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

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Warren Oates and Ray Danton
THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (1960). Director: Budd Boetticher.

After doing a dancing act with his partner, Alice, (Karen Steele), Jack Diamond (Ray Danton) manipulates his way into the camp of roaring twenties' mobster Arnold Rothstein (Robert Lowery) and even romances his woman, Monica (Elaine Stewart of Most Dangerous Man Alive). Rothstein christens Jack "Legs" and is somewhat amused by his rival's all-too-obvious ambition. As Jack becomes a competitor, as well as a murderer many times over, he also manipulates Alice into marrying him, to the consternation of the authorities who'd hoped for her help. Legs brags that he is unkillable -- but is that really the case? Legs Diamond is another film that takes a few facts about a legendary gangster and somehow manages to make the man's life more cliched and less interesting than it actually was. Although Ray Danton [I'll Cry Tomorrow] offers his customary charismatic performance, he is hardly perect casting -- what this needs is the almost manic energy of a Cagney. Robert Lowery [Batman and Robin] scores as Rothstein, and there's some good work from Steele; Stewart; Warren Oates as Legs' brother, Eddie; Joseph Ruskin as Rothstein's bodyguard, Moran; and Judson Pratt as Legs' associate Fats. Simon Oakland is the cop investigating Legs; Dyan Cannon is another bimbo; and Gordon Jones -- the second serial hero in the cast -- is an old Army "buddy" of Legs' who goes to work for him. The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is not especially well directed and despite the subject matter even becomes boring after awhile. This is one of the few starring roles handed to Ray Danton, and it's a shame Warner Brothers couldn't have assigned him to a better picture, as he was certainly a dynamic figure. The following year Danton reprised his role of Legs in Portrait of a Mobster about Dutch Schultz, and David Janssen played Rothstein in King of the Roaring 20's, in which the character of Legs did not appear.

Verdict: This study of an unrepentant sociopath should have been much sharper. **.


angelman66 said...

I like Ray Danton a lot; he's very appealing and attractive, but you are right, Danton was much more effective as a supporting actor or consort to a female star like Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow; carrying a picture is another story. Was Dyan Cannon really acting in 1960? I would tune in to take a gander at one of my favorite comic actresses--she is so good in Heaven Can Wait, Deathtrap and of course Bob & Carol Ted & Alice...

William said...

Cannon isn't bad in this either, as a bimbo who briefly romances Danton and then gets slapped around by nasty enemies who want to find him. She doesn't get much screen time, however.

Ray Danton was married to Julie Adams of "Creature of the Black Lagoon" fame for 22 years but they divorced. Undoubtedly it had something to do with his extra-marital activities. According to Robert Wagner, Danton would have two gals at a time every night while they were making "Longest Day." Adams and her son wrote a book about her life butin one interview it's made clear that she only discusses the acting, not her personal life. I then decided I would borrow this from the library but not spend forty bucks on it. I realize that many ctors do not wish to "dish the dirt" as Esther Williams did (or OVERdid), but there should be something of the personal life. On the other hand I get irritated with bios that discuss the personal life but ignore the very films that made the star famous. You can't win!