1959’s Odds Against Tomorrow is a genre unto itself. It’s a socially conscious caper film noir. It reflects the views and the values of star and unlisted co-producer, Harry Belafonte. I meant to write this closer to the great man’s death at age 96, but life got in the way. Sorry, Harry.
Odds Against Tomorrow tells the story of three desperate men who come together to rob a bank in upstate New York. Belafonte is a nightclub singer deep in debt to the mob. They demand payment, so Belafonte reluctantly joins Ed Begley and Robert Ryan in the caper. Begley is a former cop on the skids and Ryan plays an embittered racist veteran. Ryan’s use of the n-word onscreen was one of the first times it was in a Hollywood movie. He only used it once, which made it more powerful.
Poor Bob Ryan, the leading Hollywood liberal condemned to play bigoted villains. At least Ryan formed a lifelong friendship with Harry Belafonte.
Headline: Ted Williams lookalike plays stickball with handsome Civil Rights hero.
ICYMI, here’s the Separated At Birth photographic proof:
The acting in Odds Against Tomorrow is superb. It’s Belafonte’s best performance and Ryan and Begley are brilliant as well. Begley is the man in the middle caught between a Black man who won’t take any shit and a white man determined to give him shit. The cast is filled out by Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame in surprisingly small roles for players of their stature. They still gave it their all. It’s what professionals do.
Odds Against Tomorrow was intense onscreen and a happy shoot offscreen. Robert Wise tops everyone’s list as the nicest director of his day. Belafonte, Ryan, and Begley were also famous for being nice, so the set was harmonious as you can see from this picture of Shelley Winters, Robert Ryan, and Gloria Grahame:
Here’s Robert Wise directing Harry Belafonte and Kim Hamilton who played Harry’s estranged wife.
The movie is based on a book by William P. McGivern:
The screenplay was written by Nelson Gidding and John O. Killens who fronted for blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky. The blacklist fever didn’t break until Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger smashed it in 1960.
Grading Time: Odds Against Tomorrow is a great film that combines pertinent social commentary and tight film noir pacing. I give it 4 stars and a rare Adrastos of Grade A.
it’s poster time. We begin with the three-sheet:
I’m feeling mildly Quadrophenic, so here’s the quad poster:
Peckish? Let’s all go to the lobby:
I wonder what candy is in that box. Smarties? Sno-Caps? Hot Tamales? Only the dancing cartoon candy box knows for sure.
It’s past time for Odds Against Tomorrow lobby cards. As always for a black and white film, they’re in color.
Who are those masked men? Robert Ryan, Ed Begley, and Harry Belafonte, that’s who.
Let’s exit the lobby and hop aboard the trailer:
The last word goes to Eddie Muller with his Noir Alley intro and outro: