The Hoodlum Saint (1946)

William Powell, Esther Williams, Angela Lansbury, James Gleason,
A former reporter returns home after serving in the Army during World War I and discovers that finding work is more difficult than he expected. Desperate, one day he crashes a wedding attended by many of the city's rich and powerf...
  • 6.2 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • James Hill, Frances Marion, Frank Wead, Writer:
  • Norman Taurog, Director:
  • Cliff Reid, Producer:


6 / 10

odd movie starring William Powell

Everything is odd about "The Hoodlum Saint," a 1946 film starring William Powell, Esther Williams, Angela Lansbury, Frank McHugh, and James Gleason. It's a film about a returning World War I veteran when people were returning from World War II; it has the look and feel of a '30s film about it. At 54, the wonderful Powell is a little old for the role of an ex-soldier, and his love interest is 24-year-old Esther Williams. Apparently Williams wrote in her autobiography that she thought it was ridiculous to be cast opposite someone so much older, and states that Powell had to have elaborate makeup and wear a girdle. My question is, did she have anything nice to say about anybody in her book? The last oddity, which couldn't have been predicted back then, is that now Angela Lansbury's dubbing sounds very strange indeed as audiences have become more familiar with her singing voice.

All that being said, the story concerns a returning vet, a newspaper journalist, who has difficulty finding work. He crashes a wedding that has a lot of influential people attending. There he meets Williams and gets a job on another paper, only leaving it to join the very stockbroker he's been writing exposes about, deciding to go after the almighty dollar. This is all leading up to the stock market crash of 1929.

The acting is uniformly excellent. Williams is absolutely stunning in her role, and Powell is his usual charming, fast-talking self, delivering his lines with a good deal of irony and a light touch. Lansbury plays a club singer/love interest for Powell who becomes more sophisticated as the story evolves. Her acting is wonderful and she looks better and more glamorous in each scene. James Gleason, Frank McHugh, and Rags Ragland play Powell's somewhat crooked buddies, and they're delightful.

Powell is always worth watching, though this isn't his best.

5 / 10

Stepping Out of Their Element

When The Thin Man series was in high gear one of the endearing parts of those films is how Nick Charles would constantly be running into various criminals he'd had dealings with in the past. Usually he'd run into them while out with Nora and it was always fun to see how Nora took to these characters, people she wouldn't in a million years be associated with herself.

I think that MGM thought it was funny too so William Powell was cast as a returning veteran from World War I who as a newspaper reporter before the war apparently had a similar rogue's gallery of friends. It didn't really work here though, Powell is cast in a part that probably would have fit James Cagney or even Spencer Tracy better.

Plus the fact that in 1946 William Powell was 54 years old. Esther Williams in her memoirs thought it was ludicrous to be working with a man twice her age as a romantic couple. She describes in her memoirs the elaborate makeup preparation Powell went through and in fact he had to wear a girdle to keep his middle age spread from showing too much. According to her, Powell thought it just as ludicrous and in fact would be doing the lead in Life With Father the next year, a role far better suited to his age and talent.

Of course any film that utilizes the combined talents of James Gleason, Slim Summerville, Frank McHugh, and Rags Ragland as the four Damon Runyonesque characters in Powell's life can't be all bad.

Powell is a returning veteran from World War I who can't get his old job back as a reporter in Baltimore. So by hook or crook he makes a great deal of money, some of it by tactics this side of a con game. He meets two women in his life, socialite Esther Williams minus pool and nightclub singer Angela Lansbury dubbed in this film.

He's got these characters though who he likes but are becoming quite a burden around his neck. When Gleason gets pinched for bookmaking he makes up a religious yarn about a mysterious St. Dismas, the good thief crucified with Jesus as the one who gets the Deity to move in mysterious ways. Gleason gets sprung and it works too well as he becomes a fanatic on the subject. Powell, caught up in his own chicanery, becomes a big mover and shaker in a St. Dismas foundation.

It's not a bad story, nostalgic for its times as the action starts at the end of the previous World War. It also could have used someone like Frank Borzage, or Henry Koster, or even Frank Capra who dealt better with this kind of material.

5 / 10

Doesn't really come together

The idea was interesting, and while it was somewhat odd to see them together due to their performing styles being so completely different from one another William Powell, Esther Williams, Angela Lansbury and James Gleason were highly talented performers and always watchable.

All have done much better work than 'The Hoodlum Saint', both in terms of performances and in films. 'The Hoodlum Saint' has its moments and redeeming values but it doesn't really come together, feeling disjointed for want of a word. It's very nicely shot in black and white, and hauntingly scored. The songs performed by Angela Lansbury (though dubbed very well by Doreen Tryden, though it was a strange decision as Lansbury is a more than capable singer.

While the acting was a mixed bag on the whole, Lansbury really enlivens the proceedings in a charmingly perky performance and comes off best in the cast. James Gleason looks as though he was enjoying himself thoroughly, as does Frank McHugh.

Powell was a great actor but this is not one of his best performances, he has been more engaged before and since and is somewhat too clean cut for a role requiring a rougher edge. Williams is cast against type, but while she is radiant it is a rather bland performance in a one-dimensional role. The chemistry isn't there, and Norman Taurog's direction is often mechanical.

Scripting is pretty witless and dreary, but it is the story that is 'The Hoodlum Saint's' biggest failure. It's dully paced, with a good deal of convolution and situations resolved too easily. Tone is an issue too, starting with a more comedic touch and then abruptly shifting into drama and it feels like a completely different film and comes over as disjointed.

All in all, certainly not unwatchable and worth a one-time watch for curiosity's sake but doesn't really come together. 5/10 Bethany Cox

4 / 10

Perfect for 1936...

THE HOODLUM SAINT (1946) is a curiosity. It has the feel of a film that would have fit perfectly in 1936 for it has none of the post-war (WWII) sophistication that had been developed over the last ten (10) years. It is clearly locked in as a typical mid-thirties programmer. This may be because the screenwriter 'SPIG' Wead was on his last legs, literally, (died 1947) needed a paycheck and just recycled concepts that he was more successful with a decade ago.

The 'NUTS'...Veteran from WWI (then the GREAT WAR) returns to find job gone. Goes for the easy buck. Makes fortune, loses same, redemption through love, fade out. The films sole saving grace is it's excellent cast headed by William Powell (always dependable), supported by pros' James Gleason, Lewis Stone and Frank McHugh. The feminine interest features Angela Lansbury and Esther Williams. If you have never seen Ms. Lansbury when she was a young hot-tie or Esther Williams out of the pool that alone makes this film deserving of at least one (1) look.

MGM like all major studios was committed to a production schedule of fifty (50) feature films a year. It was the largest and had the most actors on payroll and they had to be kept busy. Look through the principal cast and we bet their credits come to over three hundred (300) features. In less then five (5) years this luxury will disappear and with it the production schedule of fifty (50) a year. Now it would be T.V. that shouldered the burden of production.

7 / 10

A major waste of William Powell's considerable talents

The only reason I watched this film was for William Powell. He's one of my favorite MGM leading men and he usually is so charming and charismatic that he can make any ordinary film shine,...except, perhaps, this one!!! I should have just trusted the Maltin Guide--after all, it said that apart from Powell it was a bad film. But, being a fan, I unfortunately watched this very convoluted and sappy mess.

The film's biggest problem is that the plot just seems to have 1001 loose ends to the plot. Again and again, the film just looks very incomplete and the pieces seem disjoint and there is no overall vision for the film. We have some assorted "mugs" thrown in for comic relief, Powell's character who is sometimes a nice guy and other times a thoughtless jerk, an ultra-sappy plot about some patron saint of thieves (it is PAINFULLY BAD), Esther Williams who is radiant but her part is flat and one-dimensional, we have the other woman (Angela Lansbury) who sings with a voice that isn't even close to being her real voice (I think Louis Armstrong's wouldn't have been any less convincing) and a plot that is just plain dull and meandering. There is no pay-off for all this--just a dull as dishwater film.