Paul Madvig is a local crime boss who has decided to go straight. He is backing Ralph Henry for governor and he’s in love with Henry’s daughter Janet Henry and hopes to marry her. He then starts trying to shut down and clean up the town starting with rival mobster Nick Varna. Problems start because Henry’s son Taylor has huge gambling debts with Varna and is also in love with Madvig’s sister Opal. Madvig’s best friend and bodyguard Ed Beaumont doesn’t trust Janet because he also is in love with her and thinks that Madvig is making a huge mistake shutting down Varna. Ed discovers that Taylor and Opal are together and informs Madvig. Soon after Taylor is found dead and it looks like Madvig did it. Ed and Madvig get into a big fight and it looks like Ed is switching sides for Varna. Varna’s enforcer Jeff doesn’t trust Ed and when Ed slips up he beats and tortures Ed to find out what Madvig knows. It all comes to a head as Ed tries to find out who killed Taylor and clear his friend’s name.
This 1942 film based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel of the same name. It was first made into a movie in 1935 with George Raft, Claire Dodd and Edward Arnold in the lead roles. It’s a pretty good crime film and the remake is no slouch either. Brian Donlevy is Paul Madvig, Alan Ladd is Paul’s best friend Ed Beaumont and Veronica Lake is Janet Henry. TCM has finally released the 1942 film on DVD in a box set called Dark Crimes with another awesome Alan Ladd / Veronica Lake film The Blue Dahlia.
If the plot sounds familiar that’s because Joel and Ethan Coen were “inspired” by the story and made it into Miller’s Crossing although Hammett’s other story Red Harvest is also claimed to be an inspiration. I think there’s more The Glass Key than Red Harvest in the film.