Cagney’s been better (The Roaring Twenties, White Heat) and the story of religious faith vs. gangsterdom isn’t that interesting anyway. The side story of hero worship between child and adult creates some interesting parallels, but doesn’t hold the kind of sway it should over the typical gangster film narrative.
A great example of the prototypical Noir, Mildred Pierce has it all; flashbacks aided by voice-over, morally ambiguous characters, and shadowy mise-en-scene stuffed with constricting iconography. While sometimes drawn out and overly talky, the film succeeds most when Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth share the screen, producing a mother/daughter face-off full of ugly jabs and dirty counterattacks. Curtiz builds this fateful relationship with objects of pleasure and glances of worry, crashing building blocks of a family destined to fall apart.
A true Christmas joy. Michael Curtiz’s vibrant We’re No Angels creates a perfect cinematic rhythm from it’s theatrical roots, staging cagey dialogue scenes with shades of tropical color and heat. The three convict “Angels”, played by Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov, achieve a beautiful harmonic sync, gliding through scenes effortlessly with the assistance of Ranald MacDougall’s brilliant script. The movie seems to unfold wonderfully without the help of obvious plot points, a sure fire sign of great writing. We’re No Angels might not be as highly regarded as Curtiz’s iconic Casablanca or as epic as his The Adventures of Robin Hood, but it reaches those same great cinematic peaks by slithering into your heart with Holiday compassion and feverish charm, as if you were bitten by the kindest snake in the world (eat your heart out Adolph) and left to enjoy the fuzzy aftereffects.