Told mainly in flashback,the star of this film is a character actor called Wally Cassell who plays a disabled boxing trainer who sees ex-jail bird William Bishop as the fighter he can make a champion.
Sheldon Leonard,in one of his few sympathetic roles,plays Wally’s brother who looks out for him and tries to make Wally’s life as good as he can.

Anne Gwynne has little to do although she has an interesting role, as Sheldon’s girlfriend who makes it clear she still cares for a boxer who had one fight too many and barely recognises her.

William Bishop and Ann Richards are the nominal stars but BreakDown belongs to Cassell and Leonard.Cassell in particular impresses as the physically and mentally damaged man who sees in Bishop his means of redemption.

It’s not clear if Sheldon Leonard in some way feels responsible for his brother’s condition (the Cassell character has an arm he can hardly use and a deformed back), he certainly goes out of his way to do anything for Cassell.

A little sleeper which has a lot going for it. I only know Wally Cassell from his fine performance as the ‘Mechanical Man’ in The City That Never Sleeps.
It’s a good print from VCI. And nice to see BESS FLOWERS with a couple of lines of dialogue!

Wally Cassell

Wally Cassell

Sheldon Leonard

Sheldon Leonard

Anne Gwynne

Anne Gwynne

7 responses »

  1. I have not yet picked up on the VCI release Vienna and your
    review suggests that I should!
    I like William Bishop and its sad that he passed away so young
    (41 I believe)
    Columbia were certainly trying to make him a star in the late
    Forties but it just did not happen. He did however work solidly
    up until his death in supporting roles,mainly.
    He has good supporting roles in a couple of decent Noirs
    THE BOSS and SHORT CUT TO HELL. The latter title is
    interesting because it was James Cagneys sole directing
    credit. Cagney directs with real energy (could it be otherwise)
    and its a great shame he did not venture behind the camera

  2. One thing leads to another…………..
    I certainly like the way that you Vienna,and of course Laura keep
    uncovering these films that no-one has ever heard of.
    A few posts ago you mentioned a film directed by John Reinhardt,
    a totally new name to me.Reinhardt has few credits but sounds
    interesting nonetheless so I checked out his THE GUILTY recently.
    Again the film features a star (Don Castle) that we lost far too soon.
    THE GUILTY is unpleasant,to be sure, but visually very striking.
    From a Cornell Woolrich story its a nightmarish journey into
    “Edward Hopper Land”
    Film also features the aforementioned Wally Cassell as the eternal
    fall guy.

  3. Don’t think I’ve seen The Boss or Short Cut to Hell. Both sound good.
    I saw The Guilty a few years ago. Can’t remember much of it. One to catch again.
    I like your comment, “…. nightmarish journey into Edward Hopper land.”
    Don’t you feel Hopper must have influenced the Noir look.

  4. Thanks Vienna,Sadly the MGM/UA MOD of THE BOSS is pretty
    shoddy even by their low standards. Happily the two big set-pieces
    (the Union Station massacre scene and a shoot-out in a cavern-like
    cement factory) appear in the watchable section of the DVD.
    DVD Beaver have suggested that the film deserves the Criterion
    treatment,though I doubt that will happen.
    Hopefully Olive Films or someone else will give SHORT CUT
    TO HELL a DVD release,it certainly deserves one.
    Could not help thinking about Hopper watching THE GUILTY
    with its seedy apartments and diners.
    I do hope Warner Archive own this one and give us a remastered
    version at some point.

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