The Hoodlum Saint (1946) Poster

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odd movie starring William Powell
blanche-25 September 2006
Everything is odd about "The Hoodlum Saint," a 1946 film starring William Powell, Esther Williams, Angela Lansbury, Frank McHugh, and James Gleason. It's a film about a returning World War I veteran when people were returning from World War II; it has the look and feel of a '30s film about it. At 54, the wonderful Powell is a little old for the role of an ex-soldier, and his love interest is 24-year-old Esther Williams. Apparently Williams wrote in her autobiography that she thought it was ridiculous to be cast opposite someone so much older, and states that Powell had to have elaborate makeup and wear a girdle. My question is, did she have anything nice to say about anybody in her book? The last oddity, which couldn't have been predicted back then, is that now Angela Lansbury's dubbing sounds very strange indeed as audiences have become more familiar with her singing voice.

All that being said, the story concerns a returning vet, a newspaper journalist, who has difficulty finding work. He crashes a wedding that has a lot of influential people attending. There he meets Williams and gets a job on another paper, only leaving it to join the very stockbroker he's been writing exposes about, deciding to go after the almighty dollar. This is all leading up to the stock market crash of 1929.

The acting is uniformly excellent. Williams is absolutely stunning in her role, and Powell is his usual charming, fast-talking self, delivering his lines with a good deal of irony and a light touch. Lansbury plays a club singer/love interest for Powell who becomes more sophisticated as the story evolves. Her acting is wonderful and she looks better and more glamorous in each scene. James Gleason, Frank McHugh, and Rags Ragland play Powell's somewhat crooked buddies, and they're delightful.

Powell is always worth watching, though this isn't his best.
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Stepping Out of Their Element
bkoganbing1 August 2006
When The Thin Man series was in high gear one of the endearing parts of those films is how Nick Charles would constantly be running into various criminals he'd had dealings with in the past. Usually he'd run into them while out with Nora and it was always fun to see how Nora took to these characters, people she wouldn't in a million years be associated with herself.

I think that MGM thought it was funny too so William Powell was cast as a returning veteran from World War I who as a newspaper reporter before the war apparently had a similar rogue's gallery of friends. It didn't really work here though, Powell is cast in a part that probably would have fit James Cagney or even Spencer Tracy better.

Plus the fact that in 1946 William Powell was 54 years old. Esther Williams in her memoirs thought it was ludicrous to be working with a man twice her age as a romantic couple. She describes in her memoirs the elaborate makeup preparation Powell went through and in fact he had to wear a girdle to keep his middle age spread from showing too much. According to her, Powell thought it just as ludicrous and in fact would be doing the lead in Life With Father the next year, a role far better suited to his age and talent.

Of course any film that utilizes the combined talents of James Gleason, Slim Summerville, Frank McHugh, and Rags Ragland as the four Damon Runyonesque characters in Powell's life can't be all bad.

Powell is a returning veteran from World War I who can't get his old job back as a reporter in Baltimore. So by hook or crook he makes a great deal of money, some of it by tactics this side of a con game. He meets two women in his life, socialite Esther Williams minus pool and nightclub singer Angela Lansbury dubbed in this film.

He's got these characters though who he likes but are becoming quite a burden around his neck. When Gleason gets pinched for bookmaking he makes up a religious yarn about a mysterious St. Dismas, the good thief crucified with Jesus as the one who gets the Deity to move in mysterious ways. Gleason gets sprung and it works too well as he becomes a fanatic on the subject. Powell, caught up in his own chicanery, becomes a big mover and shaker in a St. Dismas foundation.

It's not a bad story, nostalgic for its times as the action starts at the end of the previous World War. It also could have used someone like Frank Borzage, or Henry Koster, or even Frank Capra who dealt better with this kind of material.
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Curl up in front of the fireplace with your lady and a good video
lloydallred23 July 2004
This is an old-time enjoyable movie, the plot keeps moving, with new and interesting events around each turn. The movie is lot like real life, which has setbacks, but eventually things like character and work ethics are what win out in the end. The protagonist, a war veteran, becomes very wealthy by bravado, good fortune, creative thinking, and hard work, only to lose it in the great crash of 1929. And I suppose that the way one's character weathers misfortune is equally important to the one's character in earning it.

This is not the shallow stuff you see in the movie houses of today. Ester Williams and Angela Landsbury are not only great actors, but are also beautiful and great to watch.
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Is it for Money or for Faith?
mkilmer28 February 2007
The war was not World War II, but rather, the Great War. Returning veterans were treated well, the plot line tells us, but they did not all return to their jobs. Such was the fate for one Terry O'Neil, a delightful role in the hands of William Powell.

Always eager to help the friends he made as a reporter – yes, his sources were often hoodlums – he does that. The doors are slammed in his face, and he uses his supreme wit to make his fortunate. He uses religion – Catholicism and Saint Dismas (Patron of Thieves) – to get his hoodlum friends to leave him alone. So we the viewer are left with a nice guy who has changed into a driven man with plenty of money and no need whatsoever for faith.

America changed on October 29, 1929, and so did Terry O'Neil. Anything else would be a spoiler, but it is a William Powell movie and Powell's characters were wicked smart and unwicked decent sorts.

The love interest, and films have to have one of those, was played beautifully by a beauty: Esther Williams. O'Neil's dark side's love interest was played by Angela Lansbury, straight from Broadway with a voice to match her beauty.

THE HOODLUM SAINT may, as has been suggested, have been better suited for '36 than for '46, but it plays well in '07 for those of us who love these films.
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Perfect for 1936...
xerses1324 May 2006
THE HOODLUM SAINT (1946) is a curiosity. It has the feel of a film that would have fit perfectly in 1936 for it has none of the post-war (WWII) sophistication that had been developed over the last ten (10) years. It is clearly locked in as a typical mid-thirties programmer. This may be because the screenwriter 'SPIG' Wead was on his last legs, literally, (died 1947) needed a paycheck and just recycled concepts that he was more successful with a decade ago.

The 'NUTS'...Veteran from WWI (then the GREAT WAR) returns to find job gone. Goes for the easy buck. Makes fortune, loses same, redemption through love, fade out. The films sole saving grace is it's excellent cast headed by William Powell (always dependable), supported by pros' James Gleason, Lewis Stone and Frank McHugh. The feminine interest features Angela Lansbury and Esther Williams. If you have never seen Ms. Lansbury when she was a young hot-tie or Esther Williams out of the pool that alone makes this film deserving of at least one (1) look.

MGM like all major studios was committed to a production schedule of fifty (50) feature films a year. It was the largest and had the most actors on payroll and they had to be kept busy. Look through the principal cast and we bet their credits come to over three hundred (300) features. In less then five (5) years this luxury will disappear and with it the production schedule of fifty (50) a year. Now it would be T.V. that shouldered the burden of production.
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Excellent Story, Acting and Cast.
wazzy-123 July 2004
This was one of the finest Gentile movies with a superb cast of characters. I believe it rates up with "Bells of St Mary's" and other great classic movies of its type. Wm. Powell rates an Academy award nomination and Esther Williams demonstrates her finest acting, and is more beautiful than I have ever seen her. She equals and exceeds most actresses of her day. The story moves along very smoothly, with excellent dialog and is a natural for the great cast of characters like James Gleason. My hat is off to the writers and director. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to be truly entertained without the conflict and violent movie making of today. This is truly a MUST see.
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Doesn't really come together
TheLittleSongbird11 February 2017
The idea was interesting, and while it was somewhat odd to see them together due to their performing styles being so completely different from one another William Powell, Esther Williams, Angela Lansbury and James Gleason were highly talented performers and always watchable.

All have done much better work than 'The Hoodlum Saint', both in terms of performances and in films. 'The Hoodlum Saint' has its moments and redeeming values but it doesn't really come together, feeling disjointed for want of a word. It's very nicely shot in black and white, and hauntingly scored. The songs performed by Angela Lansbury (though dubbed very well by Doreen Tryden, though it was a strange decision as Lansbury is a more than capable singer.

While the acting was a mixed bag on the whole, Lansbury really enlivens the proceedings in a charmingly perky performance and comes off best in the cast. James Gleason looks as though he was enjoying himself thoroughly, as does Frank McHugh.

Powell was a great actor but this is not one of his best performances, he has been more engaged before and since and is somewhat too clean cut for a role requiring a rougher edge. Williams is cast against type, but while she is radiant it is a rather bland performance in a one-dimensional role. The chemistry isn't there, and Norman Taurog's direction is often mechanical.

Scripting is pretty witless and dreary, but it is the story that is 'The Hoodlum Saint's' biggest failure. It's dully paced, with a good deal of convolution and situations resolved too easily. Tone is an issue too, starting with a more comedic touch and then abruptly shifting into drama and it feels like a completely different film and comes over as disjointed.

All in all, certainly not unwatchable and worth a one-time watch for curiosity's sake but doesn't really come together. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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"Depression is temporary, but principles and faith -- they go on forever."
utgard1419 October 2015
Peculiar little movie that seems like it would have been a better fit for a pre-WWII Warner Bros. gangster picture. The story's about a WWI soldier (William Powell) coming home to find he's out of work. He and other returning vets have no choice but to rely on charity to get by. Embittered, he decides to get rich no matter what it takes. But the love of a good woman (Esther Williams) will undoubtedly set him back on the path of the straight and narrow. It's a strange one, to be sure. The aging Powell is miscast, the movie is mistimed, and Angela Lansbury's singing is dubbed despite her having a fine singing voice. The supporting cast is good, including Lansbury, Frank McHugh, Rags Ragland, and James Gleason. But the starchiness of the script that doesn't allow either of its charming leads to do what they do best and the lack of romantic chemistry between said leads is the film's undoing. It's watchable enough for fans of Powell and Williams but not something that will make either's career highlight reel.
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A major waste of William Powell's considerable talents
MartinHafer9 November 2006
The only reason I watched this film was for William Powell. He's one of my favorite MGM leading men and he usually is so charming and charismatic that he can make any ordinary film shine,...except, perhaps, this one!!! I should have just trusted the Maltin Guide--after all, it said that apart from Powell it was a bad film. But, being a fan, I unfortunately watched this very convoluted and sappy mess.

The film's biggest problem is that the plot just seems to have 1001 loose ends to the plot. Again and again, the film just looks very incomplete and the pieces seem disjoint and there is no overall vision for the film. We have some assorted "mugs" thrown in for comic relief, Powell's character who is sometimes a nice guy and other times a thoughtless jerk, an ultra-sappy plot about some patron saint of thieves (it is PAINFULLY BAD), Esther Williams who is radiant but her part is flat and one-dimensional, we have the other woman (Angela Lansbury) who sings with a voice that isn't even close to being her real voice (I think Louis Armstrong's wouldn't have been any less convincing) and a plot that is just plain dull and meandering. There is no pay-off for all this--just a dull as dishwater film.
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Really Great Cast In A Really Bad Movie
gerrythree10 August 2016
TCM had "The Hoodlum Saint" on August 8, 2016, the first of a series of movies starring Esther Williams. Williams was 24 when she co-starred in this movie and she looked great. Star William Powell looked like he was just earning a paycheck, he had the most script lines and this script was a disaster area, completely unreal. This movie had fine stars and character actors at every turn: James Gleason, Frank McHugh, Angela Lansbury, Rags Ragland. All try hard but who is really interested in a story that revolves in part on the story of Saint Dismas, the good thief in the New Testament who becomes the "hoodlum saint." Greenlighting movies like this turkey paved the way for MGM production head Louis B. Mayer's dismissal.

Cliff Reid was the producer of this movie, his first and last for MGM. Reid had worked as a producer or assistant producer at RKO from 1934 to 1942, according to IMDb. If the movie was low budget, like RKO movies starring Lee Tracy, Reid was the producer. These RKO movies are mostly unwatchable, badly written and with bad production values. For a bigger budget movie like "Bringing Up Baby," Reid was the associate producer. Reid is the one who deserves all the blame for how bad "The Hoodlum Saint" is, it has a low budget script tagged to the high production values MGM gave its movies.

Further, William Powell was miscast as the star, he sleep walked through most of the movie. You have Esther Williams full of vitality playing against a very dull William Powell. Producer Cliff Reid imbued this movie with "B" movie values. You know, MGM would have been better off making this movie starring Lee Tracy in William Powell's role as a former newspaperman who sells out at first to get rich on Wall Street before the crash.
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" How to Start at the Bottom and Work your way Down "
thinker16916 January 2012
Writer James Hill wrote this wonderful story which was directed by Norman Taurog and relates this rags to riches story, staring William Powell as Terence Ellerton 'Terry' O'Neill'. Powell has just been discharged from the Army, after World War One. Finding it near impossible to find employment, he crashes a High Society wedding and with little effort on his part, bumps into just the right people. Shortly thereafter, he is soon riding the gravy train and up towards his first million. Esther Williams and Angela Lansbury are also along with him as are other close friends. Eventually, he finds his second million easier and with it accumulating wealth in everything he attempts. Finding success in all his endeavors, he creates a non-existing Charity fund for the poor and realizes it too is a success. Then Wall Street collapses and Ellerton finds he too is brought low by the Economic Meltdown. As America looks to blame someone, he too is slated for jail or prison. Landing in the streets, he realizes that being poor is lonely at the bottom and wishes he hadn't squandered his life and few friends. The film is a tribute to self reliance and what to do with the wonderful opportunities one is given along the way. Powell is wonderful as are his Co-Stars. Easily recommended. ****
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All gloss, no guts, and yet strangely charming.
mark.waltz10 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When the king of suave detecting meets the swimming queen and the future queen of the musical theatre, it's an interesting, if somewhat creepy, trio. William Powell is way older than both Esther Williams and Angela Lansbury, and it's apparent that he's awkward in the conception of their being romantically paired. Absolutely no ego involved with this, he still goes through with his best, somewhat of a lovable middle aged rogue who returns home from serving in World War I and struggles to find work as a newspaper reporter. He flirts and playfully harasses working socialite Williams, passing her off to another partner in a dance marathon but upset when he finds out that she's been married. Along comes glamorous nightclub singer Lansbury (dubbed badly by a singer whose voice is nowhere close to Angela's, let alone those who dubbed her in earlier MGM musicals), but issues with old pals James Gleason, Frank McHugh, Rags Ragland and Slim Summerville adds all sorts of confusion, not only to Powell's life, but the story as well.

Far from the dashing leading man of his days with Myrna Loy, Powell is still the most sophisticated man on the post World War II screen, and manages to have an ageless persona even though he's obviously made up to appear to be younger. This mixes in comedy and social drama in a way that isn't always consistent, and gaps in the story makes this a bit inconsistent in it's structure and often episodic. That's the fault of the script, not the stars or direction, although it should have been obvious in daily rushes that something was wrong. It's the type of film that seems to be suffering from an identity crisis, at times going for 30's style screwball comedy then turning into an expose on the ruthlessness of big business dealings, and all of a sudden a typical woman's picture with a confrontation between Williams and Lansbury that lacks the desired spark. I would have liked more of Ms. Lansbury, playing a combination of emotions and not close to the harridans that she was often typecast as, although she's far from being a pushover. Like Powell's character, this was a film with too many ambitions that it didn't quite succeed in achieving.
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Not a success for William Powell
holdencopywriting6 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Hoodlum Saint has a cobbled-together feel. Too many plot lines, and most lack interest. Characters change personalities, then change again, as if the writers were not certain what to do with their creations. The normally excellent William Powell seems to be phoning in his performance. Even the stalwart supporting actor James Gleason does a pale imitation of himself. He has a religious conversion at one point that is unbelievable and embarrassing in its ham-handedness. Neither leading lady (Esther Williams and Angela Lansbury) has the star quality or acting ability to lift the proceedings a notch. Miss Lansbury sings (dubbed) several torch songs that are fastforward-worthy. I recommend you skip The Hoodlum Saint.
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A faux-pious must-to-avoid
Handlinghandel28 October 2003
This is a dreadful movie, wavering between comedy and piety, with a wan attempt at romance thrown in.

William Powell was a dashing figure but he needed, and usually had, something. He needed a charming, beautiful costar. Think Myrna. Even the usually sublime Irene Dunne in the icky "Life With Father."

Here he has a young Esther Williams. She is appealing and she clearly is doing her best. But -- how cane one avoid this? She is a fish out of water.

The movie's brushes with the saint in the title are, in my opinion, as someone who is very devout, inappropriate and smarmy as used here.
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