The Burglar is a film based on a book and screenplay by noir great David Goodis. Goodis went to Hollywood after the massive success of the movie Dark Passage was based on his novel. He got flustered with the Hollywood machine and moved to Philadelphia. Who knew the Philadelphia movie industry would come calling. When Philadelphia wanted to showcase their city like Los Angles and New York were doing, they looked at one of their own to write a screenplay based on his book.
This movie was actually made in 1955 and shelved. This was probably more frustration with the movie industry Goodis would feel. Luckily Producer Louis W. Kellman cast the relatively unknown Jayne Mansfield in a role, this was based on how guys were reacting to her on the set of Pete Kelly’s Blues, where she had a small part. Kellman was not the only one to see something in Mansfield, movie goers fell in love with her after they saw her in The Girl Can’t Help It in 1956 and her star was on the rise. This movie was finally released in 1957 because of her new-found star power.
This was also the first film directed by Paul Wendkos who went on to direct many television projects and movies with a very long career. Columbia bought this film as a favor, but wanted Wendkos as part of the deal.
This film also stars one of noir’s favorite actors, Dan Duryea as our title character. This film can be argued to have two femme fatales, they both contribute to our hero’s downfall. Of course we have Mansfield as the girl our hero has vowed to protect and we have Martha Vickers as the girl our hero picks up in a bar, she happens to be working with a crooked cop, out to get our hero.
This story starts out with our hero and his crew robbing a rich women of her priceless necklace. The burglary is an intense scene, with our hero outsmarting some cops and using his skill to break into a fortress to steal the necklace. They go back to their hideout to determine the value of the necklace and what the split will be. This is where we meet Mansfield and soon see she is in danger from an over lusting member of the crew. Our hero sends her to Atlantic City for her own safety. Duryea picks up Vickers in a bar and goes back to her house. While she thinks he is asleep she goes to meet the crooked cop as our hero tails her and he learns they are working him and Mansfield to find the necklace. Our gang of burglars take off from Philadelphia to Atlantic City to protect Mansfield even though they know this will put them in danger.
This is a good film and the finale on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk with scenes in a circus and carnival settings is very good. Did Lady of Shanghai inspire this? Worth watching for all noir fans and especially those of Goodis’ writing. Goodis didn’t have much luck in America, but he would soon be discovered by the French and elevated to one of the greatest noir writers ever.
Favorite Tidbit: This was remade in France as The Burglars, the second of a string of movies made over the next three decades in France based on Goodis’ books.