Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) - full review!
Directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story (1961) & The Sound of Music (1965)), with a screenplay by Abraham Polonsky (Body and Soul (1947)) and Nelson Gidding (I Want to Live! (1958)), this excellent crime drama stars Ed Begley (Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)), Robert Ryan (Crossfire (1947)) and Harry Belafonte as three would-be bank robbers who find themselves fighting against each other such that their success is in jeopardy. The supporting cast is also outstanding and includes Shelley Winters (The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)), Gloria Grahame (The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)), Wayne Rogers in his feature film debut, and even Cicely Tyson (Sounder (1972)), who appears uncredited as a woman behind the bar in a nightclub. The story itself is gripping, focusing on the lives and motivations of the three men who come to see the job as their salvation, each with for his own reason. Joseph Brun's (Martin Luther (1953)) stark B&W Cinematography and John Lewis's jazzy Score are perfect for the edgy hopelessness of these characters' environment and situations.
Earle Slater (Ryan) is a racist and a two time loser, once for manslaughter. He's living as a kept man of Lorry (Winters) and that burns him up (Ryan playing his typical man with an ax to grind and a violent temper boiling just below the surface). Dave Burke (Begley) spent 30 years on the police force before being charged with contempt of court for "not talking" in some non-explained trial. He's the mastermind, looking for one big score to live off of for the rest of his life. Johnny Ingram (Belafonte) is a nightclub singer who gambles away everything, which caused his wife Ruth (Kim Hamilton) to divorce him, though he still gets to visit their young child Edie (Lois Thorne in her only film role). He owes "crime boss" Bacco (Will Kuluva) $7,500, but wasn't too worried about paying it back until Bacco sets a deadline and his hoods get tough, threatening they'll harm Johnny's ex-wife & kid.
The film's first hour or so sets up these characters, their inner conflicts and motivations. Grahame plays a sexy married mother & neighbor of Lorry's who's intrigued by her beau Earle's past. Though he initially spurns her request to babysit her kid, so she and her husband can go to a musical, she "can't say no" later when she finds herself in Earle's apartment alone with him. Wayne Rogers plays a soldier who brings out the animal in Earle, a former veteran himself, in a bar "fight".
The last half hour of the story (much of which is used to build tension as the three wait to execute the plan) takes place in Melton, a small town Dave's discovered where its industry's payrolls are weakly protected in the local bank. Dave has estimated that nearly $200,000 ($50-75 thousand for each man) in small, untraceable bills will be available on the night they do their job. Unfortunately, he hasn't thought of everything, nor planned for the inevitable unforeseen events which always seem to occur. Plus, the conflict between Earle and Johnny is a significant one too. The ending invokes memories of a classic James Cagney film.