Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Whistle Stop' is done in by a weak script

Whistle Stop (1946)
Starring: George Raft, Ava Gardner, Victor McLaglan, Tom Conway, and Jorja Curtright
Director: Leonide Moguy
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When Mary (Gardner) returns to her home town after two years away, she rekindles a rivalry between Kenny (Raft), a two-bit loser she's always loved, and Lew (Conway), the local hotel owner--and hood-- who has always been in love with her. This time, the rivalry leads to more than just a few thrown punches... this time, it leads to robbery and murder.

"Whistle Stop" feels more like a summary of a story than the actual story. We learn learn next to nothing about the characters other than their most obvious traits (Why does Mary really come back to town? What was she really doing for those two years in Chicago? Why does Lew go to such extreme measures to get even with Kenny... is he really just a bastard?), we learn very little about the deep relationships that exist between them (Why does Gitlo--a resentment-filled employee of Lew, who is played by Victor McLaglan--have such a soft spot for Mary? Has Mary and her family always been the landlords of Kenny's family and is that how they met?). Perhaps if we knew a little more about the characters in the film, the ending would have felt a little less strange.

This is one of those films that's technically well made and features decent performances by all the actors, but which is ultimately undone by a bad script. The end result is okay but unremarkable.