Director: Michael Curtiz; Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Ber …
The Glass Key is the second and better known film noir adaptation of the classic suspense novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett, released a mere seven years after the first. This remake features Brian Donlevy, Veronica Lake, and Alan Ladd, who replaces George Raft from the 1935 original version in the lead.
Crooked political boss Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy) is determined to back reform candidate Ralph Henry (Moroni Olsen) for governor after falling in love with Henry's daughter, Janet (Veronica Lake). Madvig's right hand man, Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd), believes the move is a big mistake and rightly distrusts Janet's motives. She is only playing along for her father's sake; she is put off by Madvig's crudity and becomes very attracted to much more sophisticated Beaumont. He fends off her advances out of strong loyalty to his friend. The deluded Madvig boasts that Henry has practically given him the key to his house; Beamont warns him that it is liable to be a glass key, one that can break at any moment.
When Madvig tells gangster Nick Varna (Joseph Calleia) that he is cleaning up the city and that Varna will no longer receive protection against the police, Beaumont grows even more concerned. Complicating matters further, Henry's ne'er-do-well son, Taylor (Richard Denning), owes Varna for gambling debts, while Madvig's young sister, Opal (Bonita Granville), is in love with Taylor. When Madvig finds out, Opal fears what he will do to her boyfriend.
Beaumont later finds Taylor's lifeless body. Madvig is the prime suspect. Varna is elated. When Varna hears that Beaumont and Madvig have split over the Henry mess, he also tries to recruit Beaumont. Beaumont turns him down, so Varna has him brutally beaten repeatedly by hulking henchman Jeff (William Bendix) to try to change his mind. Fortunately, Beaumont is able to escape.
When Beaumont recovers, he learns that Varna has found a "witness" to Taylor Henry's killing, a man named Sloss. Madvig has Sloss brought to his office, but Sloss is gunned down before he can talk. As a result, Madvig is held in jail.
Beaumont finds a somewhat drunk Jeff in a bar and tries to pump him for information in a back room. Just as Jeff starts to talk, Varna shows up and brusquely orders him to shut up. When Beaumont disarms Varna, a fed-up Jeff strangles his boss. After Jeff is finished, Beaumont gets the waiter to call the police to arrest Jeff.
Having finally guessed who killed Taylor Henry, Beaumont persuades District Attorney Farr (Donald MacBride) to arrest Janet. As Beaumont had hoped, her father confesses he struggled with his son, causing Taylor to fall and strike his head.
Afterwards, Madvig overhears Janet tell Beaumont that she loves him and that she knows he loves her. Seeing that it is true, Madvig gives the couple his blessing (but takes back his expensive engagement ring).