The Lineup (1958)

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Due to the fact that I became acquainted with Eli Wallach’s work when he was appearing in films during his later years, I am especially intrigued when I am able to view his earlier output. Wallach worked in the film industry for a significant portion of his life, working all the way up to his passing in 2015. Portraying characters throughout a broad range of film genres, Wallach certainly proved himself to be a talented and disciplined actor.

Among the many films in which Wallach worked is the film noir, The Lineup (1958). Moreover, his appearance as Dancer was his second film role, which Wallach carries out with confidence.

 

While The Lineup can be viewed as a standalone film, this feature acts as a film iteration of a police procedural television show of the same name, which also previously experienced success as a radio show.

The Lineup portrays the story of an international drug-smuggling ring that works to plant heroin on American tourists traveling in Asia, so that their drugs can pass on to the next country without being detected. Killers Dancer and Julian work alongside their driver, McLain, and stop at nothing to collect the drugs. In the meantime, Lt. Ben Guthrie takes charge of the hunt to track down the criminals.

The film was produced by Jaime Del Valle in conjunction with Pajemer Productions and was directed by Don Siegel. The screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant and the cinematography was conducted by Hal Mohr. The film was distributed by Columbia Pictures.

The cast for this film are as follows:

  • Eli Wallach as Dancer
  • Robert Keith as Julian
  • Warner Anderson as Lt. Ben Guthrie
  • Richard Jaeckel as Sandy McLain
  • Mary LaRoche as Dorothy Bradshaw
  • William Leslie as Larry Warner
  • Emile Meyer as Inspector Al Quine
  • Robert Bailey as Staples
  • Raymond Bailey as Phillip Dressler
  • Vaughn Taylor as “The Man”
  • Cheryl Callaway as Cindy Bradshaw
  • Marshall Reed as Inspector Fred Asher

Interestingly, because the story takes place in San Francisco, many of the scenes in the film were shot on location. As a result, The Lineup functions as a time capsule of sorts, documenting the San Francisco of the 1950s. Some highlight shots include views of the Embarcadero Freeway, which was still under construction at the time, during the film’s climactic sequence as well as footage of the Sutro Baths.

 

The combination of Wallach’s strong performance and fascinating historical footage of San Francisco make The Lineup a worthwhile film to enjoy.

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