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The Dark Past (1948)

Posted on August 16, 2020 at 8:27 PM
William Holden in "The Golden Boy."

The Dark Past (1948)
William Holden (1918-1981), Lee J. Cobb (1911-1976)
According to TCM, Lee J. Cobb was not happy making this film.  His daily crabbiness and dissatisfaction evidently so affected William Holden (who was trying to put back together a film career after his service in WWII) Nina Foch (the female lead) started having Holden come to her trailer for breakfast.  She supposedly consoled Holden and convinced him that in a few years, he would be more famous than Cobb.  She was right.
Before the war, Cobb had played Holden’s father in a movie where Holden was the young “golden boy” torn between the violin and boxing (The Golden Boy, 1939).  Cobb was only seven years older than Holden.  The reasons for Cobb’s dissatisfaction with the production were not explained, but it was implied that Cobb might have resented Holden’s good looks.
This part was very different from the “boy next door” parts that Holden had played before the war.  In this movie, he looks very much like Duke Mantee, the character Humphrey Bogart played in “The Petrified Forest” (1936).
Billy Wilder would have seen Holden in this against-type role and it may have influenced his casting of Holden in “Sunset Boulevard” (1950).    
 Even though Holden gets head billing, Cobb gets more screen time playing the psychiatrist taken hostage by the escaped convict, Holden, and his girl, Nina Fochs. 
Holden plays a psychotic killer. Cobb plays the psychiatrist who while being held hostage psychoanalyzes Holden.   And, cures him in one night.  
The Dark Past is a remake of a 1939 film “Blind Alley” and based on a play by James Warwick.  In Blind Alley, Chester Morris played Holden’s part and Ralph Bellamy played the psychiatrist.
This is one of the films made just after the war that was highly influenced by Freudian analysis which was thought to hold the keys to what was and still now is referred to as “the criminal mind.”  What is actually being talked about (then and now) is violent criminal behavior.  Even though it is referred to as “the criminal mind,” nobody tries to psychoanalyze white collar, corporate and political criminals, or believes for one second that their criminal behavior derives from some deep psychic wound.
Other examples of films based on the notion (even though simplistic) of Freudian analysis are: Psycho, Spellbound (1945), Whirlpool (1941), The Dark Mirror (1946) and Conflict (1945).  
Reviewers noted the taunt interplay between Holden and Cobb’s characters as being like that of Bogart and March in a later escaped convict takes hostages film, “The Desperate Hours” (1955)
See Wikipedia and TCM,

Categories: Film

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