No good reason I never saw this one before. It came out in 1956, during the time I would have seen it at the Palace theater in Granbury, Texas. Anyhow, it’s The Boss, now playing on Amazon Prime Video, a wondrous source of ancient works. The titles list Seltzer Films, Inc. and Window Productions, Inc. as the production companies. Details are from Wikipedia.
We are guaranteed up front this is going to be about crime and corruption in politics, and the plot leads us through the entire process, from beginning to end. The beginning is 1919, when thousands of soldiers are coming home from the war. In a not very big town there is a parade for returning home boys. Leader of the pack is Captain Matthew Brady (John Payne), seen here manhandling sweet Elsie Reynolds (Doe Avedon), the girl he left behind. Looking on is his school chum, Sergeant Bob Herrick (William Bishop), always a bit envious, and with his own eye out for Elsie. Matt has a huge chip on his shoulder, and that’s going to drive the entire plot.
Matt’s brother, Tim (Roy Roberts) is a local political kingpin, a big shot, a wheeler-dealer, overseer of local graft. Tim wants Matt to come in with him. Matt is having none of it. Chicago is the big time. He resents having his brother call the shots. The chip rides high. Immediately after this congenial snapshot Matt and Bob are going at it with fists and elbows.
As a result of the melee in the bar and a raucous evening of drinking, Matt is over an hour late for a date with Elsie. He had planned to propose marriage. The chip on his shoulder rules the encounter, as Elsie says no, and Matt shoves her. A sure way to terminate a relationship.
Continuing into the evening, Matt encounters a woman, Lorry Reed (Gloria McGhee), in an all-night eatery. He mistakes her for a hooker, and when she explains she is not that kind of girl he will not be denied. He drags her off into the night and forces her to marry him. All this on Matt’s first day back from the war.
The next morning finds Matt married to Lorry for life, when Tim comes barging up to their room. For some reason they are shown sleeping is separate beds. Again Matt rebuffs Tim’s insistence he join him in his local political schemes. Tim leaves and promptly drops dead before he can get out of the building.
Matt takes over where Tim left off. Money comes flowing in. He perceives Lorry is not good enough for him, not pretty enough. Low class. It is a cold marriage at Matt’s insistence. Bob goes away to college and becomes an attorney. He marries Elsie and signs on to Matt’s evil empire. The two school chums are shown enjoying a first and last convivial get-together with their wives in Matt’s palatial home.
Ten Years pass, and the stock market crash of 1929 puts Matt and Bob into financial straits. Matt seeks financial assistance from a local mobster named Johnny, and some ruthless criminals become part of their political empire.
It all comes crashing down. One of the mob gets turned by the feds, and the mobsters ambush the agents taking him to a federal lockup. One of the mobsters whips out a tommy gun, turning the local train station into a killing zone. The shit hits the fan.
The mobsters abduct Bob to coerce Matt, but Matt fights back. When the police arrive at the cement plant where the mobsters are meeting, Matt and Johnny have it out in the upper reaches of the building, and Johnny falls into the gloppitta-gloppitta machine. I just had to put this screen shot in, because it is so required in the standard movie plot.
Bob testifies against his buddy Matt, who gets convicted, and Lorry puts up money for Matt’s bail. But she is leaving him. He’s going to prison anyway, so what’s the use hanging around?
Matt is seen walking himself into prison. Obviously crime does not pay.
My impression is writer Ben L. Perry decided to redo Citizen Kane, and that was even before I noticed this came out 15 years after. It could have been titled something like The Rise and Fall of Matthew Brady, but this was apparently the day for cryptic titles.
I saw a bunch of John Payne movies, and I always wondered at a he-man movie star who would be John Wayne except for one letter. But, no, that appears to be Payne’s real name. This was toward the end of Payne’s long career, his last appearance of note being in an episode of Colombo in 1975.