July 24, 2014

Chester Morris, Alibi


I found Alibi to be quite a transfixing little picture. Technically it's pretty rough around the edges, what with the early sound technology and all, but I also found it to be vividly shot, refreshingly bizarre, and quite clever from start to finish. Chester Morris' one and only shot at Oscar glory is a sleeper kind of performance, in the sense that he doesn't do much in beginning but suddenly hits the ground running after a certain point in the picture. That's the type of performer I've always thought Morris to be as well--calm but volatile. He has a suave and silky smoothness about him but he is capable of summoning explosive emotions when need be. As a gangster suspected of rejoining the mob and committing murder, Morris is on cruise control for the first half of the film, at which during I was questioning his merit. But once the film reveals Chick's true colors, Morris kicks it all into high gear. Chick a different person, and a terrifying one at that, and Morris can communicate this all in a single glare. It all sort of hit me by surprise seeing this two drastic sides of a character, but what really impressed me was the climactic scene in which our villain believes he's about to be killed. Chick's vicious gangster is reduced to a cowering yellow dope, and the way that Morris cries and pleas for his life is so intensely expressed. In my opinion, Morris absolutely kills his last few scenes and displays such a contrasting array of dimensions to Chick, so much so that it's enough to push his score up by one statue. It's a shame that Morris would never again have the chance to be recognized by the Academy--like Robert Montgomery it seems as if he'd become underutilized after the early thirties. But just like Montgomery, we'll always have his great nominated turn, and it's a doozy.


  1. Seems like a winner, but I never read a review about Bancroft, he may surprise.

  2. Those screenshots... :)

    glad you get to see something good during this process.