Salty O’Rourke (1945)
Alan Ladd stars once again alongside his faithful companion William Bendix in this tale of…….. HOLD ON, scratch that. Make that Alan Ladd stars alongside William Demarest subbing in on a role that is usually reserved for William Bendix. That’s better.
When it comes to sports and gambling it’s either boxing or the horse track in Hollywood’s golden era. This time out we hit the race track with Ladd in hawk to a local shark played by Bruce Cabot through no fault of his own. Teaming with pal Demarest they figure to buy a horse that no jockey can seem to tame but can run like the wind. Enter Stanley Clements, formerly of the Dead End Kids. Clements is a disbarred jockey with a penchant for women and wine who Ladd gets reinstated by dubious means.
Comedy ensues when Clements has to report to school because of his supposed age still being 17. Fortune smiles on our rowdy rider as beautiful Gail Russell is the teacher who is responsible for underage jockeys.
Clements does his best to put Ladd through the ringer. From flirting with Russell to boozing it up and illegal bets, he’s doing everything possible to ruin the set up Ladd has to get out of hawk from Cabot. Not to mention the muscle Cabot uses to politely threaten those who are overdue on paying back the 20K owed him.
Problems arise when both Clements and Ladd fall for school teacher Russell. Clements of course is far too young and immature but Russell can see the possibilities with Ladd. If only she can get him to turn his back on his somewhat shady affiliations.
Emotions get tangled up with our three leads heading into the final race where a fortune could be won or lives lost. Either way, things don’t look good for Cabot as he plans on not only collecting his money from Ladd but maybe dishing out a little violence as well. The Alan Ladd formula will play itself out from here giving the audiences of 1945 exactly what they expect to see in a Ladd vehicle.
“One more crack out of you and I’ll slap you’re teeth down you’re throat.” No it’s not Leo Gorcey saying this but Ladd as he steps into the world of juvenile delinquency. The scenes of Ladd and Clements have that Bowery Boys feel and with Clements graduating from the Gorcey-Hall pairings it’s no surprise.
Gail Russell would go on to appear with Ladd in Calcutta before slowly losing a battle with alcoholism. She died at the early age of 36. William Demarest is one of those great character actors I like to talk about all the time. For me growing up he was Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons reruns. He would turn up again with Ladd in Whispering Smith and Hell on Frisco Bay.
Rugged director Raoul Walsh was behind the camera here and would re-team with Ladd for Saskatchewan in 1954. It’s too bad they never made a film together that was more defining. After all Walsh gave us White Heat, Gentleman Jim and Pursued among many other titles.
Overall this film tries to give us Ladd “light” with the usual Ladd formula mixed in and makes for diverting entertainment. The copy I have of this is poor quality but better than none at all. I haven’t come across this as an official release on home video which like most Ladd films seems to be the case. Thanks to Kristina at Speakeasy for sending this one my way.