Movie Mirrors Index

Force of Evil

(1948 b 78')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Based on Ira Wolfert's novel, a lawyer in the numbers racket tries to make money and help his brother in a reorganization under a larger corporation.

Joe Morse (John Garfield) hopes to make a million as an attorney in lotteries. Joe and Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts) are financing 13 "banks." Joe wants to tell his brother Leo about 776 on July 4, but Ben warns him not to tell anyone. The number will break the banks, and then they can make them merge.

Joe goes to Leo Morse (Thomas Gomez) and offers him a third of the corporation, but Leo says no and calls Joe a gangster. Joe makes a call to have Leo's place raided. Doris Lowry (Beatrice Pearson) tells Leo she is leaving her job. Police raid and arrest everyone.

Joe arranges for 776 to come up. Joe pays Leo's fine and urges him to close down right away. Leo asks Joe to find Doris a job. Joe gives her a ride and tells her to blame him for her police record.

The popular 776 comes up. Joe tells Leo he can rebound from bankruptcy, but Leo's wife wants him to get out of the gambling business. Joe sees Doris, asks for a date, and offers her a $100 a week. Joe has Leo organizing the merger. Bookkeeper Freddie Bauer (Howland Chamberlain) tells Leo he is quitting, but Joe persuades him to stay by having a gangster threaten him. Bauer calls the police to raid them. Wally (Stanley Prager) offers Bauer a proposition regarding Leo, but he says no.

Edna Tucker (Marie Windsor) tells Joe that the prosecutor Hall has tapped Tucker's phone. She tries to seduce Joe, but he dismisses her. Joe checks if his phone is tapped. Joe tells Doris that he can only talk to her and kisses her.

Bauer and Doris go to work and are caught in the raid. Joe tells Tucker they will pay the fines, but he wants Leo out and will take his place. Doris is angry at Joe and refuses to talk to him. Leo tells Joe he wants no money and advises him to get out too. Joe sees his partner Wheelock trying to rob his office. Joe opens his safe and removes the cash.

Leo warns Bauer and leaves him. Wally tells Bauer to arrange a meeting with Leo. Bauer tells Leo he only wants to quit. Leo is abducted, and Bauer runs and is killed. Joe dines with Doris and is drunk. Joe says he is leaving with money and asks her to join him. They see the newspaper.

Ben Tucker takes Ficco (Paul Fix) into his organization and tells him to let Leo go. Joe comes in and hits Ficco, who says Leo is dead. In the dark Ficco shoots. Ficco kills Tucker in the doorway, and Joe kills Ficco. Joe finds Leo's body under a bridge, and he tells Doris he is turning himself in and wants to help.

This drama was considered such a powerful critique of capitalism that its director Abraham Polonsky was blacklisted for nineteen years. In the risk of business, symbolized by the numbers racket, most people lose while a few win big, unless they destroy each other.

Copyright © 2006 by Sanderson Beck

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