TONY ROME. Twentieth Century Fox, 1967. Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Richard Conte, Gena Rowlands, Simon Oakland, Jeffrey Lynn, Lloyd Bochner. Screenplay: Richard L. Breen, based on the novel Miami Mayhem by Marvin H. Albert writing as Anthony Rome (Pocket, 1960). Director: Gordon Douglas.

   Tony Rome is sunshine noir at its best. Although the plot is somewhat (I suspect deliberately) muddled and convoluted, the film works extremely well in portraying a private investigator doing his best to maintain his own personal standard of decency in a corrupt society where outward appearances obscure deception and internal turmoil.

   Frank Sinatra portrays the titular Anthony “Tony” Rome, a former Miami cop who is now working as a PI. And like many private investigators portrayed in fiction and on screen, he’s very much a loner. Aside from his bookie and a police lieutenant still on the force (Richard Conte), Rome doesn’t seem to have many stable relationships in his life.

   But that’s not to say that he couldn’t socialize more if he really wanted to. Enter Ann Archer (Jill St. John), a flirtatious divorcee living in Miami Beach, who ends up providing Rome with extensive information about a gangster who may be responsible for the death of Ralph Turpin (Robert J. Wilke), his former partner.

   Rome meets Ann for the first time after doing a big favor for Turpin, now working in hotel security. He ends up taking a girl who passed out in a hotel room home to her father. As it turns out she’s the daughter of a wealthy construction magnate married to a woman (Gena Rowlands) who is guarding a deep secret about her previous marriage. And Ann Archer is at the house, having slept there the night before.

   If it sounds somewhat confused, that’s because in many ways it is. But confusing doesn’t mean that there isn’t any clarity in the movie. Because at root, Tony Rome isn’t about plot as it is about as character and atmosphere. The viewer goes along on a journey with Rome as he travels through a city and a society reeking with corruption, deception, and greed. He’s not a white knight as much as he is a flawed knight. one who is tasked with battling modern society’s proverbial dragons.