Midnight Snack: THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (2Oth Century-Fox 1950)

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF made it’s TCM debut last Saturday night on Noir Alley, hosted by “The Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller. This is a ‘B’ film I’d never heard of before, and since you all know how much I love discovering new/old ‘B’ movies, I stayed up past the midnight hour to give it a watch (which I usually do on Saturday nights anyway, being a Noir Alley fan!).

The film doesn’t waste any time, quickly introducing the main characters and getting right into the story. Thinking her husband is planning to murder her, rich San Francisco socialite Lois Frazer guns him down in cold blood directly in front of her lover, Homicide Lt. Ed Cullen. Ed dumps the body at the airport to make it look like a robbery/murder, tossing the murder weapon off the Golden Gate Bridge. Then he takes the lead in the investigation, along with his recently promoted brother Andy. Things heat up when the bullets used to kill a liquor store clerk matches the one that killed Frazer, the pawned gun leads to young Nito Capa, who is charged with both crimes. But eager beaver Andy doesn’t believe things add up, and starts investigating on his own…

Lee J. Cobb , primarily a character actor onscreen, plays the compromised cop Ed without his usual bombast. Jane Wyatt , cast against type, is a cold, calculating bitch as Lois. John Dall of GUN CRAZY as young Andy goes from happy-go-lucky rookie detective to disillusioned brother through the course of the film. All three are excellent in their roles, though it’s Cobb’s protagonist caught in that old familiar downward spiral who dominates the proceedings.

Felix Feist’s direction is on target, as he showed in his previous films noir THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE, THE THREAT , and the sci-fi shocker DONOVAN’S BRAIN . DP Russell Harlan does his usual fine job behind the camera; among his many credits are RED RIVER, THE THING , BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and the aforementioned GUN CRAZY. Some of the movie was filmed on location in San Francisco, including the penultimate scene inside Ft. Point, brilliantly shot by Harlan and edited by David Weisbart (MILDRED PIERCE, DARK PASSAGE, JOHHNY BELINDA, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE). The score by Louis Forbes adds greatly to the film’s mood.

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF’s screenplay by veterans Seton I. Miller and Philip McDonald is tight and compact, the way a good little B-Movie should be done. Kudos to the entire cast and crew, and to Eddie Muller’s Film Noir Foundation for restoring the film so a new audience can enjoy it. And if you’re not a night-owl like me, TCM reruns Noir Alley on Sunday mornings, so you can get your fix of film noir with a hot cup of java.