Noir-vember Day 17: Two Smart People (1946) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
16Nov/102

Noir-vember Day 17: Two Smart People (1946)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny DISLIKEIt starts off awfully funny for a noir, goes through the tortured motions, and eventually ends. There are two con artists, but unlike most films of this type, they barely try to put each other on. There's some arguing about whether their love is real, but, trust me, this is no Trouble in Paradise or Duplicity.

John Hodiak is Ace, a slick man with an oil well that just needs an investor before the banks foreclose. Lucille Ball is Ricki, an art dealer whose paintings sure looks like the real thing. The two meet by spoiling each other's cons in front of a bulbous old buffoon, but despite losing their investor both at least discovery a spark of chemistry.

No, not 'Smart People', this is actually still better than that was.

That spark of chemistry is quickly extinguished, as the two get into the machinations of the plot. Here, though, plot can be better described as 'idiotic series of events' to allow for greater clarity.

Ace has a fake book filled with money, and he's determined to get it across the country. An old detective, who he's pals with, shows up and brags about how he's finally going to get Ace behind bars once he finds the money. Ace makes a proposal which the cop can't refuse: go with him on a train trip to New York and, once there, Ace will simply turn himself in. The cop is giddy, and they pack up to go.

An old squirmy acquaintance of Ace, though, wants the money in revenge of a deal gone bad, and hires Ricki to seduce him and get the dough. So the rest of the movie is a train ride, with Ace ruminating on the joys of possibly going straight and Ball just going along with it; the movie just lingers on scene after scene of impotent bickering and drab backstabbing.

On a brief aside, I'm all for cops having their fair share of a good time, but no matter how reformed you may think a crook is, taking him to places like Mardi Gras, and, oh, say, Mexico, just strikes me as an innately terrible idea.

Wormy hires Ricki.

For the film's climax, I never thought I'd see such a limp depiction of Mardi Gras, but it looks about as imaginative and real as Ball's shoulder pads back in The Dark Corner. The end chase is sabotaged by poor direction-- the sense of madness and terror is only seen from a bird's eye view, too far away for it to be palpable. Director Jules Dassin (yes, the Night and the City director) fumbles this and in keeping up the pace in the rest of the movie. The actors are stoic, and the plot moves at a crawl.

Two Smart People sounds more like a call for new writers than anything actually present in the film itself.

Posted by Danny

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  1. Two Smart People
    A wonderful film. Great cast …Lucille ball at her best.
    The sets, lighting and photography are top notch.
    See it if you get the chance
    Lucille ball is absolutely stunning

    P.S This danny boy is so off base on this review…sounds like a bitter old *Queen*

  2. I won’t lie, I have been compared to Freddie Mercury on occasion

    And I agree, it’s a well made film technically, but I believe story-wise it just falls on its butt.


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