AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Fingerman
Alternate Title: Dark Venture
Director: Harold Schuster (Dir)
Release Date:   19 Jun 1955
Production Date:   19 Jan--8 Feb 1955
Duration (in mins):   81-82
Duration (in feet):   7,404
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Cast:   Frank Lovejoy (Casey Martin)  
    Forrest Tucker (Dutch Becker)  
    Peggie Castle (Gladys Baker)  
    Timothy Carey (Lou Terpe)  
    John Cliff (Johnny Cooper)  
    William Leicester (Jim Rogers)  
    Glen Gordon (Carlos Armor)  
    John Close (Big Joe Walters)  
    Hugh Sanders (Burns)  
    Evelynne Eaton (Lucille)  
    Charles Maxwell (Fred Amory)  
    Lewis Charles (Lefty Stern)  

Summary: One morning, criminal Casey Martin and his partner, Lefty Stern, hijack a truck loaded with alcohol. Casey carelessly leaves a cigarette packet with his fingerprints at the scene, and later that night, is arrested by Johnny Cooper and Fred Amory, agents of the U.S. Treasury Dept. At headquarters, Casey is confronted by department chief James Burns, and told that as a "three-time loser," he faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Burns, knowing that Casey is not involved with organized crime, offers him a chance to free himself from his past by becoming an informant. Casey refuses to cooperate when Burns explains that their target is notorious racketeer Dutch Becker, even though Burns shows him morgue photos of young women who have been killed by Becker's gang. The officers urge Casey to visit his sister Lucille, who once worked for Becker, and then reconsider Burns's offer. With four hours to decide, Casey leaves and goes to Lucille's, where he finds his young niece Junie looking after her incapacitated mother. Casey is distressed to find Lucille ill and on the verge of a breakdown, and calls a doctor. While waiting for the doctor, Casey listens to Lucille rave about how she used to be the prettiest girl working for Becker but is now a discarded wreck. Casey prevents her from committing suicide, then, infuriated, returns to Burns's office and agrees to work undercover. Casey goes to his favorite nightclub and there tells Lefty that they are no longer partners. Casey also meets with his girl friend, Gladys Baker, who loves him and wants him to go straight. The next morning, Casey talks with Burns, who advises him to approach Becker through Gladys, who knows him. Casey agrees, and later, Gladys reluctantly introduces Casey to Becker at his supper club, Joe's Torch Club, where Casey is antagonized by Lou Terpe, his former cellmate, who is now Becker's right-hand man. Casey pretends not to be interested in Becker, who is intrigued by his cool demeanor, then leaves. Becker goes to his office and there orders his men to "muss up" a female employee suspected of robbing a client. Becker then interviews a new girl, young Mary Smith, and tells her that he demands absolute loyalty from his employees. Later, at Gladys' apartment, she assures Casey that all she wants is someone to like and respect her, and agrees to support him no matter what happens. Soon after, Carlos Armor and Big Joe Walters, two of Becker's men, relay Becker's offer of employment to Casey, who states that he will consider it. Casey then goes to a sanitarium to visit Lucille, and promises to help care for her. Later, at the Torch Club, Terpe again angers Casey, who slaps him. After Becker dismisses Terpe, he confers with Casey, who hits Carlos for insulting him. Despite Casey's apparent propensity for violence, Becker likes him, and arranges to meet him again the next night. After Casey leaves, however, Walters observes Treasury agent Jim Rogers, who has been following Casey, and eavesdrops as Rogers reports on Casey's movements. The gangsters capture Rogers and after beating him, throw him in front of a speeding truck. The next morning, Casey learns of Rogers' death but insists on continuing with his mission. In the evening, at his apartment, Casey tells Gladys that their problems will soon be over, but until then, he wants her to leave town. Unknown to the couple, Terpe is eavesdropping through the open transom as Gladys reveals that she used to work for Becker and that he is a dangerous man. Gladys states that she wants to go to the police with damaging evidence that she has about Becker, but Casey persuades her to wait. When Gladys leaves, Terpe follows her and kills her. Unaware of Gladys' fate, Casey goes to Becker's warehouse and assures him that he has a buyer ready if Becker can supply him with illegal liquor. Becker boasts that bootlegging is one of his smaller sidelines, but agrees to the deal. Late that night, Casey is awoken by a phone call about Gladys, who was mutilated before being killed. Later, after Casey has completed the arrangements with Becker, Cooper informs him that fingerprints have led them to identify Terpre as Gladys' killer, but warns him not to take revenge before they can arrest Becker. Infuriated, Casey disregards Cooper's instructions and is attacking Terpe when Cooper arrives and pulls him off the gangster. When Becker learns about Terpe’s battered condition, he threatens Casey’s life, but Casey bluffs his way out of the situation and persuades Becker to agree to deliver the liquor to his client. Early the next morning, Casey straps on a short-wave transmitter given to him by Burns and meets Becker and his men. They are followed by Cooper and other agents, who listen as Becker, who suspects that Casey is an informant, states that he will kill Casey if there are policemen at the warehouse, which has been cleared of any incriminating evidence. Realizing the danger he is in, Casey keeps talking and gets Becker to admit on tape that he ordered Gladys' murder. Becker also boasts about how he "owns" many people, whether through their addiction to gambling, alcohol or anything else that he provides. Becker then discovers the wire that Casey is wearing, but Casey is able to alert the agents to his position before being knocked unconscious. The agents engage in a shootout with Carlos and Dave, the driver, killing them both. Casey revives and attempts to strangle Becker, but the agents stop him and arrest Becker. Cooper congratulates Casey on his success, and the cynical Casey replies that all he wants to do is to help Lucille and Junie, and to live long enough to make something of his life. 

Production Company: Lindsley Parsons Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Lindsley Parsons Production
Distribution Company: Allied Artists Pictures Corp.  
Director: Harold Schuster (Dir)
  Lindsley Parsons Jr. (Asst dir)
  Warren Douglas (Dial dir)
  Luke Johnson (Asst dir)
  Joe Dill (Asst dir)
  Ben Remington (2d asst dir)
Producer: Lindsley Parsons (Prod)
  John H. Burrows (Assoc prod)
Writer: Warren Douglas (Wrt)
  Morris Lipsius (Based on a story by)
  John Lardner (Based on a story by)
Photography: William Sickner (Photog)
  Lloyd L. Garnell (Lighting eff)
Art Direction: William Ross (Art dir)
Film Editor: Maurice Wright (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Jerry Welch (Set dec)
Music: Paul Dunlap (Mus comp and cond)
Sound: Tom Lambert (Rec)
Special Effects: Ray Mercer (Spec eff)
Make Up: Ted Larsen (Makeup)
Production Misc: Rex Bailey (Prod mgr)
  Fred H. Messenger (Casting dir)
  Jean Belcher (Set cont)
Country: United States
Language: English

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Allied Artists Pictures Corp. 6/6/1955 dd/mm/yyyy LP4785

PCA NO: 17429
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
 
Subjects (Major): Bootleggers
  Informers
  Murder
  Racketeers
  Undercover operations
  United States. Treasury Department
 
Subjects (Minor): Battered women
  Beauty, Personal
  Brothers and sisters
  Criminals--Rehabilitation
  Disease
  Fingerprints
  Fistfights
  Hijackers
  Nieces
  Nightclubs
  Psychopaths
  Prostitution
  Revenge
  Sanitariums
  Surveillance devices

Note: The working titles of this film were Dark Venture , City That Never Sleeps , Today Is Forever and The Hijackers . Several reviews refer to the film as Finger Man . Voice-over narration by Frank Lovejoy, as “Casey Martin,” is heard intermittently throughout the picture. According to a 10 Jan 1955 HR news item, Broderick Crawford was originally set to star in the picture. The news item indicates that Crawford dropped out due to “virus attack.” Other HR news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Marjorie Gateson, Bill Boyett, Billie Cook, Arlene Solof, Joi Lansing, Donna Drew, Laurie Mitchell, Darlene Fields and Alyn Lockwood. Portions of the film were shot on location in Griffith Park, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, CA, according to HR news items.
       In the film, it is strongly suggested that “Lucille” is addicted to narcotics and is going through withdrawal when “Casey” first comes to visit her. It is also implied that “Dutch Becker,” in addition to running a widespread prostitution ring, is a drug smuggler. According to information in the film’s file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA initially rejected the script due to its “excessive brutality;” the implication that “Gladys” was a prostitute; the depiction of “Lou Terpe” as a sadistic “sex pervert;” and the possibility of “illicit sex” between Gladys and Casey.
       Although the script was eventually approved, when the completed film was reviewed by the PCA in Mar 1955, it was rejected. In a 14 Mar 1955 letter to producer Lindsley Parsons, PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock severely chastised the producer for filming sequences that had not been submitted to the PCA for approval. Included in Shurlock’s objections were dialogue stating that the photographed victims shown to Casey by “James Burns” were “dead as a result of dope addiction and/or prostitution;” the implication that Becker was involved in “dope traffic;” and the inclusion of Lucille, who was not a character in the approved script. Shurlock emphasized that Lucille could not be shown as a “dope addict” and instead must be depicted as a recovering alcoholic. After the studio deleted a few brief sequences and added more voice-over narration, including a line that Lucille “loved the bottle,” the picture was approved and a certificate was issued by the PCA on 23 Mar 1955. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   18 Jun 1955.   
Daily Variety   8 Jun 55   p. 3.
Film Daily   22 Jun 55   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Sep 1954   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 1954   p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Dec 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jan 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jan 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jan 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jan 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jan 1955   p. 7, 12.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jan 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jan 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Feb 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Feb 1955   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Feb 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Feb 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   19 May 1955   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 55   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   18 Jun 55   p. 482.
New York Times   16 Jul 55   p. 12.
Variety   15 Jun 55   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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