252. The Odds Against Tomorrow (U.S. 1959)

Director: Robert Wise

Starring: Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Ed Begley, Shelley Winters

Cinematography: Joseph C. Brun

Screenplay: William P.McGivern, Adrian Polonsky, Nelson Gidding

Music: John Lewis

Fact 1: John Lennon bought Robert Ryan's apartment in the Dakota Building

Fact 2: Gloria Grahame very nearly died in Liverpool.

Fact 3: James Earl Jones's dad (Robert) plays a bit part in the film.

In one line: Ex-cop recruits a black jazz singer and a white racist to help him pull off a robbery.

                 A bizarre piece of lighting/cinematography from the film.

After refusing to work co-operate with State Crime investigators, cop David Burke (Begley) is thrown off the force and then spends some time in prison.

Desperate, he enlists southern racist Earl Slater (Ryan) to help him rob a bank. Burke promises Slater $50 000 if they are successful. Slater is unenthusiastic, but is shamed into taking part when he realises that he is being 'kept' by his girlfriend Lorry (Winters, who ironically ended up the same size as an articulated lorry from about the age of thirty). Johnny Ingram (Belafonte) is coerced into the robbery when Burke gets a local mobster to threaten his family after Ingram cannot pay his gambling debts. Slater hates Ingram because of his colour: Ingram hates Earl because he is a horrible racist bastard.

The three men hit Melton. a sleepy town in New York state. Ingram and Slater argue throughout the day. As is usual, the heist goes wrong and there is a literally explosive ending.

A brilliant film. Robert Wise jumps from one genre to another with effortless skill and is one of the most under-rated directors in the history of cinema. Ryan is superb as usual and he is joined by an equally talented cast. And Shelley Winters.

The Odds Against Tomorrow is an uncompromising 'noir' with lots to say about racism and the violence of city life. There's a splendid, brief appearance from MASH's Wayne Rogers (I give you my word that no Alan Alda film will ever appear in this list - mind you, and come to think of it, he's in Crimes and Misdemeanours - shit) as a soldier trying to impress a woman in a bar (much to Slater's annoyance, and Rogers' misfortune).

Most films with Gloria Grahame in are generally worth a look, although this might be very, very wrong because I haven't checked it, although The Big Heat is coming up soon and she was in the excellent seventies mini-series/pot-boiler Rich Man, Poor Man.

There's some great obvious symbolism towards the end, and all in all, a fantastic film from an excellent, 'hard-bitten' crime novel by screenwriter  William P. McGivern.


                                          More Jebus symbolism: this man died for you.