A competent vehicle for Ginger Rogers, with a skilled performance by Edward G. Robinson
Jan 15, 2012
Tight Spot has a potentially taut story going for it, as well as some noirish photography, a skilled performance by Edward G. Robinson and a solid, conflicted performance by Brian Keith. Unfortunately, it also is primarily a vehicle for a big star who was facing age and a new generation of movie goers. The film also was adapted from a stage play. Much of the movie feels declarative, with far too many opportunities for Ginger Rogers to "act."
A key witness who can send vicious crime boss Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene) into the slammer and then have him deported is shot down on Gotham's courtroom steps. Government lawyer Lloyd Hallet (Edward G. Robinson) discovers another possible witness who could incriminate Costain if she'll testify. She's Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers), a feisty, smart-mouth con who is in prison doing a five-year term for a crime she says she had nothing to do with. Hallet pulls her out of prison and installs her in a fancy hotel. He assigns police detective Vince Slater (Brian Keith) and a team of officers to protect her. And then he tries to convince her to testify against Costain. He promises to cancel the rest of her sentence. He describes how bad a guy Costain is. He appeals to her sense of justice. But Sherry knows the other witness was gunned down. She's tough and no one's patsy. While this is going on, Costain has been busy. He's learned which hotel she's at, even the room. We know anyone staying in 2409 at the St. Charles Hotel is going to be in for an upsetting night. The hotel's lobby is dark and lonely. The hallways are empty and seem to go on forever. Sherry and Vince, who initially is tense and disdainful toward her, begin to warm up to each other. We learn Sherry isn't the playgirl her reputation would have us believe. When the first assassination attempt takes place, windows are smashed, a gunman almost breaks in and bullets go flying. Sherry and a police woman she has come to like are wounded, the woman seriously. It takes a death to convince Sherry that a man as ruthless as Costain must be put away. Despite another assassination attempt, we last see her sitting in the witness box, staring at Costain, as Hallet begins his questions.
Rogers was 44 when she made this movie. She looks great but it's obvious she's playing below her age. She also has a tendency to chew the scenery. Her wise-guy persona simply doesn't ring true. We know it's Ginger Rogers acting. There are far too many opportunities for her to have dramatic moments...Sherry telling us about herself...Sherry and her sister arguing...Sherry describing her life when she was just 16. None of it seems authentic. The movie is a vehicle for an aging star who could still command above-the-title roles, but where those roles were more and more often in second-rate movies.
Rogers might make us a little uncomfortable, but Edward G. Robinson made me really sad. Here was this great actor, placed unfairly and unofficially on the Hollywood blacklist at the start of the Fifties, unable to get roles worthy of him in first-rate films, having to take work in stuff like this. Remember films of his like Vice Squad, The Big Leaguer, The Glass Web and Black Tuesday? Didn't think you did. They were all scarcely more than programmers made by Hollywood journeymen. They were all from this period. Robinson, as far as I'm concerned, never turned in a bad performance despite all this. With Tight Spot he effortlessly dominates all the scenes he's in. He doesn't try to steal any glory from Rogers, but it is his performance which seems the most authentic and interesting.
Tight Spot is at best a competent film tailored to the needs of Ginger Rogers. It's not bad; it's just workmanlike.
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About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer (Charley2)
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more