Six Bridges To Cross (1955)
In what is essentially a “B” picture from Universal-International this Joseph Pevney directed effort has the grandeur of an epic gangster film. Admittedly it comes nowhere near that mark and while I did enjoy the film as a whole, I’d be the first to raise my hand when asked if I’d prefer to watch a Bogie-Robinson flick from the 1930’s instead.
A harsh introduction I know so let’s get past what the film isn’t and look towards what we have here at a running time of 96 minutes.
It’s a Boston location that begins in 1933. Slums, teenage delinquents and Sal Mineo are to be found in the streets. Mineo appears for the first 15 minutes of the film as the younger version of what will become a starring role for Tony Curtis. Mineo and his pals are trouble makers stealing from market vendors and looking to avoid the friendly cop on the beat played by George Nader. When the gang up the ante breaking into a store after hours, Nader, chases the gang in the dark and fires one shot that apparently must hit Mineo/Curtis in the genitals.
At least that’s what I suspect when the doctors point out that the young man will never be able to have children. It’s all rather delicately handled since we’re in the era of the “code.”
Mineo takes it in stride and though he still prefers to play it tough, one can easily see he likes Nader and maybe even looks up to the man in uniform. He even turns stool pigeon giving Nader leads on robberies and other crimes. Nader will get Mineo off the hook and released on probation in the hopes the kid can straighten out his wayward habits in the coming years.
Enter Stony Curtis.
(I can’t help myself)
Now a young adult, Curtis, is still a kid of the streets. Nader has moved up the ladder of success on the force and has the beautiful Julie Adams for a wife. Curtis will soon refuse to play stool pigeon on a member of his own street gang and ends up doing a stretch for rape. Again, little is said of this considering the code but as he apparently cannot perform the “sex act” Nader knows he’s innocent.
Curtis eventually gets out, pays back the guilty party with a good beating and is back to his role in the criminal ranks and proving successful. Until the next parole violation lands him back in the pen and Nader washing his hands of what he considers a hopeless case and career criminal. Nader apparently goes off to war once we reach December 7th, 1941 in our story and Miss Adams steps in to visit Tony at the State Pen.
Just doesn’t ring true for me. I’m to believe that Julie is a more mature and older woman than young Stony. In reality she was 1 year younger and in hindsight it’s rather surprising she wasn’t paired with Curtis as a leading lady at some point of their learning curve during the 1950’s as contract players at the studio. She seemed to end up in westerns opposite Jimmy Stewart, Rock Hudson and Tyrone Power (with all due respect to the Creature) while Tony played adventurer opposite Piper Laurie, Lori Nelson and of course, Janet Leigh.
The years pass, Tony, has a little grey around the temples and pulls his biggest heist. One with the perfect alibi. A job that nets him over 2 million. All while getting married to Anabel Stewart with Nader as his best man. Yes the pair have made up at the urging of Adams. Nader is positive he’s been had by the smooth talking Stony and his Police Chief, Jay C. Flippen, wants results and arrests made.
O.K. that’s enough of the plot as there’s plenty to go around and still a half hour or so remaining in this condensed gangster saga. Maybe Tony was in training for his role as Mobster King, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, in the 1975 bio-pic he headlined.
There’s little doubt this film has dated poorly and I have to wonder if it was even thought to be just that at the time of it’s release. One thing that did jump at me as soon as the credits began to roll was the voice singing the title track. None other than Sammy Davis Jr. and when the credits reached his name as the vocalist, I also spotted that the lyrics were penned by some guy named Jeff Chandler. I don’t believe I was aware that Chandler dabbled in songwriting though I have heard that he and Davis were very close pals behind the scenes. According to the trivia page on this film over at the IMDB, it was while enroute to the recording studio to record vocals for this that Davis lost an eye as the result of a serious automobile accident.
Leading man, Nader, would end up playing alongside Miss Adams once again as a couple in 1956’s Away All Boats and again for contract director Pevney. This time out our songwriter, Jeff Chandler, scored the first leading role in a he-man war film with a cast of well known faces that sees Adams as nothing more than the token female lead. In this navy picture she’s surrounded by not only Chandler and Nader but by the likes of Boone, McGraw, Mahoney, Barker, Janssen and some fresh faced guy named Eastwood. Even if she doesn’t actually share the screen with them.
Six Bridges to Cross has recently turned up on blu ray in a Kino Lorber three pack of Noir titles. The others being Calcutta and An Act of Murder. As a supplement on this disc there’s a vintage Curtis interview included from the making of the film that has obviously been staged by the studio to market the film. Makes for an interesting curio.
Sure the film is far from memorable but it’s an interesting look back to the earlier days of Tony’s career and the factory line of Universal-International productions outside they’re more customary fare in the sci-fi, adventure and western genres.