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Force of Evil Details


John Garfield, in the best performance of his career, portrays Joe Morse, an ambitious attorney who has long since abandoned his scruples in favor of monetary reward. Morse now represents the interests of crime boss Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts), who plans to take over the numbers racket in New York. Morse has devised a way of doing this legally and above-board, with no violence: Tucker's people will bring about the collapse of the illegal numbers racket in the city, using a race track-betting scam that will bankrupt the small-time underworld numbers banks; an investigation will ensue, along with a call for a legal numbers operation in the form of a lottery, which Tucker will control through Morse's machinations. The whole plan hinges on Morse's estranged brother, Leo (Thomas Gomez), a small-time numbers banker who is to be shielded from the collapse, and who will serve as the "legitimate" front for Tucker. Leo is the flaw in the plan, however, because not only can't he stand the sight of Joe, but he is also too honest to participate in the plan -- he doesn't want his employees, all decent people just looking to earn a living, forced into the employ of real gangsters. Joe orchestrates a series of police raids that force Leo into his corner, and Joe's plan seems to be working out, but then the whole enterprise is threatened when a rival mob, run by Tucker's former Prohibition-era partner, Fico (Paul Fix), starts pressuring Leo, trying to get to Joe and Tucker. Fico and his men aren't any different from Tucker's mob, except that they're prepared to start shooting sooner to get what they want. Tucker decides to hang tough and expects everyone, including Leo, to do the same, even when Fico starts sending thugs around to frighten everyone. Soon Joe is beset by problems on three fronts -- he wants his brother out of Tucker's combination and safe; he is trying to romance Leo's bookkeeper (Beatrice Pearson), who is too nice a girl for who he is; and his own well-being is threatened by both Fico and Tucker, and a state investigator who has already tapped the phone of Joe's otherwise respectable partner. All of these threads are pulled together in the final section of the film, which is as violent and disturbing, yet poetic and graceful a resolution as any crime film of the 1940s ever delivered. Force of Evil was star-crossed almost from the start, as many of the people involved, including star John Garfield and director Abraham Polonsky (a writer making his debut behind the camera, with help from assistant director Don Weis in doing the camera set-ups and blocking), were suspect at the time for their leftist political views. Indeed, the company that made Force of Evil, Enterprise Productions, was also in trouble for the leftist leanings of its films in the midst of the Red Scare, and went out of business just as the movie was finished -- dropped by United Artists and picked up by MGM, of all studios, Force of Evil made it into theaters during Christmas week of 1948, not the ideal schedule for something as grim (albeit great) as this film was. As it turned out, it was Polonsky's last chance to direct for more than 20 years, and Garfield's last completely successful film. And a movie that should have been a triumph for all concerned ended up a cult favorite. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

  • Release date:December 25, 1948


John Garfield
as Joe Morse
Thomas Gomez
as Leo Morse
Marie Windsor
as Edna Tucker
Roy Roberts
as Ben Tucker
Beatrice Pearson
as Doris Lowry
Paul McVey
as Hobe Wheelock
Jack Overman
as Juice
Barbara Woodell
as Mary
Raymond Largay
as Bunte
Stanley Prager
as Wally
Beau Bridges
as Frankie Tucker
Allen Mathews
as Badgley
Barry Kelley
as Egan
Sheldon Leonard
as Ficco
Georgia Backus
as Sylvia Morse
Sid Tomack
as "Two & Two" Taylor
Paul H. Frees
as Elevator Operator
Mervin Williams
as Goodspeed
Margaret Bert
Chuck Hamilton
as Policeman
Carl Saxe
as Policeman
Max Wagner
as Policeman
Bill Neff
as Law Clerk
Arthur O'Connell
as Link Hall
John Indrisano
as Henchman
Carl Sklover
Murray Alper
as Comptroller
Brick Sullivan
as Policeman
Joey Ray
as Gunman
Jim Drum
Carl Hanson
Jay Eaton
Milt Kibbee
as Richards
Fred Somers
Paul Newlan
as Policeman
Mickey Rooney
as Boy
Louise Saraydar
as Hatcheck Girl
Paul Fix
as Ficco
Estelle Etterre
as Secretary
Ralph Dunn
as Policeman
Mildred Boyd
as Mother
Sam Ash
as Man
Richard Elmore
Sherry Hall
Jessie Arnold
Frank O'Connor
as Bailiff
David McKim
as Cashier
Jim Toney
Roger Cole
Bert Davidson
as Attorney
Margo Woode
as Receptionist
Ray Hirsch
as Newsboy
Ralph Brooks
Perry Ivins
as Mr. Middleton
John Collum
Esther Somers
as Mrs. Lowry
Robert Strong
as Court Reporter
Diane Stewart
as Girl
Joe Warfield
as Collector
Jimmie Dundee
as Dineen
Ray Hyke
as Policeman
George Magrill
as Policeman
Phil Tully
as Policeman
Frank Pharr
as Bootblack
Joel Fluellen
as Father
Stanley Waxman
as Manager
Bert Hanlon
as Cigar Man
Helen Eby-Rock
as Secretary
Cliff Clark
as Police Lieutenant


Abraham Polonsky
Abraham Polonsky
Ira Wolfert
Book Author
Ira Wolfert
George Barnes
Rudolph Polk
Musical Direction/Supervision
David Raksin
Composer (Music Score)
Walter Thompson
Art Seid
Richard Day
Art Director
Louise Wilson
Costume Designer
Robert Aldrich
First Assistant Director
Jack Baur
Gus Norin