Sam Newfield – Money Madness (1948)

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Money Madness (1948)
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‘Money Madness’ (1948) Hugh Beaumont (Steve) Frances Rafferty (Julie) Cecil Weston (Aunt Cora) Harlan Warde (Attorney)

Leave it to Ward Cleaver. With a few deft strokes, he can ; stash the 200K he stole from a bank (and his cohorts) ; land a low-key hack job ; woo and marry a lovely and unsuspecting young soda jerk ; and manipulate his way to financial freedom – all in the few short weeks following his arrival in town on the noon bus (and a very ill wind).

In this lean and efficient programmer from the middle of the cycle, Beaumont impresses as moody crook-on-the-lam Steve Clark (an alias). Desperate to construct a front that will deceive the authorities and disgruntled fellow thugs alike – he blows into a strange town and rapidly spins the tangled web he deems necessary.

Meeting and marrying an unhappy young local (whose shrewish battle axe of an Aunt has made home-life less than idyllic) in order to appear domesticated – and to use her home for ill-gotten-gains-storage (the dough will double as ‘family inheritance’). Steve has dotted all of his I’s – even informing his new bride (in a truly chilling exchange) of his scheme before telling her that legally she can’t testify against her unbalanced beau.

The viewer’s heart breaks for poor Julie – whose ray of hope has proven to be toxic. Our frazzled heroine having to maintain an even strain during the subsequent onslaught of nosy neighbors, amorous attorneys, and too-close-for-comfort-cops. Steve’s hair-trigger temper and coiled violence an ever-present reminder to stay tight-lipped. Despite her compliance, Steve’s luck rapidly runs out..

Director Peter Stewart shows no visual flair, but knows how to keep things moving – and draws strong performances from his perfectly-cast leads. As the dupe du jour, fresh-faced Frances Rafferty delivers a natural and quietly assured performance – holding her own with the more seasoned cast members. Beaumont’s pallet of moods and tones proves rewarding – especially upon multiple viewings. His confident sociopath being one of noir’s many under appreciated turns.

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