Quicksand (1950)

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Dan Brady (Mickey Rooney), a young auto mechanic in California, takes $20 from a cash register at work to go on a date with blonde femme fatale Vera Novak (Jeanne Cagney). Brady intends to put the money back before it is missed, but the garage's bookkeeper shows up earlier than scheduled. As Brady scrambles to cover evidence of his petty theft, he quickly finds himself drawn into an ever-worsening "quicksand" of crime, each of his misdeeds more serious than the last.

He buys a $100 wristwatch on installment payments and then promptly pawns the watch for $30 cash, covering the missing funds from the register at work. However, Brady is then threatened with grand larceny for violating the installment contract by selling a watch that he doesn't legally own. The finance company demands payment in full for the watch within 24 hours. After unsuccessfully applying for a payday loan and attempting to use his car as collateral for another loan, a desperate Brady resorts to mugging a tipsy bar patron known for carrying large amounts of cash.

Nick Dramoshag (Peter Lorre), the seedy owner of a penny arcade on Santa Monica Pier and a man who has had his own intimate history with Vera, discovers evidence of Brady's mugging. He blackmails the young mechanic, demanding a car from Brady's job in exchange for his silence. Brady steals the car, which he trades for the evidence from Dramoshag. However, Brady's morally lacking boss Oren Mackey (Art Smith) confronts Brady with allegations that he was witnessed stealing the car. Mackey demands the return of the car or $3,000 in cash, or he will go to the police.

Brady and Vera steal the month-end receipts from Dramoshag's arcade, obtaining $3,610. Brady expects to use the money to pay Mackey. Vera, however, feels entitled to half the money, so she buys herself a mink coat for $1,800. Once Brady learns what she has done, he is furious. He leaves Vera and returns to the garage, where he offers Mackey $1,800 to settle their arrangement. Mackey takes the money, but he draws a pistol and says he refuses to settle. The two men struggle when Mackey tries to telephone the police, and Brady strangles him in their altercation. Certain that his boss is dead, Brady takes Mackey's gun and returns to Vera to inform her of what he has done. He asks her to flee with him to Texas. She will not go, insisting that the authorities have no evidence against her. Disgusted by Vera's self-serving behavior, Dan ends their relationship and departs.

Outside of Vera's apartment, Brady's still-loyal but unappreciated former girlfriend Helen (Barbara Bates) waits in his car to talk with him. She had seen him earlier on the street and realized then that he was in trouble. She now decides to accompany Danny as they drive out of town to avoid his anticipated arrest for murder. After his car breaks down, Brady carjacks a sedan, which happens to be driven by a sympathetic lawyer (Taylor Holmes). Brady subsequently gets out of that car when they arrive at Santa Monica Pier. There he tells Helen to remain with the lawyer as he carries out his new plan to escape to Mexico on a friend's charter boat. He also assures Helen that he will send for her once he is safely resettled across the border. Brady rushes away to catch the boat. A few minutes later, the lawyer and Helen hear over the sedan's radio a news report that Mackey is actually not dead, that the shady auto dealer had survived his injuries. They now drive back to the pier to find Dan and inform him that he is not a murderer. Meanwhile, police officers spot Brady there, wound him by gunfire in an ensuing chase, and take him into custody. The film concludes with Helen, now on the scene, comforting Dan and promising to wait for him until he is released from prison.


Mickey Rooney as Dan
Jeanne Cagney as Vera
Barbara Bates as Helen
Peter Lorre as Nick
Taylor Holmes as Harvey
Art Smith as Mackey
Wally Cassell as Chuck
Richard Lane as Lt. Nelson
Patsy O'Connor as Millie
John Gallaudet as Moriarity
Minerva Urecal as Landlady
Sidney Marion as Shorty
Jimmy Dodd as Buzz
Lester Dorr as Baldy
Kitty O'Neil as Madame Zaronga
Ray Teal as Motorcyle Officer
Jack Elam as Man at Bar
Red Nichols and His Five Pennies as Themselves

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