Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

BODYGUARD. RKO Radio Pictures, 1948. Lawrence Tierney, Priscilla Lane, Phillip Reed, June Clayworth, Elisabeth Risdon, Steve Brodie, Frank Fenton. Director: Richard Fleischer.

   Bodyguard, a zippy gem of a crime film based on a story co-written by Robert Altman in his first screen credit and starring the always rugged Lawrence Tierney, opens with a sequence of on location shots of iconic landmarks in Los Angeles: City Hall, Union Station, and the Downtown Theater District. This sets the tone for what is to come: a thoroughly enjoyable film noir set against the sun baked, palm tree lined streets of Southern California.

   With some great on-location photography, the sixty-two minute film transports the viewer through the world of police officialdom, the rich elite of Pasadena, then off to Hollywood and spots in between. Much like Armored Car Robbery, another gem also directed by Richard Fleischer (which I reviewed here back in 2014), Bodyguard makes the most of its urban setting, allowing it to be as much a presence in the movie as the one and only Lawrence Tierney.

   The plot, one based on a framework that film noir aficionados will surely recognize, has enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. After Mike Carter (Tierney), a rough around the edges Los Angeles police detective working homicide, is terminated for insubordination, he turns to his two true loves: his fiancée, Doris (Priscilla Lane) and baseball.

   For it’s at the ballpark that a man, clearly seeking him out, offers him an opportunity to serve as the bodyguard for the executive of a meatpacking empire. After initially refusing, Carter takes up the offer. The cash is good and it doesn’t seem like such a difficult task. Little does he know that the first night on the job he will wake up in his car next to the body of his former supervisor — the guy who fired him, no less!

   But who framed him? And what’s the relationship between his former boss and the meatpacking empire magnate? That’s what Carter and Doris attempt to find out.

   In nearly every way, Bodyguard is successful in what it aspires to: namely, a compelling, if not particularly philosophically rich story, with a coterie of suspects and questionable motivations. It may not be the best-known RKO crime film, but it’s a very good one nonetheless. Truth be told, I enjoyed this one more than some “classic” films noir that I thought never quite lived up to their reputations. Recommended.