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Film / Drive a Crooked Road

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Drive a Crooked Road is a 1954 American crime Film Noir directed by Richard Quine and starring Mickey Rooney and Dianne Foster.

Eddie Shannon (Rooney) is an undersized sports-car mechanic who dreams of racing an expensive car in a European meet. He meets and falls in love with Barbara Mathews (Foster), and thinks she loves him. She introduces him to Steve Norris (Kevin McCarthy) and Harold Baker (Jack Kelly), who ask him to drive the getaway car in a bank robbery they are planning. Eddie refuses, but changes his mind after some gentle persuasion from Barbara. The job is pulled off and, following a wild getaway, Eddie learns that Barbara was just using him and that Steve and Harold have plans to kill him. Gritty retribution is just around the corner.

Tropes in Drive a Crooked Road:

  • Affably Evil: Steve Norris is a genuinely charming and likable fellow, who happens to be gangster and bank robber. He is a gracious host, and has the knack of making friends easily, which is one of the reasons the socially awkward Eddie falls under his sway so easily. Even after the robbery, Steve is perfectly happy to let Eddie walk away with his share of the loot (he earned it after all), unlike his partner Harold. It is only when Eddie gets pushy and won't take the brush-off does he decide to have Harold remove Eddie from the picture. Even then, he still gives the impression that he'd really prefer there was another way.
  • Badass Driver: Eddie. Steve and Harold recruit him specifically because they need someone who can handle a car at high speed on a bad road with dangerous corners.
  • Bank Robbery: Steve and Harold have a plan to rob the Palm Springs bank. But that plan requires them to recruit a highly skilled Getaway Driver. And that is what sets the plot in motion.
  • Construction Catcalls: The mechanics' break area at the garage where Eddie works sits slightly below street level, and has large glass window that allow them to see the women passing by on the sidewalk; especially their legs. Any time an attractive woman passes, there will be a barrage of catcalls and lewd comments from the mechanics. Eddie never joins in on the catcalling which earns him ribbing from his workmates.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Or a frontseat in this case. Harold climbs into the chief teller's car and lies down in the passenger side foot well. When the teller opens the door, he finds Harold lying on the floor pointing a gun at him.
  • Femme Fatale: Barbara. Steve sends her to act as a Honey Trap to recruit Eddie into being the gang's Getaway Driver.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harold Baker seems unable to open his mouth without a sarcastic comment coming out. It reaches the point where his partner-in-crime Steve tells to just shut the hell up for a while.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Eddie's Jerkass workmate Phil only ever addresses him as 'Shorty', which Eddie hates.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: Barbara does this twice as part of her plan to ensnare Eddie into Steve's scheme. First, she visits his garage pretending to have a blocked carburettor so she can meet him and begin to insinuate herself into his life. The second time, she calls up claiming that her car will not start so he will have to come out to her apartment to fix it.
  • Fence Painting: Steve gets rid of a drunk guest who keeps interrupting his conversation with Eddie, and who has been trying to 'help' him all evening, by 'allowing' her to do all the dishes. She starts but then seems to realise that she has been tricked just after Steve leaves the kitchen, but this was all Steve needed, as now he can whisk Eddie away to finish their private conversation.
  • Getaway Driver: Steve and Harold have a plan to rob the Palm Springs bank, but to pull it off they need a driver who can drive at high speeds on bad roads. To this end, the send Femme Fatale Barbara to seduce Eddie Shannon into becoming their wheelman.
  • Grease Monkey: As well as being a Badass Driver, Eddie is a master mechanic who personally strips down and rebuilds the getaway car for the robbery.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Used to show show Eddie stripping down, rebuilding, and fine-tuning the getaway car.
  • Honey Trap: Gangster Steve Norris sends his girlfriend Barbara to manipulate Eddie Shannon into falling in love with her, and then persuade him to act as the Getaway Driver for the gang's bank robbery.
  • In Love with the Mark: Not love exactly, but Barbara does develop feelings for Eddie, the poor sap she is manipulating into become the Getaway Driver for her gang. As she gets to know him, she realises that he has never known love in his life before, and that not only will her plan turn him into a criminal, but finding out that she never loved him will destroy him psychologically and emotionally. She gets cold feet and tries to persuade her partners to find someone else, but they refuse.
  • Leg Focus: Barbara wears outfits designed to showcase her legs, and one scene has her stepping out of the shower to answer the phone where she is shown only from the thighs down.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: The newfound confidence Eddie experiences from dating Barbara gives him the courage to stand up to his bullying workmate Phil, and tell him:
    My name is not Shorty. It's Eddie.
  • Panty Thief: Not exactly underwear, but when Eddie finds Barbara's handkerchief in her car while he is servicing it, he looks around furtively, then sniffs it and tucks it away in his pocket. Back home, he takes it out and lies on the bed smelling it. Of course, as their whole meeting was a Honey Trap, it is likely Barbara left it there for him to find deliberately.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Eddie has a very prominent scar that runs across his forehead and round his eye: the result of a car crash. It is implied that it is the scar that makes him withdrawn and socially awkward, and causes his issues with expressing or receiving affection.
  • Playing Sick: Steve tells Eddie to fake a toothache at work during the afternoon to give him an excuse not to come to work the next day when they plan to pull the Bank Robbery.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Steve has no compunctions about slapping Barbara around when she develops a conscience about what is going to happen to Eddie.