The Bribe (1949)
Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, John Hodiak, Samuel S. Hinds (doctor)
Directed y Robert Z. Leonard and uncredited Vincente Minnelli
Based on a short story by Frederick Nebel. Screenplay by Marguerite Roberts.
Despite the stellar cast, this film was not a hit with the public or the critics when it came out. Bosley Crowther called the film “…as lurid as it is absurd.” Crowther argued that if the film didn’t have big name stars in it, it would be low man on a “grind house triple bill.” He also argued that blowing up everything in the end is the “one appropriate move in the whole show.”
Time Out called the film a “feeble thriller.” “Taylor” the reviewer said “isn’t up to the moral dilemma.”
The Bribe is a convoluted tempted cop story, and the plot is difficult to follow. Robert Taylor was said to have told Ava Gardner that it was one of the worst films he ever made. The two of them, according to Gardner, got a four-month affair out of it though. Gardner talks about the affair in her biography.
Vincent Price and Charles Laughton play the bad guys. The book, Cult Movies, called them “splendidly hammy villains.”
There’s not much surprising about Price’s portrayal of one of the bad guys. What is surprising and ultimately very distracting is Laughton’s performance as a doddering villain/dupe with bad feet. It reminded me of something I read about the ill-fated filming of I, Claudius, in 1937. Laughton worked and worked, but just couldn’t find a Claudius that suited him. He complained that he is couldn’t find the part. His performance in The Bribe looks like he couldn’t find a character he was happy with or was even interested in. It was difficult for me to follow the plot because I spent so much time watching what Laughton was doing, or not doing. His performance in “Jamaica Inn” is similar. Laughton just seems to be acting in another movie from the rest of the people on stage.
Robert Taylor (1911-1969) who plays the cop tempted by Ava Gardner was one of the most popular leading men of his time. He began his career in films in 1934. His performances in Waterloo Bridge (1938) with Vivian Leigh, and in Camille with Greta Garbo are my two favorites. Taylor was married to Barbara Stanwyck from 1939-1951. A chain smoker, he died of lung cancer at 57.
Sources: Wikipedia, TCM, IMDB