“I’ll pay the fine.”
Columbia Studio contract player/star, Glenn Ford, takes center stage in this nifty Noir thriller that gives one pause when naming some of the well known femme fatales of the era like Lizabeth Scott or Jane Greer. In this black and white effort it’s the little known Janice Carter toying with not only Ford but Barry Sullivan as well.
The film begins with an edgy Ford arriving in a sleepy town driving a big rig for a trucking company and immediately finding himself in trouble with the law following a minor collision with an old time prospector, Edgar Buchanan. While flirting with Miss Carter who is waitressing at the local diner, he’s arrested for reckless driving and a suspended license. It’s $50 or ten days in jail at which point the “good hearted” Janice steps in to get Ford out of hawk setting the tone for this spiraling tale of deceit and murder.
“I found him.”
Enter Barry Sullivan. He’s married into wealth and holds a job as a bank manager but it’s his wife, Karen Morley, who controls the purse strings. The marriage is dead and they both know it. He’s carrying on an illicit love affair with Janice and the pair are plotting to fake his death and make off with a quarter of a million dollars in embezzled cash. They just need a patsy to donate a body. One about the same size as Barry who won’t be easy to identify in the event of a fiery car crash. Someone who looks a lot like Glenn Ford with no nearby relatives to speak of.
While the plot begins to unveil itself, we’ll learn that Ford is a mining engineer looking for a job. Buchanan is on to a silver strike and quickly hires the younger man to assist in extracting the ore from an abandoned mine believed to have run out of precious metals. All he needs to do is secure a loan from the bank and Sullivan to get started.
Not so easy when Janice learns that their patsy is about to disappear from town to go mining in the hills thus ending their scheme. As for that mine in the hills? Damn sure looks like the same cave in Bronson Canyon I’ve seen in dozens of films of the era and countless sci-fi efforts of the 50’s.
Under false pretenses, Janice and Barry convince Ford to drive up to the mine to further discuss the loan to begin digging. It’s at this point that plot points collide. Barry has placed $250K in a security deposit box in Janice’s name that only she has access to. Time to use Ford as the intended victim driving down a mountainous country road and begin life anew. With Barry driving, Ford seated next to him and Janice in the back seat all she has to do is swing a wrench at the head of an unsuspecting and inebriated Ford to consummate her and Barry in murder and robbery. Simple as that.
But then you and I both know that’s a lot of cash on hand to an icy blonde and better to have it to oneself then share with a replaceable lover. That coupled with the fact that Glenn Ford is top billed, not bad looking and the star of the movie. No, I should think that Barry Sullivan is rather expendable at this point. Don’t you?
I’ve already given away too many plot points but let me add that when Ford sobers up and learns of Sullivan’s death he wants to go to the police. But what if he killed Sullivan in a drunken brawl that he can’t remember as Janice is telling him? There’s got to be something missing and he’s about to turn gumshoe to figure out what it is or better still, what her angle is.
Miss Carter makes for a tempting fatale of the period and I’m left wondering what stalled her career. She’d play a few secondary parts in films like 51’s My Forbidden Past, move briefly into television and retire from the screen all together in 1955. A missed opportunity for both her and us I should think.
At this point in his career, Ford, had returned from active duty in WW2 and was just coming off the success of 1946’s Gilda opposite his frequent co-star, Rita Hayworth. He’d find a home in crime dramas and Noir favorites like The Big Heat and Human Desire until his ascension as one of the premiere western stars of the 1950’s and 60’s thanks to oaters like Cowboy, Jubal and 3:10 to Yuma among others.
Barry Sullivan has always been a likable presence on camera whether playing good or bad characters. He always seemed to be in the second tier class of leading men. He’d score leading parts in minor films such as The Miami Story (1954) and secondary parts in bigger films like The Bad and The Beautiful. He did however play lead regularly to women of greater stature than he like Barbara Stanwyck in The Maverick Queen, Joan Crawford in Queen Bee and Bette Davis in Payment on Demand.
Lastly we have the grizzled, lovable Edgar Buchanan proving once again that character actors add so much to a movie.
Like Walter Brennan he’d make a career out of playing gruff parts opposite some of the biggest names in the industry over a career spanning 35 years. By my count he costarred alongside Glenn in 11 movies and one television series. Texas (1941), The Desperadoes (1943), Destroyer (1943), Framed (1947), The Man From Colorado (1948), Lust For Gold (1949), Human Desire (1954), The Sheepman (1958), It Started With a Kiss (1959), Cimarron (1960), The Rounders (1965) and the 1971/72 shortlived television series Cade’s County.
Directed by Richard Wallace under Harry Cohn’s Columbia banner, Framed has turned up in at least a couple of box sets. First in a DVD set from TCM called Glenn Ford : Undercover Crimes and more recently on blu ray thanks to Indicator’s Columbia Noir #2 that also includes Ford’s Affair In Trinidad and an excellent low budget thriller starring Vince Edwards called Murder By Contract.