I’m doing a double this week, the movie for Overlooked Movies and the novel, MIAMI MAYHEM by Marvin Albert, it was based on for Forgotten Books Friday. I was surprised that the script, by Richard L. Breen, stuck as close to the novel as I’ve ever seen in a movie, even down to minor bits of dialogue. When accused of not working hard enough, Rome responds, “Not hard enough! I’ve had to turn down two offers to go to bed. Two!”
Frank Sinatra plays Tony Rome, a drinking, gambling private eye that lives on a boat in Miami. He won the thing in a game of craps and changed the name to reflect how, the STRAIGHT PASS. He maintains an office in town and is that solo PI, an ex-cop, of classic tales, even down to the snap brim fedora when he wasn’t wearing his captain’s hat.
One day he gets a call from his ex-partner, Ralph Turpin(Robert J. Wilke), who he’d split with when he caught the man selling hot jewelry. He’s now the house dick at a sleazy hotel downtown and the establishment needs a little help. Not really thrilled, Tony goes because the man did save his life one time, shooting a man about to plug Rome in the back. Not out of any feelings for his partner, but for the reward money. Though he didn’t like Turpin anymore, Rome was a man who recognized a debt.
It seemed like a simple enough job: a well dressed young woman had checked into the hotel the night before drunk and passed out in bed. She was a rich man’s daughter, Diana Pines(Sue Lyon), and was already listed as missing by the police. The hotel simply wanted her returned home and the hotel not mentioned, they got enough grief from the police already. For that he got two hundred, one now and onw when they knew no heat would come down on them.
It soon grew to something more. People were looking for a pin of some sort and were willing to get nasty about it.
Rome gets chloroformed, his boat, car, and office ransacked. Diana comes the next day and hires him to find the pin. The father, Rudolph Kosterman(Simon Oakland) wans him to find out what’s bothering his daughter. The stepmother Rita(Gena Rowlands) wants him to not reveal anything he finds to her husband.
Rome gets into several fights, not al;ways coming out on top, Bodies start to pile up, only about half can be attributed to Rome, though the cops try.
A number of “faces” appeared in roles of varying size. Richard Conte played Lt. Dave Santini, Rome’s cop buddy, much put upon by the P.I.’s got-it-alone antics. Loyd Gough is a hood named Jules Langley, Shecky Greene another hood, Catleg, Lloyd Bochner a heroin dealer, Vic Rood, and boxer Rocky Graziano a street dealer, retired boxer Packy. Linda Dano even made an uncredited appearance. B-movie heroine Tiffany Bolling plays a photo girl in a night club.
Nancy Sinatra sang the theme song, TONY ROME, written by Lee Hazelwood. A couple of other songs were written by Billy May and Randy Newman. A notation on the IMDB listing for the film notes that they may not appear on some soundtracks, apparently different versions were released.
The second Tony Rome novel, LADY IN CEMENT, was also filmed, with Rquel Welch and Dan Blocker, but I’ve neither seen it or read the book, so no thoughts.
I did like this one even though I knew how it would come out. Stlishly done, it was part of a trend at the time for neo-noir that updated the classic P.I. tale. The critics seemed to like it as well.
For more overlooked movies, see Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.
And here’s the complete theme song: