Karl Benson (Manhandled)

Created by L.S. Goldsmith

“You’re not talking to a cluck Charlie. You’re talking to a guy who knows all the angles.”

Dan Duryea plays gum-popping KARL BENSON, a crooked ex-cop reduced to doing repo jobs, divorce frame-ups and assorted other sordid sidelines in Lewis Foster’s preposterous but entertaining 1949 noir, Manhandled.

The flick does have its moments — Duryea is, as always, compelling to watch, as he plays yet another malicious, bullying villain (with trademark bowtie and a shit-eating grin), with the producers no doubt hoping to take advantage of Duryea’s growing on-screen rep for slapping women around.

I mean, come on. Manhandled?

Could they have been a bit more blatant? (Actually, they could have–the actual tagline boasts of a “‘Lady Killer’ who knew how to ‘handle’ women!”)

The low-budget flick also boasts a pretty impressive cast — Duryea co-stars with Dorothy Lamour, Sterling Hayden, and Irene Hervey, but the head-scratching plot and the so-so direction detract from its potential.

But even with its flaws, it’s a fun film to watch. Don’t let the cute little bowtie fool ya–Karl’s a scuzzy, sleazy op not above a little blackmail, see? So when his downstairs neighbour Merle Kramer (Lamour) tells him about a wealthy patient at the psychiatrist’s office where she works who’s been having recurring nightmares about beating his wife to death–the wife who, it turns out, was beaten to death–Karl smells a big payoff. Especially when it turns out several valuable jewels that belonged to the wife are also missing.

But wait! There’s more! It turns out the cops and insurance investigator Joe Cooper (Hayden) are also sniffing around Merle–something to do with her shady past, while her boss, Dr. Redman, is somehow involved in the murder as well. And so, around and around and around we go, with the morally greasy Karl, visions of hot jewels dancing like sugar plums in his head, makes his move, willing to do almost anything, be it punching Merl around, tossing her off a rooftop, or grinding the good doctor against a wall with his car, to get what he waits.

By the way, just for the record, in real life Duryea was supposedly a pussycat.


I couldn’t find much about L.S. Goldsmith, who wrote the original story, “The Man Who Stole a Dream” (some say novel), that Manhandled was based on. It was adapted by the director, Lewis Foster (1898-1974) and Whitman Chambers (1896-1968) an American author who wrote for the pulps (including several stories about newshawk Katie “The Duchess” Blayne), and maybe twenty  novels, mostly crime, including The Come-On (1953) and another one called… Manhandled (1960) that has absolutely nothing to do with the 1949 movie, and may actually be a soft core porn novel.


  • “With Dan Duryea in the main role of Karl Benson, a crooked private eye, Manhandled might have been a true classic in that series of thrillers dealing with the degraded cop or investigator. As it is, due to the extremely convoluted plot and slack direction, the film lacks suspense, and it never develops the true potential of its characters and locales. However, the opening dream sequence and the scene in which Benson crushes Redman with his car is quite evocative of the noir style and rates a middle of the road place in that genre with two and three quarters stars,”
    — Bob Porfirio, Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style


  • “The Man Who Stole A Dream” by L.S. Goldsmith (source unknown)


  • MANHANDLED | Watch it now!
    (1949, Paramount Pictures)
    97 minutes
    Black & white
    Tagline: The story of a smiling “Lady Killer” who knew how to “handle” women!
    Based on the short story “The Man Who Stole A Dream” by L.S. Goldsmith
    Screenplay by Whitman Chambers and Lewis R. Foster
    Directed by Lewis R. Foster
    Starring Dorothy Lamour as Merl Kramer
    and Dan Duryea as KARL BENSON
    Also starring Sterling Hayden, Irene Hervey, Philip Reed, Harold Vermilyea, Alan Napier, Art Smith, Irving Bacon, James Edwards
    Produced by William H. Pine and William C. Thomas
    Original Music by Darrell Calker
    Cinematography by Ernest Laszlo


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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