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The Street With No Name

The Street With No Name

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The Street with No Name  After two gang-related killings in “Center City,” a suspect (who was framed) is arrested, released on bail…and murdered. Inspector Briggs of the FBI recruits a young agent, Gene Cordell, to go undercover in the shadowy Skid Row area (alias George Manly) as a potential victim of the same racket. Soon, Gene meets Alec Stiles, neurotic mastermind who’s “building an organization along scientific lines.” Stiles recruits Cordell, whose job becomes a lot more dangerous…

Few-frills agent-in-peril noir benefits from Widmark, Stevens

The Street with No Name  J. Edgar Hoover, it now seems, was a mediocre crimefighter but a master orchestrator of his own publicity (and only secondarily that of the FBI). The Street With No Name stands as one of the better films dedicated to kissing his assiduously cultivated legend. Most directors assigned these tasks in the noir cycle wrote off such idolatry as a cost of doing business, clearing it away quickly so as to get on with their moviemaking; William Keighley follows this sensible agenda.

FBI agent Mark Stevens goes undercover to infiltrate the mob in that cesspool of crime, Center City, USA. In the boxing ring, he attracts the attention, slightly open to inference, of boss Richard Widmark, a dapper (“I like my boys to look sharp”) cutthroat with a morbid fear of drafts and sneezes. With the aid of confederate John McIntyre, Stevens reports the gang’s plans back to the FBI. Alas, a high-placed informant in the police department reports the FBI’s plans back to Widmark.

So the movie boils down to the agent-in-peril story. Keighley tells it cleanly and briskly, eschewing the complexities (both visual and moral) of Anthony Mann’s T-Men, released just a few months earlier. It’s strongest in the feel for Center City’s raffish tenderloin, with its fleabag hotels, pool halls and walk-up gyms. Stevens, McIntyre and Lloyd Nolan (as Stevens’ superior) give workmanlike jobs with the rather staid roles scriptwriter Harry Kleiner supplies. His few-frills approach reins in Widmark, too, who’s always better when he’s unfettered and shooting over the top.

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