Chicago Confidential (1957)

Brian Keith, Beverly Garland, Dick Foran, Douglas Kennedy,
In Chicago, a crime syndicate tries to take over a labor union by killing its blow-whistler treasurer and framing the honest union boss for the murder.
  • 6.0 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Jack Lait, Lee Mortimer, Bernard Gordon, Hugh King, Writer:
  • Sidney Salkow, Director:
  • Robert E. Kent, Producer:
7 / 10

Mobsters frame innocent union boss

The mob has infiltrated a union and are about to be ratted out to the state's attorney. They rub out the songbird and make a patsy out of the union's leader. Things look bad for the condemned man, but his girlfriend never gives up trying to exonerate him. Good film with lots of old familiar faces.

6 / 10

Urban action movie rooted in union corruption moves swiftly but lacks nuance

Union corruption serves as the McGuffin for Chicago Confidential, but the movie's really a big-city cops-and-robbers story with some stalwarts and set-ups left over from the noir cycle that had just about run its course by 1957 (and it shows).

A union official about to sing winds up shot and sunk in Lake Michigan; the honest union president (Dick Foran) is framed for the murder, stands trial and is convicted. That's quite a feather in the cap of District Attorney Brian Keith, who has gubernatorial yearnings.

But Foran's girlfriend Beverly Garland, discredited on the witness stand by means of fabricated evidence and suborned perjury, wins over Keith through her persistent loyalty. But as Keith begins to unravel the skein of lies that helped him win his case, the union's ambitious and corrupt vice-president (Douglas Kennedy) grows more desperate, and the body count starts to look like the city's in the roaring ?20s. Among the victims is a stumblebum called Candymouth (Elisha Cook), used as a cat's paw in incriminating Foran, but even Keith and Garland find themselves in jeopardy....

The plot involves a bigwig lawyer left over from the Capone organization, `B-girls,' an impressionist, and oscilloscopes. But it moves quickly enough that the loose ends don't matter much (Why wasn't the tape recording analyzed before the trial? Why are the B-girls being shipped to Manila?). Director Sidney Salkow gets some of locales right (a sleazy bar called Shanghai Low among them) but doesn't bring much of an eye or an ear to the enterprise. Still, he keeps the movie jumping from one thing to the next, and that's at least something.

6 / 10

union shenanigans result in murder

A cast of familiar faces appear in Chicago Confidential, a 1957 B movie. The stars are Brian Keith, Beverly Garland, Dick Foran, Elisha Cook Jr., John Hamilton, and Phyllis Coates. The latter two stars were in the TV "Superman" in case you don't recognize their names.

The story is told with a narration, semidocumentary style. This type of film was popular for a time, but to me, it's very dry and too "Dragnet." A union accountant who has been keeping two sets of books calls DA Jim Fremont (Keith) and announces he is bringing in proof that the mob has infiltrated the union and is stealing from it. As could have been predicted as he starts walking to the DA's house in the dark, briefcase and folders in hand, he doesn't make it.

The bad guys set up one of the good union guys, Artie Blaine (Foran) to take the fall for the murder, and they do a decent job of it, using a drunk (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who finds the murder weapon as a witness to go to the DA once they clean him up. Then they discredit Blaine's fiancée (Garland) on the witness stand. The noose tightens.

Fairly formulaic, with a couple of interesting things - one is an impressionist, and the other is the use of a machine that recognizes speech patterns.

I interviewed Beverly Garland some years ago, so I always try to watch her films. She was a vibrant, funny, wonderful lady with a million stories. It makes me sad that she's no longer with us, but at least we can enjoy her film and TV work. For me she's a bright spot in "Chicago Confidential."

6 / 10

Labor Racketeering was big news at the time

This United Artists release in 1957 was certainly a timely one for the headlines. I well remember back in the day the Labor Racketeering hearings in the US Senate headed by John McClellan with Robert F. Kennedy as the counsel and his brother and next president also sitting on the committee. Organized crime's involvement with labor unions was a big news at the time.

In the fictional union talked about in this film which we never learn what it is or what industry it is for, honest president Dick Foran is framed for the murder of his friend whom he was sending to the state's attorney with information. The mobbed up vice president Douglas Kennedy then takes over and the strong arm tactics against the membership and the businesses begin.

Fortunately for Foran the state's attorney is Brian Keith who is a man of conscience who actually wants to see justice as opposed to rolling up convictions. Even though he's being mentioned for governor Keith starts questioning his own conviction first with a voice identification of Foran.

Said identification was bogus the product of comedian Buddy Lewis who works in mob clubs. Also derelict Elisha Cook, Jr. after giving perjured testimony is killed. It's a race against time as the mob starts plugging up potential leaks in their usual fashion.

Besides those mentioned three women have prominent roles. Phyllis Coates as Keith's wife and Beverly Garland and Beverly Tyler as a pair of B girls who are witnesses against Foran.

Chicago Confidential is a well paced B picture with an impressive cast giving a good ensemble effort. A historical curiosity as well given the time the film was made.

6 / 10

Didn';t click for me

I'm really glad that crime movies of the B or lower grades are showing up. Hence the six stars. But this movie felt flat. It never drew me in.

It's one of those in which an unseen narrator tells us about the crime that was sweeping big cities and the police/government officials/fill in the blank who were wiping it out.

Brian Keith could be a fine noir hero but his performance feels uninspired. The movie boasts some great actresses of the tough-girl school. They too seem underused.

The narration is almost a self-parody. It is so stern and humorless it presages the announcer on "Laugh-in" and some later intentional funny movies.

I didn't buy this movie. Not sure why. But thanks for bringing it out of the vault, anyway. And keep 'em coming!