May 30, 2024

THE GOOD DIE YOUNG: A Story of Bad Decisions

1954 / 100 min
Available at
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Though I wouldn’t quite classify it as film noir, the 1954 British crime drama, The Good Die Young, bears some similarities. Most notably, its four main characters are largely driven by desperation, either due to circumstances beyond their control or their own questionable actions. 

Those circumstances comprise most of the first two acts. Joe Halsey (Richard Basehart) can’t afford to return to America with his pregnant wife to escape her manipulative mother. Retired boxer Mike Morgan (Stanley Baker) can’t find work after losing a hand. American soldier Eddie Blane (John Ireland) deserts the military and his cheating wife. Finally, there’s ‘Rave’ (Laurence Harvey), a shiftless cad whose wealthy wife will no longer pay off his debts.

The four eventually bond during frequent nights bemoaning their fates in a local pub. It’s there that Rave suggests robbing the post office across the street could solve all their financial problems. In fact, he’d already been planning the heist by cozying up to one of the female postal workers for information. Despite having no criminal history or experience, the other three eventually agree to participate in the robbery, which of course doesn’t quite go as planned.

Joe conveniently forgets his wallet.

The film does an excellent job painting Mike, Joe and Eddie as sympathetic. Despite often displaying poor judgment, the viewer is truly invested in them. Conversely, Rave is not only arrogant, selfish and unfeeling, he’s fiendishly manipulative. The four leads are compelling in their roles, especially Basehart and Harvey (though I suppose the latter ain’t stretching himself much).

Because the film takes such time with its characters, the climactic robbery carries a lot more dramatic weight (concluding in true film noir fashion). Though necessary to establish motivation for these men’s descent into crime, the wives are mostly peripheral characters…thankless roles for the likes of Joan Collins, Margaret Leighton and (forever my favorite femme fatale) Gloria Grahame.

Guided by solid direction from Lewis Gilbert, the film gets off to a slow start, but has a great story that culminates in a thrilling and suspenseful final act. Though not textbook film noir, The Good Die Young boasts enough darkness and bad decisions to put it in the same ballpark. This relative British obscurity is worth seeking out for fans of the genre.

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