Dan Brady (Mickey Rooney) is a mechanic with a big ego. He believes he’s irresistible to women, and he’s fallen for a beautiful waitress named Vera (Jeanne Cagney, sister of James), who agrees to go out with him.
The only problem is that Dan doesn’t have the kind of money it takes to impress a woman like Vera, whose goal in life is to own a mink coast. Desperate to be able to afford a nice dinner for Vera, Dan decides to steal $20 from the cash register at his work, thinking he’ll replace it by the end of the week and no harm will be done.
When he isn’t able to make back that money as quickly as he hoped, Dan continues to cause trouble for himself, spiraling downward into a life of crime.
Irving Pichel (She, The Bride Wore Boots) directs 1950’s Quicksand. The film was written by Robert Smith (The Second Woman, 99 River Street). Appearing alongside Mickey Rooney and Jeanne Cagney are Barbara Bates and the great Peter Lorre.
Mickey Rooney is surprisingly easy to buy in the lead role of this noir as Dan, a man who lets his life spiral out of control to quite a sinister degree.
In taking this role, Rooney hoped to break out of his typecast “small town nice guy” image, which had been cemented by his performances in the Andy Hardy film series. This noir was the perfect choice to accomplish that purpose. Dan starts out a bit Hardy-ish, chasing after a pretty girl and striving to impress her, before things take a criminal turn.
Aside from being an interesting entry into the filmography/career history of Mickey Rooney, Quicksand is also a solid noir on its own. The story snowballs at quite a quick pace. Things keep getting worse and worse for Dan, making it difficult for the viewer to look away from the film.
The supporting performances of Cagney and Lorre are also very good here. I love Peter Lorre and will watch him in anything. His involvement was what led me to choose this film when I was deciding which Mill Creek features to review this month.
The characters of Quicksand aren’t particularly highly-developed, but the film’s mood is nicely built and the story does a great job of keeping the viewer’s attention. I also love the use of narration to convey Dan’s anxieties and his decision-making process throughout the film. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The score: 4/5
Quicksand appears in Mill Creek’s 50 Mystery Classics box set. The sound and picture quality are both decent, slightly above average for the public domain. In content and in quality, the film makes a nice addition to the set.
I watched this one years ago on TCM…a neat little noir. And yes, Rooney’s situation did indeed spiral out of control, in typical noir fashion. And I thought Jeanne Cagney did a great job…too bad she couldn’t convince her brother to make a fun cameo!
That would have been great!