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Author Topic: The Narrow Margin (1952)  (Read 4450 times)
dave jenkins
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« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2013, 03:12:48 PM »

My problem with this film is the plot. SPOILERS Why keep Charles McGraw in the dark about the true nature of the journey? And if you are going to run a decoy, why would you put her on the same train with the real girl? Wouldn't it make more sense to send them on, you know, different trains? And why even use a train for the real girl? Send the decoy by train, the real girl by airplane. END SPOILERS Willing suspension of disbelief I can do. Willing lobotomy, no.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2013, 03:15:38 PM by dave jenkins » Logged


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« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2013, 04:16:22 PM »

Willing suspension of disbelief I can do.


Not "do": you "accept".

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« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2013, 05:45:46 PM »

My problem with this film is the plot. SPOILERS Why keep Charles McGraw in the dark about the true nature of the journey? And if you are going to run a decoy, why would you put her on the same train with the real girl? Wouldn't it make more sense to send them on, you know, different trains? And why even use a train for the real girl? Send the decoy by train, the real girl by airplane. END SPOILERS Willing suspension of disbelief I can do. Willing lobotomy, no.

I think the answers are all in the subtext, Meggs (Decoy Mrs Neal) is not only a decoy but an internal affairs cop, and she is looking for corruption in LAPD. The initial fact that the "safe house" is already compromized, indicates that the underworld has been tipped off by a mole in LAPD as to the whereabouts of Mrs. Neal and the two main LAPD suspects are Brown and Forbes. If you go with that angle the whole "Mrs. Neal and the list" plotpoint becomes irrelvant and the real plot is corruption investigation in LAPD and who is/are the informer(s).  Like you say "Why keep Charles McGraw in the dark" or why not just mail the list.

Now remember Forbes right at the get go tries to get Meggs (Decoy Mrs Neal) to give him the list. Once Forbes buys it, Meggs goes to work on Brown tempting him in the cab with sex and later on the train with money.

Walter Brown: You're a pretty good judge of crooks, Mrs. Neall; the only place you slip up is with cops. I turned the deal down.
Mrs. Neall: Then you're a bigger idiot than I thought! When are you going to get it through your square head that this is big business? And we're right in the middle.
Walter Brown: Meaning you'd like to sell out?
Mrs. Neall: With pleasure and profit, and so would you. What are the odds if we don't? I sing my song for the grand jury, and spend the rest of my life dodging bullets - -if I'm lucky! - -while you grow old and gray on the police force. Oh, wake up, Brown. This train's headed straight for the cemetery. But there's another one coming along, a gravy train. Let's get on it.
Walter Brown: Mrs. Neall, I'd like to give you the same answer I gave that hood - but it would mean stepping on your face.

Other thoughts from IMDb

by persycat IMDb
"When I saw the movie, I took the lady cop to have been in touch with the actual wife (the blonde) and not just following the detectives. So the plot device made perfect sense to me. It is the same thing as in research when they do a DOUBLE BLIND study...neither the subject NOR THE RESEARCHER know who is getting a placebo and who is getting an actual research drug. That way there is no bias from the observer. In this case, it made perfect sense to me that they did not know whether the gangsters knew what she looked like, so they gave her an EXTRA, EXTRA level of protection by having the person the "known" agents excorted be the agent, and the actual "subject" (the blonde) be a totally "uninterested 3rd party." So I don't know, maybe you had to make an extra naive plot leap to make it understandable... but it made sense to me."


more...

by tricksofthetrade  IMDb
 
I.A.D. is like any other departmental division, they get credit/promotions/glory for collars.

Although you make a good point about the logic of investigating 'the most unbribeable cop in the world', you are not seeing the big picture. The IAD probably KNEW that the mob would be likley to throw bribe money at the sergeant. Even if he was clean, there is a possibility that he would be tempted to take it. The event such a possiblity and high profile arrest would be a career making event for the IAD officer and supervisor who headed the case.

Also they put the real witness on a different train, there would not be a movie.


My thoughts....  the real plot is LAPD corruption. One of the commentors on IMDb says that he's read that in the original script that Forbes was definitely on the take. The curious actions of Brown on the train also make you wonder about him, if he was truely that stupid or if he was deliberately exposing Meggs to the gangsters. 

Stanley Rubin (SR) What happened with "Narrow Margin" was kind of interesting. We finished the picture in '51. Howard Hughes had taken over the studio. He ran the finished cut, our cut of "Narrow Margin," one midnight, which was rather typical of Mr. Hughes. By the way, I never met him. I did get memos, but never met him in person. Hughes had bought the studio while we were making "Narrow Margin," but later he brought in Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna to head up production at the studio. In any case, Hughes ran the picture, which had gotten very good word of mouth already. I got a memo from Mr. Hughes, saying he thought it was a very good film, but that he wanted to hold it instead of releasing it when it was due to be released, the memo stated that he wanted to hold it for a while and he wanted me to think about some way to turn "Narrow Margin," which we had shot for under $250,000 and in under 15 days, into an A-picture. Well, there wasn't any way to turn "Narrow Margin" into an A-picture unless you just scrubbed the picture and recast it with A-names and shot it all over again. I communicated that feeling to Mr. Hughes, but he persisted in thinking that there might be some way to turn it into a big picture. And he held it under his arm or in his vault for a year and that's why "Narrow Margin" was released a year, year and a half after it was finished.

Five-O: Was the Hughes cut much different from yours and Fleischer's?
SR: Hughes added at least one additonal heavy. I think Dick Fleischer shot those scenes. I was gone. I was already at Fox. Hughes added one heavy, and then he did another thing which was not smart, it was just an oversight, I guess, on his part and we didn't discover it until one night at Cinematheque at the Egyptian.

They ran "Narrow Margin" and someone asked: 'How come Charlie McGraw and Jacqueline White didn't go to pay their respects to Marie Windsor, who'd been shot and killed in the line of duty?' And I said, of course they stop to see her, before you saw them sneaking off the train to go down the tunnel to get into town. Well, we looked at the picture again and that scene had been removed. That moment we had shot was gone. That was a bad, bad, bad oversight on the part of Mr. Hughes. Nontheless, the picture was a good picture. We were all very proud of it, and people were impressed with the performances, the pace, with the plot turns... The picture was screened by Darryl Zanuck and that motivated Fox to make me an offer to come over there. Dick Fleischer went on to do "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" for Disney. Both of those things came from "Narrow Margin."


Full interview here:
http://www.hollywoodfiveo.com/archive/issue2/cinema/rubin.htm

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2013, 08:44:05 PM »

Quote
Also they put the real witness on a different train, there would not be a movie.
Not true. It would be a different movie, but you could get a very good picture out of a cop-protecting-a-witness-who-is-actually-a-decoy story. Especially if the cop and the decoy fall in love, and then the decoy gets killed. I'd be willing to bet you could make an even better movie with that story than the one told in The Narrow Margin.

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« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2013, 02:49:01 AM »

Not true. It would be a different movie, but you could get a very good picture out of a cop-protecting-a-witness-who-is-actually-a-decoy story. Especially if the cop and the decoy fall in love, and then the decoy gets killed. I'd be willing to bet you could make an even better movie with that story than the one told in The Narrow Margin.

Possibly, yes, but they didn't, regardless, I enjoy this more every time I see it.

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« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2013, 04:14:58 AM »

Possibly, yes, but they didn't, regardless, I enjoy this more every time I see it.

why, do the locations get even better every time? a train is still a train. (and a damn silly basis for giving a movie a 10/10 if you ask me, no matter how many times you see it  Cool)

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« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2013, 03:44:08 PM »

why, do the locations get even better every time? a train is still a train. (and a damn silly basis for giving a movie a 10/10 if you ask me, no matter how many times you see it  Cool)

Why can't you read exactly what I wrote. I said the film gets better every time I watch it, similar in that respect to OUATITW. Its mostly all a sets in the studio, except for Union Station in LA and the Santa Fe Railroad Depot in San Bernardino, and of course stock footage.  Its a 10/10 for me.

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« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2013, 06:22:55 PM »

Its mostly all a sets in the studio, except for Union Station in LA and the Santa Fe Railroad Depot in San Bernardino, and of course stock footage.

And, let me elaborate, it's a work of Studio/Stage Art, the great design of the various rail car sets, the lighting effects, plus an all emersing sound design. This is all intercut with second unit material and stock footage that convey the illusion of " the jornada", a road picture on rails. There are not many road pictures as tight as this one just judging it visually and audibly alone.

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« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2013, 02:05:48 PM »

a couple of McGraw's quips against the railroad:

Brown: This rattler hasn't stopped, they're still on it!

Brown: As soon as they pave this track accidents like this won't happen.

« Last Edit: February 06, 2013, 03:42:37 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2013, 04:53:05 PM »

And, let me elaborate, it's a work of Studio/Stage Art, the great design of the various rail car sets, the lighting effects, plus an all emersing sound design. This is all intercut with second unit material and stock footage that convey the illusion of " the jornada", a road picture on rails. There are not many road pictures as tight as this one just judging it visually and audibly alone.
This is certainly a point worth making.  Afro

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« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2013, 07:34:17 PM »

TCM will be showing THE NARROW MARGIN in about three hours from now (12:30 AM EST on Thursday, 2/14/13)

after all the chit chat, I'll dvr the movie and check it out a second time, see if I like it any better than the first  Azn

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« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2013, 03:19:30 AM »

alright, I just saw the movie for the second time, and I actually liked it much better (surprising considering that this time I knew all the plot twists). I'd go as high as 8/10  Afro

As for the discussions about plot:

--- how likely is it that the police would send a star witness whom they know the syndicate is after on a public train with only a single cop? Especially after Forbes was shot, no way would they go through with that at least without sending extra backup. Today I'd say they'd use a special gov't transportation (cop car) but maybe in the early 50's it was much more common to use public trains for police transport, I don't know, I guess it was before Ike made the interstate highway system, probably would take a year to drive from Chicago to LA. But still, there's no fucking way they'd only send one cop as protection for the witness.
None of that changes just cuz the witness was really a decoy; you have to send adequate protection for the decoy, cuz she is putting herself in danger. Yeah, she is a cop too, but still, is just her andMcGraw enough against the crime syndicate? Well I guess there would have been no movie if McGraw had a team of cops backing him up.

--- also, how likely is it that the DA would (paraphrased) "tell Mrs. Neal to get to the coast as soon as possible" without any protection? really?

--- as to whether the movie is really about police corruption, no, I don't think so. There was an issue with corruption so they decided to use the opportunity of this transport to test Brown, but the movie is not about police corruption, it's about protecting the transport

--- would Mrs. Neal really bring her kid along on this trip? I can't imagine she'd really be so damn clueless as to the danger she was in

--- and finally, knowing how nutty cops are with their jurisdictional stuff: there is no motherfucking way that the LAPD would allow a Chicago cop to "test" one of their own in a corruption investigation. No motherfucking way. They'd hire some special investigator for that, do you really believe they would use a Chicago cop to test one of their own boys?

you can always say, it wouldn't be a movie otherwise  Wink

btw, I'm glad CJ mentioned that quote about Howard Hughes fucking up by deleting the scene where Brown and Neal pay respects to Meggs; no way should they have just been shown like some giddy couple having a good time without a mention of th sacrifice by Meggs

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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2013, 06:19:42 AM »


--- how likely is it that the police would send a star witness whom they know the syndicate is after on a public train with only a single cop? Especially after Forbes was shot, no way would they go through with that at least without sending extra backup. Today I'd say they'd use a special gov't transportation (cop car) but maybe in the early 50's it was much more common to use public trains for police transport, I don't know, I guess it was before Ike made the interstate highway system, probably would take a year to drive from Chicago to LA.
You have to remember that this is also before Ike made the airtraffic controllers union and before the Wright Bros were born. Air travel was an impossibility in those days.

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« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2013, 06:30:27 AM »

It's not a question of whether or not it existed. It's a question of how frequently it was used for that purpose.

Do you know whether police used air travel to transport star witnesses in the early 50's?

I sure don't. But I do know that when I read about even Hollywood celebrities from that era, many of them travelled on trains, had to go through the same train stations that everyone else did, sure they were in first-class cars, but they were using similar transportation as everyone else, even for cross-country trips; air travel wasn't nearly as common, even for some of the richest people living during that time. Same thing with baseball teams, not all of them even had private or chartered jets, many of them travelled on regular trains going from city to city. If the rich and famous travelled on the same trains as everyone, it sure doesn't surprise me that the gov't would even bring star witnesses on those trains. But I would imagine they'd have much tighter security than the one inept cop.

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« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2013, 08:05:02 AM »

It's not a question of whether or not it existed.
Quickly: Go to the ATM, make a large cash withdrawal, then go out and BUY YOURSELF A SENSE OF HUMOR. We'd all appreciate it.

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