Tuttle Recall

Frank Tuttle was a rather gifted director, I’m inclined to think, but he’s a bit problematic politically — in 1947 he was blacklisted due to his former membership of the communist party. In 1951 he gave HUAC thirty-six names (according to Wikipedia).

During the interim, he made GUNMAN IN THE STREETS in Paris, so I guess it’s the equivalent of Dmytryk’s rather good OBSESSION — the bridge between his pre-rat and post-rat phases. It’s almost a really good movie, too, though it lacks the verve and grit of something like RIFIFI (also made by a blacklistee in Paree). It’s more like the pre-war poetic realism stuff.

Dane Clark plays an American gangster in Paris, an ex-serviceman gone rogue, now a fugitive trying to get out of the country. Phlegmatic copper Fernand Gravey is hot on his trail, or as hot as Fernand Gravey ever gets. Clark turns to his former moll, Simone Signoret, and she gets funds from her current lover, Robert “who he?” Duke. There’s a double amour fou going on, with Signoret powerless to resist Clark and Duke in thrall to her.

The events of the story are all interesting in theory, and Tuttle’s visual approach — mostly elegant sequence shots — is fine, enhanced by Eugen Schüfftan’s misty cinematography (IMDb also credits Claude Renoir, but the movie doesn’t). The problems come from the script and the actors.

The great Jacques Companéez (listed as “Jack”), a master of this milieu, seems to have originated the story, but the dialogue feels like a too-literal translation from the French. We don’t need lashings of argot, necessarily, but we can’t have a hoodlum saying “I left my identification in my automobile.” It’s a slight problem having American and French characters and everyone speaking English, but the bigger issue is that it’s such flavourless, denatured English.


Gravey is good, but lacks the drive to propel his manhunt narrative forward with urgency, and he’s surrounded by Francophones whose timing is way off, a problem in Tuttle’s long takes. Then you have the romantic triangle, where Signoret’s style is rock-solid — her last close-up is devastating — Clark is miscast as a tough guy though he does his best — and Duke seems at sea in a difficult part. He comes across as a wimp and I’m not sure he’s supposed to.

Colourful supporting performance from Michel Andrê as a sleazy “artist” complete with dressing gown and cat.

Apparently there’s a simultaneously-shot French version of this movie, with several less writers, and Borys Lewin as credited director. Same cast. Wonder what that’s like?

6 Responses to “Tuttle Recall”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    Maybe, since he snitched like Dmytryk, he should have remade THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1941) under the changed title of THIS M0uTH FOR HIRE? Seriously, though this is another post-war film where Simone (not Simon) Signoret) shows her command of English as she does in Ealing’s AGAINST THE WIND (1948).

  2. Corrected typo on Simone… My laptop keyboard is giving up the ghost, though usually it’s the S that malfunctions…

    Should also have mentioned the excellent score: this is a hair away from being a classic, but just doesn’t quite make it.

  3. There is a full account of “Time Running Out” (“Gunman in the Streets”) – made in French as well as English – in Frank Tuttle’s interview book, edited by John Franceschina.(2005). The producers of both versions were white Russians. Levin, who directed the French version, picked locations and discussed the sets jointly with Tuttle. According to Tuttle only the European version was released. Brian Neve

  4. Thanks! The availability, albeit black-market, of the English-language version, suggests it must have at least sold to TV.

    I must try to get that book!

  5. Gravey is good? Good gravy!

  6. Gravey is always good. He moves about! (A test of your Tony Hancock knowledge.)

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