A minor piece of 50s suspense:
And that would be the bars and the safe door, right? Yes. But it's also the trap of the suburban life, the sense that one’s life is constrained by the dictates of post-war normality. One must have the House with the Wife and the Child:
Los Angeles in the early 50s - the cars are big and the trees are scrawny. The wife wears a dress to drive the husband to the train station.
It’s proto-Rob Petrie commuter life, which was a constant theme in movies of the 50s and 60s: men jammed into trains on their way to soulless jobs, their vitality and hope draining out of their bodies every time they engaged in the workaday ritual.
In this case we have Joseph Cotton, who has everything: a wife who loves him, a doting daughter, a solid job.
But he lacks something. He wants something.
He dreams of something.
And that something is money. Here’s the plot: restless middle-aged man is stuck in a bank job, and cannot forget that once upon a time, he was in “Citizen Kane.” It’s been all downhill from there. Oh sure, he’s getting work. But when he read the script, and saw all the references to Brazil, he thought maybe he’d get a trip to Rio. You know, go down there, make a movie, and have it released: take that, Orson. How many miles of film did you shoot in Rio? I went down for a week and we got what we needed, and the film was under budget and it earned out.
Maybe that’s what Cotton was thinking. Perhaps he was just happy to get the work. The plot is simple: decent but restless guy is tempted by the money he sees, and figures out a way to steal it and head to Brazil, which has no extradition treaty. He makes one mistake, dictated by the script: he has to do it NOW RIGHT NOW as soon as he gets the idea, which means he cobbles together a half-assed plan two days before he leaves the country with his unknowing wife. This leads to all sorts of complications, each of which more quotidian than the last, so the tension comes down to “will they make their connecting flight?” You’re rooting for him, because he’s Joe Cotton, but you’re rooting for him to fail and do the right thing: go home and put the money back in the safe.
Does he? Take a guess:
Two shots made me reach for the screen-grab software. Oh, yeah:
Seventh and Olive. LA is always more romantic when it's greyscale.