Written by / 6/16/2016 / No comments / , , , , , ,

JAMES CAGNEY FILM NOIR OF 'KISS TOMMORROW GOODBYE'

James Cagney's different kind of violent mayhem 1950
After the peak of James Cagney crime cinema, wildly popular during the programmers of the 1930's where his characters are crooked yet charming and fun...

After blasting off in PUBLIC ENEMY and ending the Depression Era as a much nicer though still lethal and established rum-runner in the Raoul Walsh semi-epic ROARING TWENTIES...

And, following patriotic films during the Wartime 1940's, at the crest of that decade he was "Top of the World, Ma" in the prison classic WHITE HEAT, at which point, to move forward, he could only go underneath...

News relating to Cagney's target Neville Brand
That's where the pulpy KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE comes in, a noticeably low budget thriller with minimal sets, perhaps Cagney's only Film Noir or, if not, a Killer Crime outing with complete Noir aesthetic.

But don't look entirely in his direction for the token ambiguous pawn: Cagney's Ralph Cotter is not as viciously endearing, devilishly charming or wonderfully cliche, although he makes the sinister criminal element shine beyond the surface, a performance based mostly on knowing grins colored by a limitless penchant for strategic violence i.e. a constant means to an end. Cotter, more of a lone wolf crook than actual gangster, who breaks from prison in an exciting chain-gang prologue, narrows his untrusting eyes on newly-met partner Steve Brodie, and especially the sister of a convict who, injured by a guard, Cagney had to "put to sleep" (Neville Brand in an uncredited role) even though it wasn't necessary...

James Cagney Aims...
Highlighted in the Noir rule book as a leading (or co-leading) character who must border on good and bad, knowing right from wrong and choosing the latter in order to move ahead and basically survive, is Barbara Peyton as Holiday Carleton, a moody ingenue helping Cagney's Cotter on his whirlwind plot to frame a pair of crooked cops, both walking from locale to locale... either low-budget apartment or hotel room sets... following the manipulative firebrand and collecting their protection money along the way: To make the real money and keep from being hindered, Cagney must rid of the middlemen, per se, and without turning their lights out, permanently.

Cagney fires... kiss Neville Brand goodbye
Brodie, like Peyton, walks the line, the actor about to star as a good guy in Anthony Mann's DESPERATE and, as the deer-in-headlights crook, is out of his element (within the story) yet must travel with the unpredictable thief. Wanting the "Retirement in Mexico" without blood and sweat, much of the film plays out in a descending spiral as Cagney, an angel of death for any particular bulwark, runs in circles to make more bread...

Reminiscent of Lawrence Tierney in the 1946 Biopic-Noir DILLINGER, it's a menacing b-picture with a dramatic Noir score and creative camerawork, slow panning back and forth on every character speaking and, with a Classic Gangster undertone, provides a nail-biting vibe that anything can happen, at any time. Meanwhile, a few Cagney stock actors return including G-MEN (and many other projects) Barton McClane as the quieter of the two bad cops, and future I LOVE LUCY landlord William Frawley from the first Cagney musical SING ME A SONG as a bullying chain-gang captain (getting knocked unconscious by JC in both features). Added to that is a girl-next-girl who turns out to know more than it seems, countering the faithful dame perpetually waiting in-between scores. The clash of Crime Genre influences make KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE an edgy, faced-paced patchwork tied together by the star's (already, by that time) legendary dynamic.

With William Frawley
Adding a mazy Film Noir plot-line that's never quite clear where it's going or doing until just getting there – following a lethal, instigating criminal who, as things turn out, may not be as notorious as a few others; all either coming out of the woodwork or remaining hidden, poised, waiting...

INVADERS FROM MARS starlet Helena Carter
The only problem is, this KISS goes on too long: With thirty minutes left, after what felt like a tight little b-movie had already panned out, the word and gun-play seems endless. What's left over, and needs to be accomplished...

Basically, a courtroom mainline where Brodie and others are questioned and thus question their own involvement with Cotter, reaching out to a "crime doesn't pay" mindset within a convoluted resolution that isn't as intriguing as what's already been experienced – Cagney moving inside and outside, conning crooked doctors, lawmen and suburban dwelling villains in distinguished disguise, showing them who's in charge while having only two quick feet and (as always) a sharp, deceptive mind. But the one person who steals the show is the rich girl "Femme Fatale" more feminine than fatal yet has Cotter's heart in her sleeve, and is one of the most gorgeous actresses in an era of stunners...

James Cagney and Neville Brand at escape dawn
The sneaky b-side to Barbara Payton's good girl, this Noir's brainy "femme fatale," Helena Carter, who holds a candle to Cagney, igniting the vehicle even when it runs past its own ambition...

Which goes for the movie itself and it's anti-hero shyster. "Jealous? Jealous of that popcorn thief? That yellow pup?" And some great dialogue, too.

Overall, while not regarded as favorably as WHITE HEAT, its lower budget and maze-like plot-lines involving crooked cops, two opposing women, economically-shot scenes going to and from small interior locations, and an array of twists and turns make it something the more action-packed and mainstream White Heat wasn't: A Film Noir.
Cagney with Neville Brand
Helena Carter and James Cagney on their married beds in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
Helena Carter James Cagney Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye Helena Carter Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye James Cagney
James Cagney William Frawley Neville Brand Film Noir Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
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