Bribe, The (1949): Leonard’s Film Noir, Starring Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price

Robert Z. Leonard  directed The Bribe, a dull and incohesive film noir, written by Marguerite Roberts, based on a story written by Frederick Nebel.

The drama’s only positive point is its stellar cast, Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, John Hodiak, and Vincent Price.

The Bribe
The Bribe poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Taylor might have been miscast as federal agent Rigby (no last name!), who travels to Los Trancos on the island of Carlotta (somewhere off the coast of Central America) to break up a war-surplus aircraft engine racket.

In the process, he finds himself tempted by corruption, namely Elizabeth Hintten (Ava Gardner), a café singer who’s unhappily married to Tug Hintten (John Hodiak), a drunken ex-pilot.

Our Grade: C (* out of  *****)

Carwood (Vincent Price) is the brains of the outfit, aided and abetted by J.J. Bealer (Charles Laughton) and Hintten.

The story is heavily narrated by Rigby. Most of the story in flashbacks that begin as visions that he sees on the rain-lashed window of his hotel room. His voiceover continues as he battles with his conscience and tries to retain his honor in a world that’s corrupt and greedy.

The movie, which is both lurid as it is absurd–the last 10 minutes are silly pyrotechnics–was a big commercial failure.

The rogues gallery, however, are impressive. Price and Laughton make  for creditable heavies, sort of hammy villains.

Overall, this is a week thriller, shot on a cheaply rigged-up corner of the MGM backlot.

Taylor isn’t up to moral dilemma as a US government agent sent to crack illicit aircraft engine trading in the Caribbean, yet tempted by a lucrative cash offer and the

Gardner is beautiful as the seductive café chanteuse–the innocent femme fatale– in a role that recalls the much superior part that Rita Hayworth played in the 1946 cult noir, Gilda.

Meant to be  a steamy and thrilling melodrama, The Bribe is neither erotic nor suspenseful, and only sporadically entertaining

Scenes and characters from Carl Reiner’s 1982 parody, “The Bribe are used in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” in which Steve Martin’s character is named Rigby and he is searching for friends and enemies of Carlotta.


Robert Taylor as Rigby
Ava Gardner as Elizabeth Hintten
Charles Laughton as J.J. Bealer
Vincent Price as Carwood
John Hodiak as Tugwell ‘Tug’ Hintten
Samuel S. Hinds as Dr. Warren
John Hoyt as Gibbs
Martin Garralaga as Pablo Gomez


Directed by Robert Z. Leonard
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay by Marguerite Roberts, based on “The Bribe” 1947 short story in Hearst’s-International Cosmopolitan by Frederick Nebel
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Edited by Gene Ruggiero
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: February 3, 1949

Running time: 98 minutes


TCM showed the movie on July 8, 2020.