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Two Way Stretch and Warner Crime Movies

Like Nancy Bright Thompson I decide to reorganise and categorise in my case my DVDs. I sorted them out into Hollywood, World, British comedy and my personal favourites. It also meant that I had a “survival stack’ as none of the Xmas TV movies attracted me.

I watched first Two Way Stretch, a 1959 British comedy featuring Peter Sellers at the top of his powers in the late 50s and early 60s.

In this outing he was supported by the always delightful Wilfred Hyde White as “Soapy Stevens”, a con man working as a padre to get out of nick for a heist the cons led by Dodge (Peter Sellers), and his henchmen Bernard Cribbens and David Lodge.

Maurice Denham played the liberal governor always outwitted by the cons.

Denham had an interesting career as before his long acting one he was a lift operator.

Decorated by the late Queen Mother, she told him that she had seen him before. He replied that the last time he had visited Buckingham Palace was when he repaired the lift.

In the early 30s Warner Brothers led the way on crime movies with Public Enemy starring James Cagney and Little Caesar with Edward G Robinson.

These gangster movies posed a moral problem for the studio, namely to what extent could crime be glamourised in an era of strict censorship. Edward G Robinson’s Rico thrived off his publicity like some of the more contemporary Mafia dons.

Both he and James Cagney were well dressed, visited the best clubs and given the best tables and had a opulent life style.

Warner Brothers would have a pre-film notice essentially a warning crime does not pay. The films had a gritty dialogue with much wise-cracking. They move at a fast pace.

Interestingly the scene where James Cagney was fitted for a suit by an obviously gay tailor had to be censored, as was any scene which might indicate a sexual relationship.

Within the constraints, these movies defined a genre which is still popular to this day.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts