Friday, August 1, 2014

CASH McCALL (1960)


        Director - Joseph Pevney
       Writers - Screenplay: Leonore J. Coffee, Marion Hargrove 
       Based on the novel by Cameron Hawley
       Reviewed by Hugh Aaron
        Imagine yourself watching a poker game played by a group of gambling titans. Walk around the table, if you will; observe the cards each player is holding; watch each play, observe each facial expression, each droplet of perspiration. You know who is bluffing, who has the high hand, who uses a card tucked in his sleeve. You spot the master of the table. Now let’s call the hands positions of power and the chips financial fortunes. There you have the elements of the story of Cash McCall. From start to end the film will hold you in fascination with the game—not poker, but finance which is the same by another name.
Cash McCall (James Garner), a superman of finance, buys and sells businesses for profit. His manipulations are reputedly shady though he doesn’t look the type, and we quickly learn he isn’t. Indeed, his honesty is pure, as is his romantic involvement with the daughter (Natalie Wood) of the owner (Dean Jagger) of a company he is negotiating to buy. Both his influence and affluence transcend the common view of the American dream of success. Since Cash is so intrinsically decent, we are always on his side. We cannot help but vicariously enjoy his triumphs abetted by his powers of persuasion. Author Cameron Hawley has thus created for us an adult fantasy that bears just enough resemblance to truth to give us a kick. The trouble is that superman Cash is not human.
Only one character has more than one dimension, and she (Nina Foch) exists on the sideline only as a complication. All the others give resounding performances as far as their characterizations permit them to go, which is no deeper than a dollar sign. But we shouldn’t mind too much because the film is paced at a perfect cruising speed for enjoyment. The poker game, by the way, ends without a loser. This is not stuff for export to Moscow.

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