A True New Yawk Saga


Another neglected strike of film noir black lightning from the Fox archives, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s New Yawk saga reimagines King Lear as a Little Italy banking dynasty, with Edward G. Robinson (spitting real dialect) as the control-freak patriarch of a handmade savings and loan empire. It’s a bitter pill, jammed with vintage tough-guy patois and glowering performances, notably from Richard Conte, that lipless demiurge of bottled rage, as the scenario’s Cordelia, fresh from a martyred prison stint with a family vendetta on his mind. (The quiet, soft, watchful fury of big brother Luther Adler is easy to overlook, but shouldn’t be.) Mankiewicz was an ace at shaping big, unpredictable, entertainingly written scenes—sometimes captured in single shots—and with script help here from Philip Yordan the desolate sense of genre is balanced with the novelistic size of the story and its locale-specific ethnic aura. In fact, this might be the first Hollywood film to take immigrant culture and identity seriously, and the erratically paved path to The Godfather began here. Supplements include a trailer and a commentary by noir blowhard Foster Hirsch.