7.3/10
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59 user 54 critic

Force of Evil (1948)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | March 1949 (USA)
An unethical lawyer, with an older brother he wants to help, becomes a partner with a client in the numbers racket.

Director:

Abraham Polonsky

Writers:

Abraham Polonsky (screenplay), Ira Wolfert (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Garfield ... Joe Morse
Thomas Gomez ... Leo Morse
Marie Windsor ... Edna Tucker
Howland Chamberlain ... Freddie Bauer (as Howland Chamberlin)
Roy Roberts ... Ben Tucker
Paul Fix ... Bill Ficco
Stanley Prager ... Wally
Barry Kelley ... Detective Egan
Paul McVey ... Hobe Wheelock
Beatrice Pearson ... Doris Lowry
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Storyline

Lawyer Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But his elder brother Leo is one of these small-time operators who wants to stay that way, preferring not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

John Garfield puts his Body and Soul into Force of Evil.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

March 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Tucker's People See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$948,000

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,165,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1994. See more »

Goofs

When Joe reads the newspaper at the beginning of the film about the prosecutor cracking down on the numbers racket, the second paragraph of the story is about another topic entirely. See more »

Quotes

Hobe Wheelock: Joe, you usually know what you're doing. But it's one thing to represent Tucker legally - as his lawyer, I mean. I mean, it's the business of lawyers to protect a lot of people. They even teach that at Harvard.
See more »

Alternate Versions

All existing copies of the film are of the version that was cut by 10 minutes in order to fit into a double bill. See more »

Connections

Edited into American Cinema: Film Noir (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

String Quartet opus 131, no. 14: Ist Movement
(uncredited)
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
See more »

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User Reviews

Classic film noir which finishes too soon
30 December 2001 | by GeofbobSee all my reviews

This is a gripping film noir, dark and despairing in mood, co-written and directed by Abraham Polonsky, shortly before he was blacklisted in Hollywood for his left-wing views. Those views are perhaps implied in the plot, which is about the illegal numbers game, and the attempt of a big operator to gain a monopoly of the racket in New York. The film shows how everybody from the individual punter putting a few cents on a number to the gangsters making a fortune out of the operation is soiled by the racket. For Polonsky, the numbers game may have symbolised capitalism as a whole, with both bosses and workers being corrupted by the system. However, the details of the plot are less important than the mood, characterisations and visual aspects of the movie.

John Garfield is brilliant as the charming, amoral lawyer Joe Morse, a Mr Fixit for racket-boss Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts). Thomas Gomez plays Joe's sick, world-weary brother Leo, who also runs an illegal numbers game, but independently of the mob, in an honorable and decent fashion. Some of the best scenes in the film show Joe trying, as he sees it, to help Leo by bringing him into Tucker's operation, while Leo resists and berates Joe for using his ability and education in such an ignoble cause. Much of this intense dialogue is reminiscent of that in plays by Clifford Odets or Arthur Miller.

Also compelling, but with a lighter feel, are scenes between Joe and Doris (Beatrice Pearson) a quiet but assured young woman who works for Leo. Joe adopts slick patter, and runs himself down, in an attempt to gain her sympathy. Also in the movie, but with a disappointingly small part, is Marie Windsor, as Edna, Tucker's wife; in a longer, more commercial, film, her role of femme fatale would almost certainly have been expanded.

But it is the sets, location work, cinematography and editing which lift the film above the average. Practically every scene and shot has visual interest, and it is definitely one film you want to go on longer than its allotted 80 minutes.


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