Written and Posted by Sarah
Dan Duryea was capable of playing any sort of role, but it is the rough film noir characters that are so closely identified with his name. He could out sneer and out snivel any actor in Hollywood, and the public liked him for it. Johnny Stool Pigeon is a classic type of Duryea film, and you guessed it --- he plays the title role!
Howard Duff stars as a policeman going undercover to break up a drug smuggling ring. Dan Duryea plays the imprisoned criminal who makes a deal with the police and becomes a "stool pigeon." Shelley Winters plays the girl friend of the ring leader, and Anthony Curtis (soon to be known as "Tony") appears in his first credited role. He plays a young mute who is the hired killer of the gang.
The film has not been released on either VHS or DVD (as far as I can find out), so this is yet another Duryea film that I haven't seen. If you'd like to read a blow-by-blow synopsis of the plot, just CLICK HERE to open the movie page at TCM in another window. Dan's role is considered a semi-sympathetic character, and his snarling is actually kept to a minimum. He gets to use his talents in a variety of situations --- he even gets beat up by the gang of drug traffickers. It seems like the studio figured that if they couldn't kill him, then they could beat him within an inch of his life. He is also wounded seriously in a shoot-out with young Tony Curtis. A happy Hollywood ending follows, apparently. Dan and Shelley go straight and head off to start their new life together.
This was Duryea's second (of three) films with Shelley Winters. They had appeared together a year earlier in the 1948 film, Larceny, and they would appear again, a year later, in Winchester '73. Tony Curtis also appeared in an uncredited (and very brief) role in Criss Cross, so the cast was not entirely unknown to each other.
1949 was a big year for Dan Duryea. He had four major films released: Manhandled, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears and Johnny Stool Pigeon. Obviously, he had perfected his noir technique.