Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Whistle Stop (1946)


“Don't let the coat fool you, Molly. A mink can cover a lot of things.”

            In classic films it was basically a rule that the starring actor and actress had to be together when the fade out came. The characters the actor and actress play once loved each other but another man came between them and then they hated each other so the girl went away. The girl comes back and a battle ensues between the former jilted men to get the girl back in their lives. They will do whatever it takes to achieve their desires. Also usually one of the guys is poor and the other is loaded. But in the end the girl loves the poorer guy the one she had loved most dearly all those years before.  I just described the entire story of the 1946 film Whistle Stop but let me go into a little more detail.
            A young woman named Mary (Ava Gardner) steps off of a train. She has returned to her small hometown from Chicago after many years of being away. She goes back to her house where a woman named Molly is living with her family. Mary has given up her job and wants to sell the house to make some money. Mary asks Molly about her son Kenny (George) and how he has been.
            Kenny is at a barber shop. He has been there all night gambling. The guys at the table rile him up discussing what Mary has been up to in Chicago and how he waits for her. When Kenny finally goes home his mother tells him that Mary is back. He goes to her room upstairs. They hug but he gets jealous when he sees her mink coat and gold cigarette case. Mary points out a photograph of Kenny’s current girlfriend. He holds it and looks at it for a second. She kisses him and he drops the frame. 


            At dinner that night flowers from Lew Lentz (Tom Conway) are delivered to the house. Kenny is gets mad. The tension between him and Mary is thick. Despite the tension they go into town together to Lew’s bar. The story flashes back to a few years before. Mary and Kenny had been in Lew’s bar when she got mad at him for being out all night gambling. She wanted him to go to Chicago with him but he did not want to go. Lew came down to Mary and asked her if she would like to go to a party with him that night. Kenny got jealous and started a fight with Lew. Mary stormed out of the bar and left for Chicago that night.
            Kenny’s friend Gitlo (Victor MacLaglen) works for Lew as a bartender. He tells Kenny that Lew puts his money on a train heading to Detroit. Kenny’s father works at the train station but sometimes has his son take over because of his bad back. Gitlo wants to get rid of Lew at the station when he goes there with his money.
            Mary and Kenny go a fair together. Kenny plays a shooting game. As he reloads Lew comes out of a building. Kenny has the gun pointed at Lew. Gitlo stops him before anything can happen. Gitlo had planned to use the fair as a distraction since no one would be paying attention to where he or Lew had gone. His plan does not go as he had hoped. Mary drove Kenny to the station knowing that he was going to do something to Lew. She kisses Kenny and finds a gun in his pocket. She is furious with him and yells at him with tears in her eyes to get out of the car.
            Sometime later Kenny goes into Lew’s bar a little drunk. Lew hits Kenny but Mary steps in before anything really bad can happen and yells at Lew to stop. In his office, Lew wants Gitlo to talk to Kenny about becoming civil. On the day of Kenny’s sister’s wedding, Gitlo drives him to Lew’s office. When they open the door a dead man is lying on the floor with Gitlo’s gun. Someone turns the alarm on as the two men are still in the office and the police come right away. Gitlo speeds away with the police giving chase. The police shoot the car and get Kenny in the arm. Gitlo gets himself and an injured Kenny on a train heading to Detroit. Kenny is upset with his friend for getting him into trouble.
            Mary goes around town looking for Kenny. She tells his mother that the police know Kenny did not do anything and that if he can be found and is brought into the police his name will be cleared.
            Gitlo gets Kenny to a friend’s roadhouse. He told his friend that he would be back and to watch Kenny while he was gone. Gitlo goes back to town and back to Kenny’s house. Mary sees him standing in the rain. He tells her that Kenny is alright and where she can find him. Gitlo goes to Lew’s place above the bar. He plans on killing the man. Lew manages to shoot Gitlo first but not fatally. Gitlo gets up, grabs Lew, and chokes him to death all before he dies.
            In Detroit, Kenny wants to get back to Mary. Mary has is at the door waiting to take him home.

            Whistle Stop was not a great film but it was not terrible. The story was alright and the acting was so-so. I just really liked seeing Ava Gardner in an early leading role. Before Whistle Stop and a film before this she had just been an extra in several MGM films and was loaned out to other studios. You can see she still had a lot to learn but she was still great. She was so gorgeous. George Raft and Tom Conway were good as well. I thought it was funny that two years later Tom Conway and Ava Gardner would star together in One Touch of Venus. Watch Whistle Stop just to see Ava Gardner.