Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


O'Keefe, Hayes, Lane and Stewart

CHICAGO SYNDICATE (1955). Director: Fred F. Sears.

"First you give me the cold shoulder and now you're romancing me like I'm Liberace."

A man named Kern is gunned down in the street and it develops that he was bookkeeper for a mobster named Arnold Valent (Paul Stewart). Kern's wife commits suicide and her daughter, Joyce (Allison Hayes), becomes a social pariah. Barry Amsterdam (Dennis O'Keefe) is hired to go undercover to get the goods on Valent, and he runs into an angry young woman with a gambling habit who turns out to be Joyce Kern; eventually the two join forces. Joyce's presence is irksome to Connie (Abbe Lane), Valent's girlfriend, who is also a singer and has a lap dog named Benny (Xavier Cugat). Hayes clearly has the leading female role, but she's billed under Lane, who gets co-star status with O'Keefe. Apparently Lane and Cugat (who were married at the time) were a package deal, as Cugat, who can't act [even when he's playing an orchestra leader!], just seems along for the ride. On the other hand, O'Keefe [Hold That Kiss] is fine, Stewart is excellent, while Hayes is a little more problematic. The infamous "fifty foot woman" [a Great Old Movies favorite] has no problem doing her usual shtick -- smouldering, bitter hostility -- but she's less successful in getting across any of her character's other nuances. Still, Hayes is always fun, especially when she's trading barbs with and spilling hot coffee on Lane, who doesn't give a bad performance; Lane could have used a little more seasoning but she managed to amass a few credits after this. Chicago Syndicate is entertaining even if it plays like little more than an expanded TV episode. Sears also directed such fun sci fi as The Giant Claw and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

Verdict: O'Keefe and Hayes make an interesting pair. **1/2.

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