Saturday, April 05, 2014
***Where The Dough Is- Steve McQueen’s The Thomas Crown Affair
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, 1968
Everybody knows banks, whether in storefronts, in supermarket lobbies, or in marbled edifices, is where the money is. A lot of people also know of the old yegg, Willie Sutton and his famous, or infamous, remark when asked why he robbed banks and noted sardonically that was where the money was. The question posed by the film under review, The Thomas Crown Affair, is why was a guy who has plenty of money (some four million dollars, yes, pocket change today, hardly walking around money, but a substantial amount in 1967) winding up as the prime suspect in a major Boston bank robbery. Strangely enough Thomas Crown’s answer is very much like Brother Sutton’s-that is where the dough is.
Here is the skinny. Wealthy Boston socialite, divorced socialite and that is important since he is a little skirt-crazy, Thomas Crown (played by the blue-eyed devil Steve McQueen) is bored/intrigued/into risk-taking on a big scale who plans capers, you know, bank heists, basically for the sake of doing them. And mainly he gets away with them because he hires guys who don’t know each other or him on a contract basis and so he is somewhat immune to being ratted on by snitches and guys turning over on him when the heat is on. This is the M.O. (modus operandi, okay) that gets him big dough in a downtown Boston heist as the film opens. And finding out who and what this non-criminal criminal is drives the action in this film.
Naturally the Boston cops are clueless about how to handle such a case where it appears that the job was done seamlessly, there was no word on the street about the dough, the multitude of witnesses, bank employees and clients had a multitude of stories and they have to go outside the doughnut shop where they usually hang out. Enter one drop-dead female insurance investigator (played by Faye Dunaway) who has a serious reputation of getting the hard bank heists cases solved for a serious cut of the recovery money. So Faye goes to work, gets very close, too close in the end, to this wizard socialite Crown who has a serious case of getting his kicks by high risk actions. Oh yeah, but wait a minute we have Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in this one, two iconic beautiful people from the 1960s so you know that, well, sex has to show up or this might as well have been a film noir, or something. So sure they ruffle up some sheets, make that plenty of sheets, and Faye gets a little religion about Steve. Or maybe she was just like a lot of people wondering why a guy with dough was robbing for dough like she had never heard of Brother Willie Hutton.
[Note: This film was re-made in the 1990s with Pierce Brosnan in the title role. One big different between the two was the speed of the action in the latter film was much faster than the laconic unfolding of the scenes in this film. Even I found this earlier film rather too slow which may reflect the change-up in the demand for more action per minute in action films these latter days.]