I have previously mentioned British film director Lewis Gilbert when writing about Cast A Dark Shadow (1955), which you will remember, starred Dirk Bogarde and Margaret Lockwood. Gilbert’s best known films includes Alfie (1966) which was adapted from a Bill Naughton's play and starred Michael Caine as the sixties icon. Later work included Educating Rita in 1983, which again featured Caine, Shirley Valentine (1989) and three James Bond films; You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).
Another of the 40 plus films he directed was the British noir crime thriller The Good Die Young (1954) jointly adapted for the screen by Gilbert and Vernon Harris based on a novel of the same name by Richard Macaulay. Filmed mainly at the Shepperton Studios with the climax filmed at Heathrow Airport. It included an American/Canadian/British cast.
The film opens with four men sitting in a large saloon car clearly up to no good, (the men not the car) something that’s reinforced when handguns are handed out. These four men, two British and two American, have apparently only known each other for four weeks. The spoken narrative informs us that they all have clean criminal records; it then goes on to explain how each of these very different individuals came to be sitting in the car.
Joe Halsey (Richard Basehart) a clerk has flown to Britain to find out why his wife Mary (a twenty year old Joan Collins) has not returned from a two weeks holiday in the UK where she went to look after her mother who had been ill. Mary’s mother (Freda Jackson) is insecure and noticeably unstable and does not approve of Joe and wants nothing more than to keep her daughter in the UK and split the couple up. But Joe who finds out his pretty young wife is pregnant wants to return to New York with her as soon as he can get the plane fare together.
Mike Morgan (the ever dependable Stanley Baker) an ex-navy man who realises he has come to the end of his relatively unsuccessful career as a boxer and needs just one more fight to increase his total savings to £1000 which he believes is enough money for him to retire and live happily ever after with his caring wife Angela (Rene Ray). But Angela has a younger brother who is forever on the wrong side of the law. When his sister puts up to bail money for his release he skips the country and Mike and Angela loose all their savings. Even if he wanted too, Mike couldn’t go back in the ring because following an accident his hand was amputated, in fact Mike is finding it imposable to find any kind of employment.
Eddie Blaine (John Ireland) is an American air force Sargent who is about to be transferred from his base in the UK to one in Germany, but the fly in the ointment is his unfaithful actress wife Denise (the sultry femme fatale Gloria Grahame) who will not go with him because of her career, but Eddie suspects that its more to do with her leading man Tod Maslin (Lee Patterson). Eddie goes AWOL and needs to get away from both the UK and his unfaithful wife.
Miles ‘Rave’ Ravenscroft (Laurence Harvey) has a very rich father and a very rich and sophisticated wife Eve (Harvey’s wife to-be Margaret Leighton). But Rave indulges in extramarital affairs and sponges off his wife to pay his gambling debts. But Eve refuses to settle up his latest liability that is owed to a rather unscrupulous villain who will stop at nothing to get his money. Even his father will not cough up the required dosh. Rave needs to raise some money - quickly.
This atmospheric suspense drama boasts a very cleverly constructed story that gradually unravels as the film progresses and manages to keep a tight grip on your attention span for its 94 minute running time. In my opinion it benefits from changing the novels original location from America to 1950’s England where it’s made obvious that the four main characters are still reeling from the end of WW2. It’s not just the main personalities involved in this drama that are extremely well cast but also the rest of the company, who fit their roles like a well tailored pair of gloves. These include Susan Shaw, Robert Morley and Leslie Dwyer.