by Jay Seaver
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most people, when one or the other is mentioned, don't really associate Ginger Rogers and film noir. Surprisingly, "Tight Spot" doesn't show them as terribly incompatible, but even if Rogers does play a better tough dame than one might expect, she's doing it in the middle of a thoroughly mediocre story that leads to a groan-worthy last scene.Sherry Conley (Rogers) used to be a model, but she sports a prison jumpsuit these days, at least until she's called to the warden's office and then spirited off to a hotel by matron Mrs. Willoughby (Katherine Anderson) and detective Vince Striker (Brian Keith). There, she meets with district attorney Lloyd Hallett (Edward G. Robinson), who asks her about a trip she took on a man's yacht some years ago. Her testimony could be the key to revoking the citizenship of mobster Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene), but Sherry's no dummy - even without having seen the first scene of the movie, she knows how guys like Costain deal with potential witnesses, and while she doesn't mind ordering some room service, she'd like to go back to her nice, safe cell.
"Ginger Rogers... Gang-buster!"
And for a while, that's how things stand - Sherry, Vince, and Mrs. Willoughby in a hotel suite, with Hallett occasionally showing up to implore Sherry to consider her civic duty while Sherry shoots back with questions about what the law has ever done for her. There's a false alarm or two in regards to Sherry's safety, some painful comic relief in the form of a telethon playing on TV, and some token "opposites attract" banter between Sherry and Vince that would play a lot better if the two did more than just look nice and bark at each other. Things pick up in the last act, when things of real consequence start happening, but before that, there's a lot of time when the most tension comes from just what dish Sherry will indulge in for supper.
This could be a recipe for a terribly dull movie, but this one has a pretty good cast who either came from or would go on to better things, and they manage to elevate the experience a bit. Ginger Rogers, for instance, plays to the balconies, but does so in a way that fits the character. Both Ginger and Sherry are somewhat past their glamor-girl heydays, and Rogers plays Sherry as maybe half-aware of this - pushy and sarcastic, just smart enough to know how to use her assets (whether they be her figure or her knowledge) and not particularly coy about doing so. Brian Keith gives Vince a somewhat similar working-class appeal, the sort of cop who could have been a crook if circumstances had been just a little different, and still has that unrefined air. Edward G. Robinson, of course, was one of the most enjoyable character actors of his era, and he manages to pull off being gruff and no-nonsense while also having a bit of ingratiating charm. Lorne Greene is a suave, ruthless villain. And though she was in almost nothing else, Katherine Anderson is a bright spot here as the matron who doesn't mind spending a weekend in a nice hotel, reading pulp novels.
The filmmakers' fondness for that pulp style is both the film's greatest strength and weakness. After a talky first half, the second half winds up being a lot of fun, with gunfights, tough-guy (and -girl) dialogue, and clashes of wills between the good and the selfish. It's pure crime melodrama, right up until the last line, which is as goofy as they come, but would playing it completely straight have been the right call by this point?Probably not. Nothing was going to make this a great movie, but a better cast than it deserves certainly make it a fairly entertaining one.
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originally posted: 06/22/11 17:27:26