty impressive, though it hardly seemed demonic to me. The unfeeling manner in which he took over the group seemed to happen while the other individuals were blithely unaware of his maneuvering. No one really seemed shocked by his casually brutal remarks about the big ears of the toddler daughter of the gas station attendant as well as his insulting remarks to Agnes Smith (Lawford) didn't seem to evoke much response from anyone, though the gas jockey seemed to be the most competent individual of all (even besting the cops). I felt that the inebriated "family man" Ted North could have found a way to shake off his trio of companions earlier, but his sudden realization of his vulnerability and the changeable nature of his true identity might have made him question his entire life. BTW, I realize that Ted North appeared in several movies during the '40s and was married to "B" actress Mary Beth Hughes--even though he was "introduced" as Michael North in Michael Curtiz's The Unsuspected (1947)--but does anyone know what happened to him after that time?

I'm guessing that this movie probably stuck to the grind house circuit when it was first shown, since it clearly violated Production Code tenets, though the way that the story played out, it was actually deeply pessimistic about human nature and as stark as as a Medieval Morality play about possible redemption. It was particularly interesting how little help came from institutions or deities helping us when the chips are down, a theme that Feist explored further in The Threat, Tomorrow Is Another Day and This Woman Is Dangerous.
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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby RedRiver » February 1st, 2013, 4:03 pm

This sounds like the kind of no budget crime film I enjoy. Tierney was an intriguing actor.

I can't quite believe it, but in college I used to hitch hike all the time!

Times have changed. At least, our perception of society has. We think we're in danger every time we leave the house. We may be overreacting. But all we hear, day in/day out, is violence and murder. I rode the thumb a little in college. Like you, I wouldn't do it now. I doubt it was ever really safe for a woman. I'm glad you did OK!

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby JackFavell » February 14th, 2013, 10:42 am

I watched The Devil Thumbs a Ride yesterday, and Framed a couple of years ago on TCM's Glenn Ford tribute.

Spoilers Thumb a Ride

Moira, I'm so glad you wrote about the marvelous Betty Lawford, who immediately caught my attention and held it. I'm quite sure I've seen her before, but I don't know where. This film was mighty fine, but without her, I doubt it would have been as entertaining. ChiO brings up a fascinating point, that Lawford and Tierney are the two who actually seem the most honest about what they are in the whole movie! I enjoyed very much how Tierney was able to pinpoint each character's own flaws and foibles, and their fear of revealing themselves in a split second, and turn it against his traveling companions.

The cops were very interesting in this film - more willing to invest time in their poker game than in catching the killer Tierney. And the night watchman! Don't even get me started....

I thought Nan Leslie brought a little complexity to her role, I was surprised when she revealed that Tierney had pegged her right as a wanna be starlet. She proved very competent when push came to shove, and I liked her tremendously. I really was shocked when she ended up the way she did, very Black Dahlia. It made me wonder if he'd had time to mess with her before he dumped her under that dock? All the actors here were spot on. Ted North was also in The Ox Bow Incident, but I cannot find a thing about him after 1947. It's eerie, usually there's a trail to be found but there is nothing. It's a very noir ending for him, disappearing without a trace like that after his divorce from Mary Beth Hughes.

The other thing I couldn't help noticing, and it's all in the timing of watching this film right after Loretta Young's SOTM turn, is how the themes here resemble those in THE STRANGER. There is something pre-red scare in these two films, a fear of letting something take you, take over your town, your lives. A warning to be vigilant against evil coming unsupecting into your life and finding a home in your own soul. I guess, that is actually the entire meaning of noir, now that I think about it... :D but these two movies are clear examples of a kind of thinking that was prevalent at the end of the war, a fear of a second Nazi uprising, a fear that somehow, we could never take things for granted again, never put the blinders back on and just be innocent and carefree. No more small town thinking.

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby Vienna » February 14th, 2013, 10:49 am

I've just seen Devil Thumbs a Ride and was very interested to read comments about Betty Lawford. She certainly stood out in this film and it's fascinating that she was related to Peter Lawford.
How amazing that she originated the role of Crystal in The Women!

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby CineMaven » February 14th, 2013, 2:53 pm

SPOILED THUMBS GIVE THE DEVIL A RIDE!

Aaaaaah, "THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE." I watched it recently, and THAT's what convinced me that Lawrence Tierney must have really been certifiable. He was soooo galling in this movie. Wheedling his way in. I usually suspend my disbelief, but I did want the young man to just pull over, ask Tierney to check if the trunk was open, and then peeeeeeel off into the night! Or when he spoke to his wife on the phone, why didn't he tell her to call the cops. Or...or...or. ACK!!!

I liked the movie. And Tierney is fascinating to watch...from decades away...in my solitude. Whew!!! There's no escape. Wendy, you say:
It made me wonder if he'd had time to mess with her before he dumped her under that dock?

He's a brute. An animal. My money is on him AFTER he dumps her. Whew! I'm telling you, once you're in Tierney's clutches...death won't stop him. I saw him recently in "THE HOODLUM" and the boy is baaad news.

I liked the young hero...the young driver. Are you saying HE was married to Mary Beth Hughes? MARY BETH HUGHES??!! Maybe Ted North is the counter part to the Lost Women Robert writes about. His character didn't seem like he feared Tierney. Guess Larry wasn't full-blown psycho in this one. That boozy Agnes,( Betty Lawford ) was a piece of work, wasn't she. She'd sell you down the river for two bits without a second thought. She was common and cheap and blowsy and and perfect for this noir-y nightmare. Ugh!!! Help a sister out instead of makin' yourself a sandwich and readin' a magazine, why don'cha.

I loved the cops in this movie. No, they may not have been Dick Tracy but I knew they'd get their psycho man. Gosh Tierney was sooooooooo durned cunning it was hard not to be attracted to him. But him being so unkind about the gas station attendant's daughter turned me so against him. ( I felt for Nan though! ) I loved that little gas station attendant. Made me think of the attendant in "The Killers." I liked how the movie unfolded. How WE could see all his tricks, and how the pack of 'em were clueless.

The Red Scare Wendy?? Ha! I'm more afraid NOW than ever!
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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby JackFavell » February 16th, 2013, 1:00 pm

Aaaaaah, "THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE." I watched it recently, and THAT's what convinced me that Lawrence Tierney must have really been certifiable. He was soooo galling in this movie. Wheedling his way in. I usually suspend my disbelief, but I did want the young man to just pull over, ask Tierney to check if the trunk was open, and then peeeeeeel off into the night! Or when he spoke to his wife on the phone, why didn't he tell her to call the cops. Or...or...or. ACK!!!


Ha! I felt the same way - I reeeeeeeally wanted Ted to just get outta there, take off without him or something, but of course, that's not human nature is it? And Tierney was a master at reading people.

He's a brute. An animal. My money is on him AFTER he dumps her. Whew! I'm telling you, once you're in Tierney's clutches...death won't stop him. I saw him recently in "THE HOODLUM" and the boy is baaad news.


WHOA! spit take!!!! Oh my lordy what a picture you put in my head....

but yeah. I have THE HOODLUM somewhere around. I'll have to go look for it. These Tierney noirs are kind of like kitty crack for me. I wish I could see him in a film where he didn't have such cold inexpressive eyes. I'd like to see him really stretch and have some angst, not just cause it.

I liked the young hero...the young driver. Are you saying HE was married to Mary Beth Hughes? MARY BETH HUGHES??!! Maybe Ted North is the counter part to the Lost Women Robert writes about. His character didn't seem like he feared Tierney. Guess Larry wasn't full-blown psycho in this one. That boozy Agnes,( Betty Lawford ) was a piece of work, wasn't she. She'd sell you down the river for two bits without a second thought. She was common and cheap and blowsy and and perfect for this noir-y nightmare. Ugh!!! Help a sister out instead of makin' yourself a sandwich and readin' a magazine, why don'cha.


I love that idea - a male version of LOST WOMEN. I'd immediately add Ray MacDonald to the list.

She was awful, but she also didn't end up dead either. I can't say enough about how good Betty Lawford was. Trippy that she's related to Peter Lawford. It must have been the Peter who was in Dead Ringer, not the Peter of Lassie. I can see the Peter of Dead Ringer inviting Betty over for some boozing and petty thievery, all at Bette Davis' expense.

I loved the cops in this movie. No, they may not have been Dick Tracy but I knew they'd get their psycho man. Gosh Tierney was sooooooooo durned cunning it was hard not to be attracted to him. But him being so unkind about the gas station attendant's daughter turned me so against him. ( I felt for Nan though! ) I loved that little gas station attendant. Made me think of the attendant in "The Killers." I liked how the movie unfolded. How WE could see all his tricks, and how the pack of 'em were clueless.


Gas Station Attendant in DTAR = attendant in The Killers = merry go round mechanic in Strangers on a Train. Do you mean the guy in the killers who runs the diner? or someone else?

Hey, didn't Tierney step on a kid's hand at the beginning of the film? I actually loved that scene. It set everything up right away, and it made me laugh. OK, so I'm a little cold blooded myself. It just was so different from any of the corny MGM type movies that you have to appreciate the moment.

The Red Scare Wendy?? Ha! I'm more afraid NOW than ever![/quote]

You have a point. Sheesh. how many days left, and congress takes a vacay? Now that's cold blooded.

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby CineMaven » February 16th, 2013, 4:19 pm

JACK FAVELL wrote:Gas Station Attendant in DTAR = attendant in The Killers = merry go round mechanic in Strangers on a Train. Do you mean the guy in the killers who runs the diner? or someone else?

I'm meaning the guy in "The Killers" who helps Lancaster run the gas station. He's in the Diner in the beginning and is told to warn the Swede that the killers are after him.

Hey, didn't Tierney step on a kid's hand at the beginning of the film? I actually loved that scene. It set everything up right away, and it made me laugh. OK, so I'm a little cold blooded myself. It just was so different from any of the corny MGM type movies that you have to appreciate the moment.
Hey, I don't remember a kid getting his hand stepped on. Sheesh! When Larry comes walking down the street, cross over to the other side.

The Red Scare Wendy?? Ha! I'm more afraid NOW than ever!
You have a point. Sheesh. how many days left, and congress takes a vacay? Now that's cold blooded.

Yeah. That's why I understand 'em. I watch a lot of "B" movies. Ted Cruz reminds me of Joseph McCarthy. Mitch McConnell reminds me of ( actor ) Edward Andrews. And listen, no hiding under the desk will help us. Gypsies, tramps and thieves. Uhmmm...no disrespect to thieves.

P.S. My money is on Ashley Judd.
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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby CineMaven » February 16th, 2013, 4:36 pm

...A little bit of history, repeating.
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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby JackFavell » February 16th, 2013, 6:10 pm

Hey, I think the little kid getting his hand stepped on is in Violent Saturday, maybe, not Devil Thumbs a Ride. I can't remember....

I do remember the young kid warning the Swede now.

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby ChiO » February 16th, 2013, 6:39 pm

I do not recall any child's hand being stepped on in THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE, but a Mr. Lee Marvin most certainly steps on a child's hand in VIOLENT SATURDAY (and he enjoys it...Mr. Marvin that is, not the child).
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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby JackFavell » February 16th, 2013, 8:31 pm

Forgive me for getting Lee Marvin mixed up with Lawrence Tierney. I think you can see how easy a mistake it was to make.

I still like that scene. :D

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby RedRiver » February 17th, 2013, 4:26 pm

Mitch McConnell looks like somebody stepped on his face!

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby RedRiver » February 17th, 2013, 4:26 pm

Mitch McConnell looks like somebody stepped on his face!

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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby CineMaven » February 20th, 2013, 8:29 pm

ImageImage

I'm skeeved out by both of them. The real and the reel. Shiver me timbers!
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Re: Two Bs from 1947: FRAMED and THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE

Postby JackFavell » February 21st, 2013, 7:31 am

Ha!


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