Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mug Shots #2: Charles McGraw aka The Man of Granite

In our time we all play different parts, and just about every noir player has played the hero and the villain, the good girl and the femme fatale, the lead and the support. Yet over a career there are certain personalities that take hold. This is another addition to the roundup of faces that appear over and over in noir, like thugs pulled into a police lineup:

Charles McGraw-The Man of Granite

They don’t come any tougher than this guy. With a voice like a cement-mixer and the squarest jaw in movies, he did more time in noir than just about anyone else, playing every kind of role a man could play (hero, sidekick, sap, villain, victim, henchman). His best known film is Fleischer’s excellent The Narrow Margin with a sassy Marie Windsor, but he also starred in the director’s lean, mean Armored Car Robbery as a no-nonsense cop trying to track down nutjob William Talman. Since McGraw might very well be noir's most ubiquitous performer, this list could go on, but his best film is little seen outside the hardest of the hardcore noir geeks. In the brilliant, underrated Roadblock, opposite demigoddess Joan Dixon, McGraw turned in his best performance as a good man gone bad.

Essential McGraw: Roadblock, The Narrow Margin

For Further Viewing: Armored Car Robbery, The Threat

Supporting Roles (blink and you'll miss him in some of these):The Killers, Brute Force, T-Men, Border Incident, Side Street

I ranked McGraw's famous fight with David Clarke in The Narrow Margin at number two on my list of noir's best brawls.

I wrote about Joan Dixon and Roadblock back in January.

Here's a look at Alan K. Rode's book Charles McGraw: Biography of A Film Noir Tough Guy

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