Created by Whitman Chambers
He’s not the star of this rarely seen B-flick, but Jesse White (TV’s Maytag repairman for over thirty years) as smarmy, corrupt private eye J.J. McGONIGLE is definitely worth checking out in The Come-On, a twisty/turny 1956 film noir from second string studio Allied Artists.
Anne Baxter plays the hottie here; a grifter named Rita Kendrick hanging out in Mexico with Harley (John Hoyt), her abusive, drunken, aging pretty boy husband and partner in crime, but looking for a way out.
In walks restless fishing captain Dave Arnold (Sterling Hayden) as the willing sap. Rita soon makes her play, and Dave goes for her in a big way. She arranges for them to hook up on his trawler, The Lucky Lady, and convinces him to help her bump off Harley. But of course, the course of true love — or whatever this is — never does run smooth, what with all those incriminating letters, blackmail attempts, scams, crosses and double-crosses, dead bodies that won’t stay where they’re supposed to stay, and dead people who apparently won’t even have the courtesy to stay dead. But the real spanner in the works is the oily McGonigle, a mercenary slimeball if there ever was one, who plays them all off against each other, figuring on getting himself a piece of the action — whatever the action turns out to be.
It’s hardly a lost classic, but The Come-On hardly deserves its current obscurity. White is a seedy delight and Baxter simply acts her ass off. The actual con is cleverly done — it would probably take someone a lot more cynical than me to see it coming.
The film, whose tagline reads “The frank story of a woman who knew every temptation,” was actually based on co-screenwriter Whitman Chambers’ own 1953 novel of the same name which, at least on the paperback edition, referred to itself as “A brawling novel of savage love.”
Whitman, coincidentally, was also the screenwriter for the 1949 noir, Manhandled, which starred Dan Duryea as a similarly slimy private detective. He also wrote a handful of stories for the crime and detective pulps (including several featuring newshawk Katie “The Duchess” Blayne), and several other crime novels, so now I’m wondering…
- The Come-On (1953) | Buy this book
- THE COME-ON
(1956, Allied Artists)
83 minutes, black and white
Based on the novel by Whitman Chambers
Screenplay by Warren Douglas and Whitman Chambers
Directed by Russel Birdwell
Produced by Lindslay Parsons
Starring Anne Baxter, Sterling Hayden, John Hoyt
and Jesse White as J.J. McGONIGLE
Also starring Wally Cassell, Alex Gerry, Paul Picerni, Theodore Newton, Karolee Kelly, Tyler McVey, Lee Turnbull
- These Eyes Keep Themselves in Trouble
Bad, Bad Eyes.