. . . Big Combo

. . .

The 100 Super Movies au maximum: The Big Combo

Conte/Wallace We have lots of reasons to be grateful for low-budget specialist Joseph H. Lewis's work, but Peter Bogdonovich's book of interviews is what made me grateful for Joseph H. Lewis's existence. In a field full of insecure egotists, Lewis comes across as happy, gracious, and busting with healthy pride in everything he ever did (except for the Custer movie: "I became terribly confused because I found out what a horrible man Colonel Custer was. Jiminy Cricket!"). It's just nice to know that it's even possible to be someone like that, you know? 'Cause sometimes you look around, and.... Anyway, here's Lewis on The Big Combo:

You know, Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace are married, and they're a charming couple. I asked Jean why her character -- a society girl looking like herself -- would throw herself at a character like Richard Conte's gangster, a known murderer. And she couldn't come up with an answer.... I said, "Jean, when this man takes you in his arms, he doesn't stop at kissing you on the lips, he doesn't stop at your earlobe, he doesn't stop at your neck, he doesn't stop at your tummy. He covers you all...."

I actually wanted to show -- again by impression only -- a man making love to a girl in this delightfully unique fashion that we have all dreamt about or experienced. Now, how do you show it on film? Well, I had an idea: as you saw the two of them, mixed with kissing her on the lips and then on the ear, the camera moved closer and closer and closer and, as you came into a huge close-up of Nick Conte and Jean Wallace, gradually Nick's head disappeared: first kissing her neck, then lower and lower and then, at the precise moment, Jean, who was icy -- I think she was afraid to betray herself for fear Cornel would raise hell with her -- but at that precise moment I envisioned, I went "uh-uh-uh" off-scene, and that was recorded.

Cornel never forgave me for it.

Which makes the scene sound like fun. It isn't. It begins with a nasty quarrel and ends with whispered dialogue:

"What do you want, Susan? Tell me. I'll give anything you want."


"Anything at all."

"Nothing, nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing...."

over an unflattering close-up of a woman's face struggling to become as inexpressive as possible, one tear-track drying. It's Ingmar Bergman sadism 11 years early. And if Bergman had been capable of integrating it with a fast-paced cop thriller, Bergman might've been as good as Joseph H. Lewis.
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Conte/Wallace Conte/Wallace
Combo of One


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.