Sunday, March 14, 2010


The Big Heat (1953). Film noir directed by Fritz Lang. Cast: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin. The film was written by former crime reporter Sydney Boehm based on a serial by William P. McGivern which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, and was published as a novel in 1952.

Homicide detective Sergeant Dave Bannion, next assignment is to investigate the death of officer Tom Duncan. Bannion, is contacted by Duncan's mistress, Lucy Chapman, who tells Brannion that Duncan had a second home which he could not afford on his salary.

Bannion visits Duncan's wife. He asks her about the second home which she is not to happy about. Bannion is called in by Lieutenant Ted Wilks, who wants to close the case as soon as possible. Soon after, Chapman is found dead. Bannion investigates even though it is not his jurisdiction. After receiving threatening calls to his home, he goes to see Mike Lagana, the mob boss. Lagana is angered by Bannion's accusations.

Bannion's car is blown up and his wife Katie is killed in the explosion. Feeling that the police will not find the murderers, Bannion resigns and goes off on his own to arrest Lagana and Vince Stone.

When Stone attacks a girl in a nightclub, Bannion stands up to him by ordering Stone and a bodyguard out of the club. Stone's girlfriend, Debby Marsh, who tries to get friendly with Bannion, keeps pointing out that she gets her money from a Stone. Marsh states: "I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better." As soon as Debby talks about Bannion's late wife, he rushes her out the door.

Debby was seen with Bannion. When she returns to Stone's apartment, he accuses her of talking to Bannion and throws boiling coffee in her face. Debby is taken to hospital by Police Commissioner Higgins, who was playing poker with Stone at the time. Higgins tells him that he will have to file a report, but Stone reminds the commissioner that he is paid to deal with these type of things.

Debby goes to to Bannion looking for help, he finds her a room at the hotel that he is staying at. Bannion learns that a man called Larry hired a mechanic to set the dynamite in the car that killed his wife. Debby tells him that it was Larry Gordon. Bannion forces Gordon to admit to the bombing. Trouble began because Bertha Duncan, widow of the cop, who had papers that could expose Stone and Lagana. Mrs. Duncan kept them and was collecting blackmail payments from Lagana.

Debby tells him that killing for revenge would make him no better than those who killed his wife. Bannion does not kill Gordon, instead spreading the word that he talked. Gordon is murdered by Stone's men. Bannion next goes to see Mrs. Duncan, accusing her of betraying Chapman, causing her death and protecting Lagana and Stone. Cops sent by Lagana make him leave before he is finished talking to her.

Stone kidnaps Bannion's daughter Joyce, who is staying with an aunt and uncle with a police guard nearby. When the guard suddenly leaves, the uncle calls in his army buddies to take over. On the way Brannion meets Lieutenant Wilks, who is now prepared to make a stand against the mob.

Will Stone be arrested for murder and will Lagana and Commissioner Higgins be indicted?

Glenn Ford, gives one of the best performances of his career. But, the film really belongs to bad girl Gloria Grahame. A young Lee Marvin, is perfectly creepy as the man who gets what's coming to him at the end...



When Lee Marvin sees Glenn Ford face to face, the music in the background is "Put the Blame on Mame," a reference to Ford's performance in Gilda (1946).

Bannion's wife Katie is played by Jocelyn Brando, older sister of Marlon.

Jeanette Nolan (December 30, 1911 – June 5, 1998), began her acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California, and, while a student at Los Angeles City College, made her radio debut in 1932 in Omar Khayyam, the first transcontinental broadcast from station KHJ.

She made her film debut as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles's 1948 film Macbeth, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name.

Viewers of film noir may know her best as the corrupt wife of a dead (and equally corrupt) police officer in, The Big Heat.

Her final film appearance was in Robert Redford's, The Horse Whisperer as Redford's mother.

She also lent her voice to several Walt Disney animated films, most notably as Widow Tweed, the kindly old lady who adopts an orphan fox in the FILM, The Fox and the Hound(1981). Nolan made more than three hundred television appearances.

In 1935, Nolan married actor John McIntire; the couple remained together until his death in 1991. The couple guest starred together in an episode of Charlie's Angels in 1979, The Incredible Hulk in 1980, Quincy, M.E. in 1983, and Night Court in 1985, playing Dan Fielding's hick parents.

She was the mother of two children, one of whom was the actor Tim McIntire, who was best known for his turn as the legendary DJ Alan Freed in the 1978 film American Hot Wax.

She died of a stroke on June 5, 1998.


  1. A powerful film, and with Out Of The Past, Laura, Gilda, and Where the Sidewalk Ends one of the Best ever non Bogart Film Noirs.

  2. Oh Dawn ,I forgot TCM is running Macao this Friday at 1.15 PM Pacific Check Local Listings.

  3. Paul, Thank you. I will Spotlight it.

  4. Cool.Jane, Gloria, Robert, and William Bendix, and Brad Dexter.

  5. Lee Marvin was a pretty scary thug in this one! Great performances by Gloria Grahame (of course!) and Glenn Ford. This is a noir essential.


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