The Glass Key (1942)




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Dashiel Hammett's The Glass Key, a tale of big-city political corruption, was first filmed in 1935, with Edward Arnold as a duplicitous political boss and George Raft as his loyal lieutenant. This 1942 remake improves on the original, especially in replacing the stolid Raft with the charismatic Alan Ladd. Brian Donlevy essays the role of the boss, who is determined to back reform candidate Moroni Olsen, despite Ladd's gut feeling that this move is a mistake. Ladd knows that Donlevy is doing a political about-face merely to get in solid with Olsen's pretty daughter Veronica Lake. It is Ladd who is left to clean up the mess when crime lord Joseph Calleila murders Olsen's wastrel son Richard Denning and pins the rap on Donlevy. As Ladd struggles to clear Donlevy's name, he falls in love with Lake--when he's not being pummeled about by Calleila's psychopathic henchman William Bendix. Far less complex than the Dashiel Hammett original (and far less damning of the American political system), The Glass Key further increased the box-office pull of Paramount's new team of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.
Mystery & Suspense
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MCA Universal Home Video


Alan Ladd
as Ed Beaumont
Brian Donlevy
as Paul Madvig
Veronica Lake
as Janet Henry
Bonita Granville
as Opal Madvig
Richard Denning
as Taylor Henry
Joseph Calleia
as Nick Vama
Margaret Hayes
as Eloise Matthews
Maggie Hayes
as Eloise Matthews
Moroni Olsen
as Ralph Henry
Eddie Marr
as Rusty
Arthur Loft
as Clyde Matthews
George Meader
as Claude Tuttle
Pat O'Malley
as Politician
Edward Peil Sr.
as Politician
James Millican
as Politician
Edmund Cobb
as Reporter
Frank Bruno
as Reporter
Jack Luden
as Reporter
Jack Gardner
as Reporter
Joe McGuinn
as Reporter
John W. DeNoria
as Groggins
Joe King
as Fisher
Al Hill
as Bum
Conrad Binyon
as Stubby
Vernon Dent
as Bartender
Stanley Price
as Man in Barroom
Kenneth Chryst
as Man in Barroom
Dane Clark
as Henry Sloss
Norma Varden
as Dowager
Frank Elliott
as 1st Butler in Henry Home
George Cowl
as 2nd Butler in Henry Home
Broderick O'Farrell
as Guests at Henry Dinner
Arthur Stuart Hull
as Guests at Henry Dinner
Tom O'Grady
as Guests at Henry Dinner
J.C. Fowler
as Guests at Henry Dinner
Tom Fadden
as Waiter
Charles Sullivan
as Taxi driver
Francis Sayles
as Seedy Man
Frank S. Hagney
as Groggins
George Turner
as Doctor
Tom Dugan
as Jeep
Lillian Randolph
as Entertainer at Basement Club
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Critic Reviews for The Glass Key

All Critics (7)

Solid remake of the 1935 film of the same name.

Full Review… | December 3, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

First-rate noir thriller.

November 30, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Quote not available.

February 29, 2008
Goatdog's Movies

Quote not available.

September 23, 2005

Quote not available.

July 6, 2005

Quote not available.

May 28, 2004
Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Audience Reviews for The Glass Key

Not as good as This Gun for Hire but a solid crime drama with the Lake/Ladd pairing as potent as ever.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer


A political wheeler dealer with ties to organized crime falls for the daughter of a reformist politician but when her brother is murdered, the blame seems to fall squarely upon him. The Glass Key doesn't really fit wholly into the pigeon hole of Film Noir, but its no nonsense, tough guy approach and sharp dialogue will certainly appeal to its fans. The centrepiece of the film is the relationship between Brian Donlevy and Alan Ladd as his trusted sidekick and their great chemistry was obviously a big influence on the Coen brothers when they made Miller's Crossing. Veronica Lake also shines as the gorgeous debutante and although it lacks the cynicism of my favourite Noirs, it has a really nice "feel" to it. The biggest flaw is in the plot which was clearly simplified for the screen leaving the mystery aspect a little lacking, but the execution is great.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Brian Donlevy's crooked, McGinty-ish politician angers a criminal associate (Joseph Calleia, effortlessly sinister) by pledging his support for a reform candidate whose beautiful daughter he has taken a fancy to. Murder, political chicanery and a smouldering love-hate relationship between the would-be governor's daughter (Veronica Lake) and Donlevy's right-hand man (Alan Ladd) ensue. The Glass Key falls a little short of being one of the true classics of film noir. Tonally, I found it rather peculiar and the ending was one of the corniest I've seen for a long time. In general, the movie is several shades lighter than pure noir, although there are a couple of extraordinarily perverse moments that really do hit the spot, not least the sadomasochistic beating Ladd receives from one of Calleia's goons. In one of the other darker scenes, Ladd prevents a hostile newspaper editor from running a defamatory story about Donlevy by canoodling with the guy's trophy wife until he commits suicide. It's fair to say that Ladd was not ideally suited to this sort of material, but the film contrasts the benignity of his features with the ruthlessness of his character's actions to excellent effect.

Stephen M
Stephen M

Super Reviewer

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