Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema is classic Cagney.
Based on a novel by Horace McCoy (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye offers James Cagney at his nastiest. The star plays career criminal Ralph Cotter, who gets things started by violently busting out of jail, then murdering his partner in crime. Seeking out female companionship, he “courts” his ex-partner’s sister Holiday (Barbara Payton) by beating her black and blue. After committing a robbery, he is approached by two crooked cops who want a piece of the action. Blackmailing the cops, Cotter gains control of the situation. Is there any way to stop this fascinating creep? Filmgoers in Ohio never found out, because Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye was banned in that state as “a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality.”
‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ at the Strand Cagney and Crime Meet Again
Published: August 5, 1950
All the snarling, mangling, triple-crossing and exterminating on the screen of the Strand yesterday morning adds up to one thing—James Cagney is back in town and right in the same old crime groove. In “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” adapted from Horace McCoy’s novel and produced by the star’s brother, William, Mr. Cagney is taking up where he left off in last season’s “White Heat.” Not nearly as rewardingly, however. The new picture has a slick veneer, some lively episodes and a couple of neat secondary performances, but as a whole comes off as a poor man’s carbon copy of “The Asphalt Jungle.”
Intentional or not, the similarity is there and a yard wide. Again the action focuses on a group of underworldlings, some “respectable,” sidling together distrustfully to pull off a “big job” in a middle-sized community, succeeding and paying the piper. Mr. Cagney’s henchmen include, reminiscently, a basically “nice guy,” a confused blonde hanger-on, a shady lawyer and a couple of crooked policemen blackmailed into helping them. Director Gordon Douglas tries hard, but it’s the script by Harry Brown that really upsets the apple cart. Having assembled these characters rather graphically, the story proceeds to build up Cagney as a superman of cunning and right jabs and peels the others down to puppet size while the suspense trickles away. The novel may have been grimier but it was a lot more convincing.
Why, for instance, would such a shrewd operator tangle with the none-too-bright daughter of a powerful politician, marry her off-handedly, and saunter away smirking when Papa begs him to take over the management of her millions? Why would he choose, instead, to terrorize a comparatively small town and simply hang around after chalking up three fresh corpses. His cronies do recoil in horror or bafflement, Mr. Cagney’s jealous moll plugs him and down he goes as majestically and lingeringly as Julius Caesar.
Perhaps that’s the picture’s point, for Mr. Cagney emphatically is the picture. The others, when they can be seen, fare better, particularly Luther Adler, as the lawyer, and Ward Bond, as the conniving cop. As the moll, a superbly curved young lady named Barbara Payton performs as though she’s trying to spit a tooth—one of the few Mr. Cagney leaves her. Rhys Williams makes an impressively unctuous filling station attendant. As the nice girl, Helena Carter has to grapple with some mighty fragile sounding dialogue, but Mr. Cagney, the chameleon, is right up to her between killings. At one point during their courtship he muses, “Miss Dobson. I’ve always thought that the fourth dimension was neither philosophical nor mathematical, but purely intuitional.” Mr. Cagney, it’s purely baloney.
On the stage of the Strand are Toni Harper, the Lind Brothers, Billy Vine, Florian Zabach and his orchestra.
KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE; screen play by Harry Brown, from the Horace McCoy novel of the same name; directed by Gordon Douglas; produced by William Cagney and released by Warner Brothers.
Ralph Cotter . . . . . James Cagney
Holiday . . . . . Barbara Payton
Inspector Weber . . . . . Ward Bond
Mandon . . . . . Luther Adler
Margaret Dobson . . . . . Helena Carter
Jinx . . . . . Steve Brodie
Vic Mason . . . . . Rhys Williams
Reece . . . . . Barton MacLane
Ezra Dobson . . . . . Herbert Heyes
Doc Green . . . . . Frank Reicher
Tolgate . . . . . John Litel
District Attorney . . . . . Dan Riss
Cobbett . . . . . John Halloran
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