What would you rather do? Check other people's Bingo cards or get the tip of a finger lopped off on the chance of inheriting a fortune? Ask Edmond O'Brien in Two of a Kind.
One virtue of this script by Lawrence Kimble and James Gunn is that all our schemers are smart cookies, O'Brien included. They know better than to plant him on the old folks' doorstep in a bassinet. Instead, they work their way in through a relative, the couple's comely niece (Terry Moore) who's a friend of the Scott character. O'Brien is just a friend of a friend, taking his time and letting Moore notice the pinkie and ask questions about his past. Our hero enjoys taking his time, or making time, with the girl, and Scott finds herself feeling a little jealous.
When Moore finally introduces O'Brien to the old man, his approach is a masterpiece of reverse psychology. He tells mostly the truth about his legitimately disreputable past and expresses profound skepticism about possibly being the old man's kid. Of course this makes the codger all the more impressed with O'Brien's sincerity, while a more rehearsed scene with the old lady appears to seal the deal. The old man tells the lawyer that he'll recognize O'Brien as his son, but adds that he'll leave the lad nothing, fearing that wealth would steer him back on the wrong road. Learning the news, O'Brien is resigned, Scott incensed and Knox murderous. A nice twist here is that, come the crisis, it's not the grifter nor the femme fatale but the weaselly lawyer who turns bloodthirsty, determined that his employer should meet an "accidental" death and somehow end up intestate, leaving it to Knox to divy up the estate to his satisfaction. O'Brien and Scott draw the line at homicide, but with all the dirt Knox has on both of them, what can they do?...
Terry Moore is plenty tempting but too much of a "screwball" for O'Brien's taste. Howard Hughes thought differently, of course.
While Two of A Kind is a good, entertaining little hard-boiled comedy-drama, noir it is not. Stylistically, it doesn't come close. As for the story, in a way it's too hard-boiled to be noir, because in noir people hurt. In this film everyone's too smart to get hurt (except intentionally, of course, when you have a chance to make money from it), and the one character who gives in to a compulsion is the one least capable of carrying out his intentions. In the end, O'Brien and Scott are too intelligent to give in to temptations, unless you count their attraction to each other. I honestly didn't see the story developing that way from the first ten minutes. In a way, it was a charming surprise, with the leads doing some of their most likable work, but it is a bit of a cheat to have this film in a film noir collection -- though it's still far more worthy than the set's other Scott movie, Bad For Each Other. Both films are included solely because Scott is in them and is, career-wise, a Bad Girl of Film Noir. But don't hold Sony's sales tactics against Two of a Kind. It's not noir, but it's not bad, either.
I'll watch Lizabeth Scott in just about anything, and I like Edmond O'Brien. So this one sounds pretty good to me.
I think Lizabeth Scott's best noir wasToo Late For Tears - have you seen that one? Now that has to be the ultimate Bad Girl movie.
Lizabeth Scott is still with us.
d: I have seen Too Late For Tears and it'd certainly be a competitor for that honor.
Tom: That's a fact I'm happy to acknowledge. She'll turn 89 this year.
You make a convincing case here that this film does not qualify for the noir label. I don't hold this against Sony, as it's true what you say here about it being a decent effort. But there are so many other noir titles to unearth, it almost seems a shame they are giving this precedence. As always, a no-holds barred critical account!
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