Out In The Two-Timing Femme Fatale 1950s Crime Noir Night- “Armored Car Robbery”- A Review
Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the crime noir film Armored Car Robbery.
Armored Car Robbery, starring Charles McGraw, William Talman, Adele Jurgens, RKO Radio Pictures, 1950
Forget what I ever said about the classic two-timing femme fatales. And who knows maybe three-timing, or more. Once you go down that road what is to stop a dame, any dame , and why, at any small number when you are looking, forever looking, to step up in class, to latch onto the big dough guys who will take you out of the dime-a-dance scene you are mired in. So forget frails like Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon who was ready to make any guy, any two guys for that matter, take the fall as long as she got her damn bird, and the stuff of dreams. With dough enough to keep her in style, and the small-time grifters off her back. Forget Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shang-hai who had half the male world, the smart guys too, lining up to take the fall, and just ask where to take it until in the end even the smart guys cried “uncle.” Forget Jane Greer in Out Of The Past twisting up every guy in California, some smart guys too, and guys who supposedly knew what was what wound up hiding out until the coast was clear, maybe for about a century hiding out nursing their wounds , once she got done with them. And forget one more, just one more, that no femme list is complete without, Ava Garner trying to get some guy, her everlovin’ husband no less, some supposedly badass guy, to take the fall for her on his deathbed in the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers. Ya, forget them all as just slightly nervous misunderstood frills that had a couple of bad breaks along the way. Sweet little Yvonne (played by Adele Jurgens. Ya, I know, the name doesn’t exactly ring bells in the fatale world, good or bad)in this sleeper of a crime noir under review, Armored Car Robbery (Ya, I know as well, they seemed to have run out of interesting titles on this one) puts them all to shame. I might be over- touting the thing but hear me out.
Naturally no femme fatale worth her salt is driven by anything but the desire, the very strong desire, to get out from under whatever menial labor she is stuck doing, from serving them off the arm in some hash house to beating drunks for drinks and donuts in some two bit-bar fly scene. Yvonne here is strictly an independent operator working her fanny off (no pun intended) as a stripper ( maybe today the more politically correct term would be a sex worker, or some other more exotic description, although I am willing to stand corrected on that) in a low-rent Chicago burlesque house. Naturally such places, as Damon Runyon, Studs Terkel, and a few other guys have informed us, do not draw serious high-rollers or serious smart guys. So, through this and that, Yvonne winds up married, unhappily married as it turns out, to Benny who is nothing but a small-time grafter down on his uppers as the film opens. Strictly from Jump Street and strictly a guy who takes orders, not gives them.
And that is where this film gets interesting because while Bennie is nothing a but small-time hood he knows a certain smart guy, Dave Purvis (played by William Talman, probably better known as the ever-losing District Attorney in the 1950s Perry Mason television series and not a classic ladies’ man by any means which means he too has to keep grabbing dough), who has a plan, a big heist plan, which the reader can figure out from the title of the film, involves robbing, well, an armored car. Why? As the late old time yegg Willie Sutton has often been quoted as saying in all kinds of contexts –“that’s where the money is.” Big half a million dollar dough (big 1950s dough, now just tip money for the big guys). Bennie (and a couple of his confederates) are in, in to get under from under in the Yvonne department, to keep her in style, some style anyway. But here is the beauty of the thing, and what puts Yvonne right up there with the more well-known fatales, she is running around, married to Benny or not, running around no questions asked, with one Dave Purvis. See Yvonne knows what every true-blue two-timing femme fatale knows-go with the brains of the operation. And so her fate is set.
Of course even a kid wet behind the ears knows that the magic mantra behind every crime noir is that crime, well, crime doesn’t pay. The only difference usually is in what manner it doesn’t pay (and how bad the femme fatale makes some guy, or guys, fall). Here the heist gets blown by a simple call to the police by a witness. The stick-up (at a ball park during baseball season which is probably a separate chargeable crime itself ) is blown but not before a fatal shoot-out of a police officer in pursuit. Benny also gets shot-up in the melee. And that is where Lieutenant Cordell (played by ruggedly handsome, jut-jawed, and straight-as-an-arrow Charles McGraw with the perfect police officer’s face) comes in to see some rough-hewn justice is served. See the officer killed was his longtime partner and as we already know from detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon a guy has to do something about the murder of his partner, private or public cop. From there it is only time before Dave and Yvonne, once Benny expires from his wounds, are cornered in a dramatic airfield shoot-out. But here is the clincher- when Dave earlier , dough in hand, told Yvonne that Benny had gone to his just rewards she showed all the emotion of one who heard that a fly had been swatted dead. Didn’t I tell you she was poison? Ya, I did.