William Powell: Less Than Saintly as The Hoodlum Saint (1946)

HOODLUM SAINT 2William Powell stars as The Hoodlum Saint (1946), a Metro-Goldywn-Mayer drama now available on DVD as part of the Warner Archive series. Powell plays Terry O’Neill, a WWI vet who returns from Europe and quickly determines the most important thing in life is to make money, and lots of it. He meets two special women (Esther Williams and Angela Lansbury) but his focus on making money distracts him from committing to either one of them for many years…and also dissuades one of the women from agreeing to finally marry him. Then comes the stock market crash of 1929…

The Hoodlum Saint isn’t boring, yet it’s also not particularly interesting. It just sort of moves along at a low hum, with the actors pleasant company but nothing very memorable happening in its 91 minutes, despite a writing staff which included Frank “Spig” Wead and the uncredited Frances Marion.

HOODLUM SAINT 4The theme is that Terry ultimately learns what’s really important in life, but that revelation is played at exactly the same emotional pitch as everything which goes before. It doesn’t help that Powell is too old for the role, being roughly three decades older than his leading ladies, give or take a couple years in either direction. Putting that aside, he’s his usual interesting self, though the character is more charmless than his usual.

Williams, on the other hand, has charm to spare, in a rare dramatic role. She exudes self-confidence, and the camera loved her. Lansbury has a nice, if somewhat underdeveloped, role as a singer who works her way up from the neighborhood saloon to swank nightclubs. She was clearly dubbed, a curious choice by MGM.

The supporting cast is filled with familiar faces such as James Gleason, Frank McHugh, Henry O’Neill, Lewis Stone, Rags Ragland, Louis Jean Heydt, and many more.

HOODLUM SAINT 1The Hoodlum Saint was directed by Norman Taurog–whose other works recently released by Warner include Lucky Night (1939), The Beginning or the End (1947) and Please Believe Me (1950)–and was filmed in black-and-white by Ray June. The DVD is the typically fine Warner Archive print, and the disc includes the original theatrical trailer.

Laura Grieve is a lifelong film enthusiast whose thoughts on classic films and Disney can be found at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, established in 2005. Follow Laura on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LaurasMiscMovie.