The Good Die Young (UK 1954): British Noir

The Good Die Young (1954)

The Good Die Young (UK Remus Films 1954 Directed by Lewis Gilbert 100 minutes)

The Good Die Young  is an interesting British noir that employs the unusual homme-noir motif and the more common disillusioned war veteran theme in an original treatment.

“Four men with four guns” the voice-over narrator intones as four guys in a stolen car prepare for a heist on the dark streets of London, before a series of flashbacks traces how each of these four men, with no priors, find themselves in a stolen car, each with a gun in their hand. All four are WW2 vets in financial straits, with three in need of some quick cash and easy targets for the fourth, a wastrel toff cum homme-noir: a man so venal he is loathed and despised by his own father.

The Good Die Young (1954)

While an uneven film, the actual heist and denouement are very strong with deep focus location night-for-night shooting on dark sombre London streets, the London underground, a symbolic sequence in a grave-yard, and expressive tilted framings that break the linearity of the narrative.  The opening scene, which regrettably is obscured by the credits, coupled with a dramatic musical score, is evocative of US noirs of the period with the heist car speeding towards the camera on a rainy London night .

The Good Die Young (1954)

The strongest of the four stories are that of a washed-up boxer played beautifully by English actor Stanley Baker and that of the wastrel played with suave menace by a young Laurence Harvey.  The other two men are Americans whose stories are less convincing, and Gloria Grahame as the cheating starlet-wife of one of them is wasted in a tacky role.  The ‘seduction’ scene where the toff connives to get the others into the caper is marred by redundant and silent-era close-ups of Harvey’s exaggerated facial expressions and arch eye movements.

Interesting historically, and it is worth wading through the first 80 minutes to get to the final action-packed 20 minutes.

2 Comments

  1. I’m looking at the poster at the top and realizing that this film has a great cast, Basehart, Ireland, Grahame, Baker, Harvey. I have a feeling that I may have caught a portion of this on TCM within the past year. The frame grabs look tantalizing. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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