Monday, November 30, 2009

Lionel White's The Money Trap-Glen Ford & Rita Hayworth

Another prize in this issue of Noir City Sentinel is Vince Keenan's piece on the films that Glen Ford and Rita Hayworth made together. Vince is particularly eloquent on the subject of The Money Trap based on (for me) Lionel White's finest novel of the same name. Don Westlake always acknowledged his debt to White. But he wasn't just talking about the caper novels that helped establish Parker. Get a copy of the novel and you'll find it reads very much like early Westlake hardboiled. As Vince notes, the movie is an especially grim one. And it does have a decided pre-hippie Sixties feel to it. Deaths in a thousand Danish modern living rooms while consuming a few million martinis.

Vince Keenan:

Hayworth’s star faded as Ford made some of his most successful films. But
his luster had also dimmed by the time they were drawn together for one final
movie that makes the most of their rich history. The pity is hardly anyone saw it.
The Money Trap(1966), like many black-and-white films of the mid-to-late
60s, seems infused with a sense of its own futility. That only intensifies the over-
all mood of melancholy. Naturally, this Burt Kennedy-directed adaptation of a
novel by Lionel White (The Killing) haunted the bottom half of double bills before
vanishing into the ghostly realm of late-night TV.

Ford plays weary LAPD detective Joe Baron. The echo of the name Dave
Bannion from The Big Heat is apt; Joe is a wised-up Dave back on the force and
opting to coast. He’s married to a wealthy younger woman (Elke Sommer), and
that’s taking a toll. The Money Trapsurrounds him with flesh – Sommer teasingly
undressing at the edge of the frame, loads of curvy women in garter belts – all of
it fueling Joe’s fear that living off his wife’s money has diminished him as a man.
The missus begins having cash flow problems just as Joe catches the case of
a thief gunned down in front of a safe by Mob physician Joseph Cotten. Joe and
his partner (a bristling Ricardo Montalban) scheme to heist the safe’s contents
themselves. When Joe approaches the thief’s widow he’s stunned to discover that
it’s Rosalie (Hayworth), his first love from the old neighborhood. At that point The
Money Trapbecomes more than a solid crime drama. It’s transformed into a med-
itation on age and memory.

Hayworth’s ravaged, almost unrecognizable face retains its bearing. This is a
woman who was once a queen, and Ford will always regard her as one. “Tell me
how you been,” Joe implores. “I been around,” Rosalie replies. When Joe offers a
heartfelt “It’s good to see you, Rosie,” the look she gives him is shattering.
A quarrel with his wife sends Joe back to Rosalie, who’s living in the build-
ing where they first made love. They reminisce about the old days, comparing their
grim realities to the dreams of their youth. They sleep together, the weathered hunk
and the withered beauty giving each other some small bit of comfort in the long
night.

Ed here: This is a must-read article. Hell, the whole issue is. Film Noir Foundation, Send what you can afford and the issue is yours.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Money Trap" was one of White's best, but my favorite will always be "Invitation to Violence."

Bill Khemski

Fred Blosser said...

Dammit, the movie ran on TCM last week and I forgot to record it. Next time. Hayworth's final film, THE WRATH OF GOD, also showed up on TCM recently. Lee Server's bio of Robert Mitchum mentions the bad luck that attended the filming of WRATH, including Ralph Nelson's being unaware that Hayworth was suffering from onset of Alzheimer's when he signed her.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

By 1966 Rita Hayworth was suffering her undiagnosed Alzheimer's. That may have made the film particularly poignant if she had trouble remembering her lines.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

The Money Trap is a decent movie considering it was directed by Burt Kennedy who was pretty talentless. I never cared for Glenn Ford-always seemed about as expressive as a piece of wood.

Meryl said...

Just saw a new 2009 documentary called "I remember better when I paint". In the film, Rita Hayworth's daughter talks about her mothers struggle with Alzheimers, how it was not easily diagnosed in those times, and how her mother felt at ease painting in dealing with the disease. Some beautiful photos of Rita and her paintings are breathtaking. It is wonderful that Rita Hayworth is now, through her daughter, helping raise awareness for this disease. As a film buff, was delighted to discover that this documentary is narrated by another screen legend, Olivia de Havilland, who at 93 is as amazing as ever.

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