Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Fallen Sparrow

I was excited when I saw that The Fallen Sparrow was showing on TCM’s Noir Alley. It’s one of the few John Garfield films I’d never seen. I’ve finally seen it. I was not disappointed.

Garfield had a short but glorious acting career. He died in 1952 at the age of 39 of a heart attack caused by the second Red Scare. In his case, the witch hunt was intensified by the anti-Semitism of his pursuers: his real name was Julius Garfinkle.

In many ways, The Fallen Sparrow foreshadowed the actor’s persecution by Hollywood blacklisters and right-wing politicians. Garfield played an American who fought Fascism in the Spanish Civil War but was held captive and tortured by the victors because he had vital information. That’s the MacGuffin that kick starts the plot.

Garfield escaped captivity with the help of a NYPD detective friend who died in mysterious circumstances before Garfield returned home. It was ruled a suicide. The rest of the movie revolves around Garfield’s attempt to solve that mystery and avoid attempts by Nazi agents to unlock the MacGuffin. That’s all the story I’m willing to share because everyone should see this fine 1943 film.

Garfield dominates the movie but there are also excellent performances by Maureen O’Hara, Patricia Morison, and Walter Slezak as the garrulous villain of the piece. Two future teevee stars play villainous Nazis: John Banner of Hogan’s Heroes fame and Hugh Beaumont the perfect father in Leave It To Beaver. Ward Cleaver a Nazi? Golly, Wally. That’s why it’s called acting.

Grading Time: I give The Fallen Sparrow 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A-

The Fallen Sparrow was based on the 1942 novel of the same title by Dorothy B. Hughes:

It’s time to get all arty and shit with the movie posters. First, the six-sheet dominated by the sinister eyebrows of Walter Slezak.

Here’s the quad with a tagline that sums up many of Garfield’s films.

Do you know what time it is? Does anybody really care? While we’re pondering that pop music reference, let’s all go to the lobby.

The lobby cards for The Fallen Sparrow are shadowy and almost as sinister as Walter Slezak’s eyebrows.

A little birdie told me that the trailer is next:

Walter Slezak is everywhere. His character is similar to those he played in some other fine films: Lifeboat, Cornered, and Born To Kill. He never played the strong silent type, but his eyebrow game was strong.

The last word goes to Eddie Muller with his Noir Alley intro and outro: