We are keeping the film noir train rolling this month, literally, with The Narrow Margin (Fleischer, 1952). This is one of my all time favorites, without a doubt. If they ever made a noir Mount Rushmore, this should be on it. It stars two fixtures of the genre, Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor, in career defining roles. It clocks in at a taut 71 minutes. And it takes place almost entirely in the claustrophobic corridors and compartments of a train on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles. It’s a one-way trip from one noir capital to another and all that stands between a salty mobster’s widow and a pair of cement shoes is one detective with a code!
The Narrow Margin is hardboiled noir at its finest. Marie Windsor is one of the most fatal of femmes to ever grace the screen and she is in top form here. She can charm you or she can rip you to shreds. Make it easy on yourself. Charles McGraw as her opposite number is as upright as she is tainted. The gangsters on her trail are equally determined and brazen. The clock is ticking and this train is headed to the end of the line for someone. It’s all aboard for one of the most tense and well crafted noirs ever made.
What you’ll find in this episode: how trains make the sweetest music, Carl Sandburg throws down the gauntlet, the power ranking of the Dark City Dames, and the corrupt versus the incorruptible.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Narrow Margin on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Woman on the Run.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Bodyguard.
A collection of mid-century photos of Chicago’s rail yards.
The Los Angeles Times review of Richard Fleischer’s memoir, Just Tell Me When to Cry.