Nobody Lives Forever (1946) – full review!
Directed by Jean Negulesco and written by W.R. Burnett (Wake Island (1942)) this stylish crime drama features John Garfield as Nick Blake a con-man who finds himself falling in love with his latest patsy Gladys Halvorsen played by a remarkably attractive (leggy) Geraldine Fitzgerald. The cast also includes: Walter Brennan as Pop Gruber an aging grifter from Blake’s past Faye Emerson as Toni Blackburn a blonde singer that was Blake’s girl before he was drafted into service George Coulouris as Doc Ganson whose best days as a confidence man are behind him much to his chagrin and George Tobias as Blake’s loyal pal and sidekick Al Doyle.
Nick gets an honorable discharge after receiving and then recovering from an injury he’d received during the war. His friend Al greets him when he’s discharged from the hospital but when Nick returns to New York he finds his girlfriend Toni claims to have squandered his $50000 bankroll and is involved with a slimy club operator named Chet King (Robert Shayne). But Nick’s a tough guy he’d “earned” his stake as a con-man as he’d worked himself up through the ranks and developed quite a reputation in town and others like Miami. After sizing up the situation he muscles Chet into giving him back the $50000 with interest before he and Al set off for the West coast. Nick’s plan is to kick back for a while and relax and after a brief reunion with an old friend in “the business” Pop Gruber he does just that renting a beach house for he and Al.
While visiting Pop Nick was seen by Windy Mather (Ralph Peters) who’s part of Doc Ganson’s hapless den of thieves that includes gambler Shake Thomas (James Flavin). Doc’s paranoia leads him to believe that Nick may be after his mark a rich widow named Gladys Halvorsen that’s staying at the Marwood Arms and is worth over $2000000. But Pop convinces them otherwise. Still desperate for some money to initiate their score the gang decides to enlist Nick’s help and through Pop’s influence they’re able to convince him to come out of retirement to try and fleece her out of $100000 or more. However Nick insists on doing the job himself which Shake and Windy convince Doc to accept whereupon Nick agrees to pay them $30000 as their share. Nick had learned that Mrs. Halvorsen was keeping company with her financial adviser and friend Charles Manning (Richard Gaines). After being recognized by the bellboy (Richard Erdman) at the hotel Nick manipulates the situation into an introduction through the hotel manager (George Meader uncredited) to Manning and then Gladys. He’s surprised how fetching she is.
Nick then begins to schmooze Gladys and Manning who’s more interested in playing golf than paying attention to who or what this relative stranger is up to by pretending to be a small businessman with expansion ideas. Everything is going according to plan when Toni shows up Doc and company get nervous about how long the scam is taking and Nick begins to fall in love with Gladys. In fact at an idyllic setting while on a date with her at a mission church in Capistrano where the couple meets a priest (William Edmunds uncredited) Nick undergoes a profound change and decides to himself not to go through with it. He then figures to use his own money to pay off Doc and the others which causes an incredulous Al to get drunk and spill the beans to Toni who decides to spill the beans to Doc that Nick hasn’t really conned their intended mark out of her money after all. After a scuffle with Nick Doc has his gang kidnap Gladys and take her to a remote pier. Fortunately for Nick Pop and Al caught wind of the situation and the old man was able to track the gang to the location while Al waited in Joe’s Diner (Grady Sutton uncredited plays the counterman Horace).
All this leads to an exciting if predictable showdown on a foggy night at a small shack out on the pier. Joel Friedkin plays a storekeeper whose phone Pop uses to call Nick and Al at the diner while Ralph Dunn plays the watchman Ben whose in on the deal with Doc’s gang; both appear uncredited.