Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Phil Karlson|
|Produced by||Lewis J. Rachmil|
|Screenplay by||William Bowers|
|Based on||Dead Pigeon|
by Lenard Kantor
|Music by||George Duning|
|Edited by||Viola Lawrence|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Tight Spot is a 1955 American film noir directed by Phil Karlson and written by William Bowers, based on the play Dead Pigeon, by Leonard Kantor. It stars Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith, Lorne Greene, and Eve McVeagh. The story was inspired by Senator Estes Kefauver's tactics in coercing Virginia Hill to testify in the Bugsy Siegel prosecution.
Sherry Conley (Ginger Rogers) is a model who is in prison for a crime she did not knowingly commit. She is offered a deal for her freedom by U.S. attorney Lloyd Hallett (Edward G. Robinson) if she will testify as a witness in the trial of mobster Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene). Hallett hides her in a hotel under the protection of a squad of detectives led by Lt. Vince Striker (Brian Keith), where she stalls making a final decision while she enjoys expensive meals from room service. Despite the presence of the prison matron escort Willoughby, sparks begin to fly between cop and potential witness.
Through his corrupt inside contacts, Costain finds out where Conley is being kept. She survives an assassination attempt when Striker kills the assailant, but Willoughby is shot and seriously injured. Costain and his thugs ostensibly abduct Striker, who is revealed to be one of Costain's insiders. Costain has learned that Conley is being transferred to jail, where Striker will have to kill Conley himself if he does not arrange another attempt at the hotel. He is told to leave a window unlocked for another killer. Conley remains uncooperative, especially after Hallett attempts to use her sister Clara (Eve McVeagh) to persuade her.
Inadvertently, Striker almost reveals his duplicity to Hallett, but a phone call to Hallett interrupts. Willoughby has died in the hospital. Conley, who shared a respect for and friendship with Willoughby, then agrees to testify against Costain. Striker, who cares for Conley, fails to dissuade her and reluctantly proceeds with the plan. Hallett returns to escort Conley to jail moments before the killer strikes. Talking with Striker while she changes her clothes in another room, Hallett's banter brings a jumpy Striker to a breaking point. Striker abruptly kicks open her door and saves Conley, but at the cost of his own life. The opened window tells Conley and Hallett that he had set up her murder but changed his mind.
Conley takes the stand at Costain's trial, giving her occupation as "gang buster".
The film was originally called Dead Pigeon based on the play of the same name. The play featured only three characters; people referred to but not seen in the play such as the DA were added to the film version.
Principal photography on Tight Spot took place from September 7 to October 28, 1954.For Edward G. Robinson, Tight Spot was the second film of a two-picture deal struck with Columbia, when his age and political activity had relegated him to his "B-movie" period. For Ginger Rogers, she was playing against type in the role of a "tough, street-smart gangster's moll."
When Tight Spot was released, The New York Times reviewer Howard Thompson gave the film a positive review, writing, "'Tight Spot' is a pretty good little melodrama, the kind you keep rooting for, as generally happened when Lenard Kantor's 'Dead Pigeon' appeared on Broadway a while back ... Along the way are some nice, realistic trimmings Mr. Karlson, or somebody, had the bright idea of underscoring the tension with sounds of a televised hillbilly program (glimpsed, too unfortunately). For our money, the best scene, whipped up by scenarist William Bowers, is the anything-but-tender reunion of Miss Rogers and her sister, (Eve McVeagh) — no competition to the two 'Anastasia' stars down the street, but an ugly, blistering pip ... Indeed, Miss Rogers' self-sufficiency throughout hardly suggests anybody's former scapegoat, let alone a potential gone goose. But she tackles her role with obvious, professional relish. Mr. Keith and Mr. Robinson are altogether excellent. Lorne Greene makes a first-rate crime kingpin and Katherine Anderson is a sound, appealing matron."
In a recent review, film historian Leonard Maltin characterized Tight Spot as a "solid little film" with a virtuoso performance by Ginger Rogers. "Rogers, key witness at a N.Y.C.'s crime lord's upcoming trial, does a lot of high-volume Born Yesterday -like verbal sparring with Keith, her police lieutenant bodyguard."
The Academy Film Archive preserved Tight Spot in 1997.
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