“I couldn’t let him die so I killed everything for us instead.”
The first time I ever heard about The Bribe was when I watched Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is from 1982 and is a comedic homage to the Film Noir genre. Steve Martin plays a 1940s detective who is hired to solve a murder. Throughout the film he is placed into scenes from several Film Noirs including The Bribe. As soon as I saw Ava Gardner was in The Bribe I had to find it. I finally got to see the film sometime ago and it was very good.
Rigby (Robert Taylor) is in his hotel room. We hear a voice over and see a flashback of how he came to first hear of a woman he has fallen in love with. Rigby is an agent from Washington to investigate surplus plane engines that are being rerouted to South America. He has been sent down to the small town of Carlotta to seek out evidence and take down the racket. On the plane over he is seated next to a man named Carwood (Vincent Price) who says he is on his way down to Peru for mining. Rigby suspects Carwood and also a heavy man he sees in the lobby of the hotel he is staying at.
When Rigby gets down to Carlotta he goes to a café where a woman named Elizabeth Hinton (Gardner) is performing. After the show he goes to see her in her dressing room to speak to her. Elizabeth’s husband Tug (John Hodiak) is the main suspect in his investigation. Tug comes crashing drunkenly into the room. Rigby helps Elizabeth bring the drunk man home. She tells him she and Tug moved down to South America because Tug had a flying hob then he was let go and started drinking. Rigby’s voice over recalls how that night he could not stop thinking about Elizabeth when he should have been thinking about Tug. He asks his boat man about Tug. The guy says he is not bad but he is not good.
The next day Carwood shows up at the hotel. Bealer (Charles Laughton), the heavy man from the lobby, talks to Carwood. Rigby asks himself if Carwood is in with Bealer since Bealer picked the day for Carwood to come talk to him. That afternoon Rigby goes out fishing with Carwood. Rigby has a hard time with a fish and goes overboard. His boatman goes after him and unfortunately dies because Carwood does nothing to save either of them. That night Elizabeth tells Rigby she has not been a very good wife to Tug she wants to leave him. Bealer finds them on the beach and tells them that Tug is sick the airline doctor is with him. He tells Elizabeth that Tug has a heart problem and had one when he was working and that is the reason he was fired. Now Elizabeth cannot leave her husband.
Through some investigation Rigby finds the island where the engines are being stored. Later in the day Bealer tells him that if Tug goes to jail Elizabeth could go with him because her name is on the papers for the boat that is used to go to the island.
After Bealer tells him about Elizabeth possibly being in on the racket, Rigby is back in the present. Tug’s condition has grown much worse. Elizabeth wants to get him out of Carlotta. Bealer is at her house. He tells her about Rigby being a federal cop and that Tug is a crook. She does not believe any of what he has said. He makes her think about using Rigby the way he has used her.
Turns out Bealer is working for Carwood. They planned to pit Rigby and Elizabeth together. Carwood took the room right across from Rigby’s and they see Elizabeth goes into Rigby’s room.
Tug threatens to talk to Rugby and confess everything. Carwood sneaks into Tug’s house and tries to kill him. Elizabeth comes in before Carwood can finish Tug off. Tug dies in his wife’s arms. Elizabeth wants to go see Rigby but Bealer tells her that his connection has an eye on Rigby’s door and if Rigby were to open the door the person would shoot him. Elizabeth manages to get into Rigby’s room. She gives him something in his drink that knocks him out for a long time. Pablo, the boatman’s father, comes to the hotel to speak to Rigby. He hears Carwood and Bealer talking and figures it is not safe to go through the front. Pablo enters the room through the back window and finds Rigby trying to wake himself up.
Bealer tells Carwood that Tug was alive when Elizabeth found him and might have said something to her. Now Carwood wants to kill her. Rigby goes to see Elizabeth in her dressing room. Bealer is in the room he was sent to get information out of her to see if she knows how Tug died.
Rigby manages to save Elizabeth. He chases down Carwood, who was responsible for the plane engine racket, and shoots him dead.
The cast was great. Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor were gorgeous together. This was Gardner’s second major role after The Killers. She was stunning in her simplistic costumes and little makeup. Her acting was perfect you can see her character’s desperation and how she was being played by Bealer. Taylor was given better roles as he became older and was with MGM longer and this is one of his best “grown-up” roles I have seen him in so far. I like John Hodiak I was upset to see his character get killed off. I would have liked to have seen him and Ava Gardner in another film together (I know they were both in Maisie Goes to Reno but I cannot remember if they had a scene together). They would have been good in a Noir together. Vincent Price was such a good bad guy. He played them cold yet charmingly and venomously. Charles Laughton really does nothing for me. His character was annoying which, hopefully, was the point.
The Bribe had an interesting, twist filled story. I am a sucker for voiceovers I like getting into a character’s head so I liked the way it started off with the voiceovers of how Rigby felt it set the whole tone of the film. The Bribe is one of those films that gets better and better as it progresses. The characters become more intriguing, darker, and sympathetic. If you get a chance to see The Bribe (I caught it through TCM) take the time to watch it. And also see Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid if you ever come across it.