Odds Against Tomorrow

Starring Harry Belafonte as Johnny Ingram, a nightclub entertainer who is addicted to gambling and gets involved with a bank robbery, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW was the first movie to be both directed and produced by
Odds Against Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

Wise, and was also the first film made for HarBel Productions, Inc., Harry Belafonte's production company.

The 1959 film was extremely cutting-edge in its portrayal of racial prejudice, the underlying theme which distinguishes it from other crime films. Unlike THE DEFIANT ONES, another picture from the period with a similar focus, and even the book the movie is based on, written by William McGivern, the film does not have a sugar-coated ending in which everyone gets along despite their differences. In ODDS, Wise wanted to show the destructive side of hate. When the bank robbery fails and the two thieves bodies are charred, making one indistinguishable from the next, it is a comment on how people destroy each other with their hate.

The film also marks the last time Wise shot black and white film in the standard aspect ratio—a filming formula which gave his films the gritty realism they were known for.

Synopsis In New York City, David Burke, a former policeman who once served a prison sentence, asks bigoted Southern tough guy Earl Slater to rob a bank with him, promising him $50,000 in small bills if the robbery is successful. Earl is reluctant to accept Burke's proposal but feels he needs the money to support his live-in girlfriend Lorry.  Burke also tries to recruit Johnny Ingram, a nightclub entertainer who is hopelessly addicted to gambling, but Poster Johnny turns him down.  Undaunted, Burke visits Bacco, an Italian mobster to whom Johnny is deeply in debt. Shortly thereafter, Bacco stops by Johnny's club and threatens to kill not only the singer but also his ex-wife and daughter unless the debt is paid by the next day.  The next day, Johnny takes his daughter Eadie to Central Park, and when he realizes that two of Bacco's men are following him, he calls Burke and agrees to help with the robbery. Meanwhile, Earl accompanies Burke to Melton, a small town along the Hudson River.  Burke shows Earl the bank and explains that because pay day is on Friday, the bank is full of cash on Thursday evenings.  Burke adds that a black waiter brings sandwiches to the small staff at the same time each week, and only an aging guard stands watch.  Earl refuses the job when he learns that Johnny, a "colored boy," is to take part in it, however.  Lorry assures Earl that money is unimportant to her, but he remains gloomy, ashamed that she supports them both.  Finally, he decides to meet with Burke, but before he goes, he makes love to Helen, an upstairs neighbor who is fascinated with him because he once killed a man.  When Johnny's ex-wife comes by to pick up Eadie, Johnny declares that he still loves her.  She seems to love him, too, but complains that his gambling makes him an unfit father.  Angry, Johnny replies that by trying to fit into a white world by, for example, serving on a mostly white PTA committee, she is only fooling herself. Late that night, the three men meet at Burke's, and when Earl calls Johnny "boy," Burke reminds him that they are equal partners in the venture.  The next day, each man travels to Melton separately, meeting near the river to discuss the details of the crime.  Earl continues to insult Johnny, and Burke tries to keep the two from fighting.  While waiting for nightfall, Earl shoots a rabbit, and Johnny worriedly flings stones into the river.  At six o'clock, Burke arrives at the restaurant near the bank.  He tries to knock into the waiter who usually carries the food order to the bank, but some small boys bump the waiter instead, spilling the coffee and food into the street. Disgruntled, the waiter returns to the restaurant, whereupon Johnny, dressed in waiter clothes, knocks on the side door of the bank.  When the guard opens the door, the three robbers rush inside. While Johnny and Burke stuff money into bags, Earl needlessly hits several of the frightened employees.  Then, ignoring previously discussed plans, Earl gives Burke the car keys, unwilling to trust Johnny with driving the getaway car.  As Burke leaves the bank, he is seen by two policemen, and when the burglar alarm sounds, the shooting begins.  Burke is shot, and because he now has the car keys, Earl and Johnny, crouching behind the corner, are unable to escape.  Burke calls, "Run, Johnny, I'm sorry," and dies, whereupon Earl remarks that at least the old man won't be able to confess their identity to the police.  Enraged, Johnny begins shooting at Earl, who manages to escape to a nearby oil refinery. Johnny pursues Earl to the top of an oil tank, and when the two fire on each other, the refinery bursts into flame.  Later, as officials are viewing the charred bodies, one of them asks, "Which is which?"  "Take your pick," replies the other.

From the AFI Catalog of Feature Films

Wise Facts
  • The film was backed by an excellent score by Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis, played by an orchestra of legends: Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass, Connie Kay on drums, Bill Evans on piano, and Jim Hall on guitar.
  • Look for Wayne Rogers, Trapper John McIntyre, from M*A*S*H, who makes his film debut in ODDS.
  • Credits:95 min. HarBel Productions, Inc.; Distributed by: United Artists;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Robert Wise;  Screenplay by: John O. Killens;  Edited by: Dede Allen;  Director of Photography: Joseph Brun;  Music by: John Lewis;  Production Design by: Leo Kerz;  Sound by: Ed ward Johnstone;  Costumes by: Anna Hill;  Make-up by: Robert Jiras; 
    Gloria Grahame Cast  Harry Belafonte (Johnny Ingram), Robert Ryan (Earl Slater), Shelley Winters (Lorry), Ed Begley (David Burke), Gloria Grahame (Helen), Will Kuluva (Bacco), Kim Hamilton (Ruth), Mae Barnes (Annie), Richard Bright (Coco), Carmen De Lavallade (Kitty), Lou Gallo (Moriarity), Lois Thorne (Eadie Ingram), Wayne Rogers (Soldier in bar), Zohra Lampert (Girl in bar), Allen Nourse (Police chief Melton), Fred J. Scollay (Cannoy), William Zuckert (Bartender), Burtt Harris (George), Clint Young (Policeman in park), Ed Preble (Hotel clerk), Mil Stewart (Elevator operator), Ronnie Stewart (Man with dog), Marc May (Ambulance attendant), Paul Hoffman (Garry), Cicely Tyson (Fra), Lou Martini (Captain of waiters), Robert Jones (Guard at door), Floyd Ennis (Solly), William Adams (Bank guard), Fred Herrick (Bank manager), Mary Boylan (Bank secretary), and John Garden (Clerk)

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