Hoodlum Saint, The (1946): Norman Taurog’s Melodrama, Starring William Powell and Esther Williams (in Black-and-White and Not Swimming)

Norman Taurog directed The Hoodlum Saint, a dull black-and-white morality drama, starring William Powell and Esther Williams.

Grade: C (*1/2* out of *****)

The Hoodlum Saint
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Loosely based on the life of Dempster MacMurphy, a Chicago newspaper exec who engaged in philanthropy under the name of St Dismas, the tale was initially assigned to scripter Casey Robinson.

Major Terry O’Neill (William Powell) returns to Baltimore in 1919, after the end of World War I, expecting to get his old newspaper job back. However, the paper has recently changed owners, and the job has been filled. Disillusioned, Terry decides to abandon his ideals and make his fortune by other means.

He runs into two friends, “Fishface” (Rags Ragland) and “Three Finger” (Frank McHugh), and when they are arrested for bookmaking, his money is used to pay their fines and that of “Snarp” (James Gleason).

Desperate, he crashes a high society wedding party hoping to meet businessman Lewis J. Malbery (Henry O’Neill). When a guard asks for his invitation, Terry grabs guest Kay Lorrison (Esther Williams) and kisses her. After the guard leaves, she slaps Terry, but after his confession, she begins to warm to him.

Kay introduces him to her uncle, publisher Joe Lorrison (Charles Trowbridge), and he offers a job. He and Kay go on to develop a relationship.

Angela Lansbury is miscast as a bitter cabaret singer “Dusty” Millard who gets him on the rebound.  She offers Terry an expensive bracelet, but when he rejects her offer, she takes over a charity, intending to steal the donations and place the blame on Terry.

Greeted with negative reviews, the film was a box-office flop, but it did not damage Williams rise to stardom.


Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by Cliff Reid

Written by James Hill Frank Wead Frances Marion
Music by Nathaniel Shilkret
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by Ferris Webster
Distributed by MGM

Release date: April 4, 1946

Running time: 91 minutes.