In the 1949 United Artists release The Crooked Way (90 mins) a WW2 vet with amnesia returns to Los Angeles to find himself. Turns out his past is less than savory. A stolid performance by John Payne as the vet is limiting, but the no-nonsense screenplay avoids melodrama and sustains interest to a violently baroque shootout at the end. Solid cameos by Sonny Tufts as a vindictive gang boss and the ever-worthy Percy Helton as a consumptive small-time hood add value. Minor actress Ellen Drew as the wife the vet didn’t know he had, delivers a great portrayal worthy of Ida Lapino or Claire Trevor – a woman made hard and vengeful by past mistreatment softens into a loyal partner and lover.
But the real star is DP John Alton who delivers expressive noir visuals that are breathtaking and so accomplished they underpin the direction of Robert Florey.
Here is Alton’s Los Angeles: