THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949): Nick Garcos (Richard Conte) arrives home from WWII. He shows up at home with gifts for everyone and a nice little bundle of money he made. Enough to marry his best girl and go into business with his pop (hauling produce to market). But when he finds his pop has been crippled, his thoughts instead turn into getting revenge on the guy who did it--Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). So he hauls a truckload of apples into San Francisco (in the old produce district, which has since been replaced by the Embarcadero) and sets about to make things right. The whole story is steeped in the struggles of the working class and the machinations of the scofflaws who cheat them. Everything from broken down trucks, unscrupulous dealers, dangerous dames (Valentina Cortese),...even the "good girls" only want you if you have money. I think it's fair to say it's a pretty bitter movie. And it's realistically bitter.
THE BREAKING POINT (1950): Eddie Muller claimed this adaptation of Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not" is director Michael Curtiz's best work. Personally, I'm kind of a fan of a little movie he made called CASABLANCA, but this is pretty darn good, too. Harry Morgan (John Garfield) is a fishing boat captain and upstanding if struggling member of society. Just to make ends meet he takes a job he probably (okay, definitely) shouldn't. And that just makes things worse, until he gets way in over his head. Garfield is perfect as the struggling man who has been corrupted but thinks he can make things right on his own (after all, he's a WWII hero). Patricia Neal is great as the temptress. Wallace Ford is appropriately oily as a shady lawyer setting up illegal deals. And Phyllis Thaxter is great as the suffering wife reminding him that he has her and two adorable daughters to think about. And without giving away, the ending scene is just crushing. You know, maybe this is Curtiz's masterpiece.
Total Running Time: 191 minutes
My Total Minutes: 262,907