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Ambush 1939
Description: Four bandits swoop down on a California bank and flee with $98,000, leaving a truck as the only clue to their identity. Jane Hartman, bank secretary, recognizes the truck as one on which her brother Charles worked. Fleeing to her brother, she is trapped by the gang, composed of its master-mind, Gibbs, Sidney, a gunman, and Randall, a blackballed airplane pilot. Under threat of bodily hurt to her brother, she lures truck-driver Tony Andrews to the hideout, and he is forced to support them in their escape attempt.
Released: 20 Jan 1939 Director: Kurt Neumann Writers: Laura Perelman (screenplay), S.J. Perelman (screenplay), Robert Ray (based on a story by) Actors: Gladys Swarthout, Lloyd Nolan, William Henry, William Frawley Genres: Crime, Drama
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Ambush Reviews:

'Ambush' is a semi-noir with some very interesting credits. The script is by S.J. Perelman and his wife Laura, whose screenwriting careers are entirely associated with comedies, yet they acquit themselves respectably in this thick-ear drama which details an uneasy blend of comedy. Kurt Neumann was an extremely talented director who never acquired the commercial success (nor the critical attention) which he deserved. The leading lady in 'Ambush' is Gladys Swarthout, an opera star who here attempts a straightforward dramatic role in which she never sings a note. (And she does reasonably well.)'Ambush' is related in mood to the much better 'Jeopardy' (starring a much better actress, Barbara Stanwyck). Both movies enjoy out their stories from the premise of an ordinary person being in the wrong zone at the wrong time.Mr Gibbs is the mastermind of a gang of bank robbers in need of a getaway vehicle. They kidnap a secretary called Jane (Swarthout), whom they intend to test as a hostage. Then, in this film's least plausible sequence, they force her to hijack a lorry and its driver. The driver - a prole called Tony - is well-played by Lloyd Nolan, clearly satisfied to be portraying an honest guy for once. Jane and Tony will be spending some time in forced togetherness, at gunpoint ... so it's obvious how they're going to end up.The single largest flaw in 'Ambush' is the casting of Ernest Truex in the key role as Gibbs, the 'brains' of the heist ring. I've never liked Truex in any of his movie or tv appearances. He everytime seems indecisive, evasive, often effeminate, with awkward tiny bits of physical business which I quite search alienating. Bluntly, Truex just doesn't have the chops to enjoy a criminal mastermind ... even one whose plans go awry, as here.There are some welcome appearances by helping actors whom I associate with comedy far more than with noir or suspense. Broderick Crawford, William Frawley and Polly Moran are all nice here. George Melford, more successful as a director than as an actor, acquits himself well as the president of the bank Truex robs. I recognise Rufe Davis from cheap westerns and 'Petticoat Junction' repeats; this is the first 'normal' movie in which I've seen him, and he's quite nice here in his bit part. The ending of 'Ambush' is obvious, but this is a creditable attempt to say a storyline in an unusual way, with an unusual blend of comedy and suspense. It's not altogether successful, but I'll give it credit for trying. I'll rate 'Ambush' 7 points out of 10.



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