Cash McCall (1960)
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Written by Cameron Hawley, Lenore J. Coffee, Marion Hargrove
Produced by Henry Blanke
Starring James Garner, Natalie Wood, Dean Jagger, Henry Jones, Nina Foch, E.G. Marshall, Roland Winters, Edward Platt, Otto Kruger
Of the plenteous polished, peremptory alpha males who dominated lead roles in the postwar era, few were so versatile as Garner, who's as becoming to the part of a suave financier as it he. When the aging, harried proprietor (Jagger) of a plastics manufacturer wearies of the clout abused by the administrator (Winters) of his largest client, he divests himself by sale to the vulpine raider, whose extravagant emption is as much a means to pursue the hand of his vendor's beauteous daughter (Wood) with whom he's enamored as a legitimate transaction. A succession of misunderstandings arising from incessant machinations, the intrigues of an embittered and infatuated assistant hotel manager (Foch) and the tainted reputation of his trade threaten to stymie McCall's romantic and financial prospects, but by scheme and sincerity, he prevails; don't they always? In conceivably the most satisfying of all his theatrical vehicles, the charismatic star neither overplays nor disappoints in practice of guile and reposed confession of heartsick vulnerability. None among the supporting players constitute a weak link, either: Marshall's in fine, typecast form as McCall's humorless lawyer, Foch metes charm and pathos to lend plausibility to her inane divorcee and Jones renders comic relief as a scrupulous yet ambitious efficiency consultant whose moral permutation underscores the narrative's principle theme. However, this cast's jewel is the indispensable love interest: ever a paragon of filmic femininity, Wood's loveliness nearly exceeds her expressive elan as the lively, lovelorn lass. This time capsule from the close of the '50s is irrefutably dated: Wood's screen mother advises her to marry in lieu of a frivolous career in illustration, and Garner mentions the fugacious potential of a military contract (ha!) in an obiter dictum. Its fun -- and an unexpected depth of characterization revealed by copious exposition -- is no less certain.