DOUBLE DEAL. RKO Radio Pictures, 1950. Marie Windsor, Richard Denning, Fay Baker, Taylor Holmes, James Griffith, Carleton Young. Director: Abby Berlin.


   How many black-and-white crime movies from the 1940s and early 50s have you seen beginning with the leading man swinging off a bus in a strange town, looking for a job and not trouble, but ending up finding both?

   I’ve seen a few, although I can’t name them all, and not only that, but I think Richard Denning was in one of them.

   Besides this one, that is.

   I’m probably all wrong about that, but what’s another movie in which the leading guy is a mining engineer and is hired to help bring an oil well in or a start a mine up in operation again? It’s an oil well in this one, and I can’t think of either the movie or the star of the other one I’m thinking off — the one with an opening scene so close to the one in Double Deal that after five minutes I was ready to turn it off. (Maybe Richard Carlson? Alan Ladd?)

Richard Denning

   I’m glad I didn’t, though, since this one’s a keeper. Not only that, but it has Marie Windsor in it. She plays Terry Mills in this one, a good friend of Reno Sebastian (Carleton Young), the man who owns the well that so far has hit nothing but sand. It seems that his sister Lilly (Fay Baker, who makes a terrific villainess) hates him, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep Reno from succeeding.

   I was once asked, a couple of years ago, to continue with the thought I began the last paragraph with, before I got distracted, which noir movie actress was my favorite. You guessed the answer, and congratulations! You didn’t need two tries.

   This rather obscure crime film, not quite a noir, pretty much has me stumped. The only photos I can provide you of the movie itself come courtesy of a Spanish language poster from Mexico. The one of Marie Windsor below comes from Narrow Margin, and I think the one of Denning comes from the (much later) days when he was playing Michael Shayne on TV.


   I’ve already told you about the basic story line. There are quite a few twists and turns in the plot that come after this, though, and these are what keep the movie watchable, even if you’re not as fond of Marie Windsor as an actress as I am.

   I’ve also already mentioned my opinion that this movie is not a noir film, even though it is a crime movie filmed in 1950 and in black-and-white. The presence and over-the-top antics of a drunken former lawyer named “Corpus” Mills (Taylor Holmes) takes care of that very nicely, thank you. Of course, he does come in handy when Terry is accused of murder, making sure that’s she free (as it happens) to act as bait to catch the real killer.

   But there are some definite noirish aspects about this film, no doubt about it — if not so much the overall mood and the happy ending — then in the lighting and the definite sense of danger that Terry’s in after her release from the local sheriff’s custody, as mentioned above.