The Las Vegas Story (1952)

The Las Vegas Story (1952) is a lousy husband cop-on-the-strip romance thriller set amidst the Hoagy Carmichael Vegas nights of yore, when the air was clear and hot and Hoagy Carmichael played the merry songs on his drinking and playing room keys.

Starring Victor Mature as a sour-faced doubtful package of twitching male unease and noir never-come-lately star of many other styles, the top-billing Jane Russell.

Now there's a rule on the here-hold her old noir blog of yore, about what it takes to get your name a category tag. And so it is generally the case that to be in this blog you must have been involved in at least three film noir titles, and of course, so long as the era is betwits and between the years of 1940 and 1960, the definition of film noir even hereabouts is not that fixed and fairly malleable at times.

We are generous in defining film noir, but even that said, it is hard to find three film noirs associated with Jane Russell.

The Las Vegas Story (1952)

In the shadowy alleys of Tinseltown, where the silver screen flickers with tales of glamour and grit, there’s a story that never made it to the marquee—the tale of  The Miami Story.  Conceived by Jay Dratner, it was a yarn meant for Robert Ryan to unravel. But the fates had other plans, and the script flipped, turning into a ride for Victor Mature and Jane Russell, with Sam Bischoff calling the shots from the producer’s chair.

Hoagy Carmichael in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

The cameras were set to roll in December 1950, but the wheels of Hollywood grind slow, and the clapperboard didn’t snap until March 1951. By then, the neon lights had spelled out a new title:  The Las Vegas Story. 

The stage was set at RKO, the studio where stars are born and dreams are canned. The crew hit the jackpot, shooting on the glittering strips of Las Vegas and the dusty runways of Mojave Airport. By June, the reels were in the can, ready to spin their tale of sin and salvation.

Victor Mature does the man sitting staring in pain at the female singer thing in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

But the plot thickened off-screen with the Jarrico Lawsuit. Howard Hughes, the big man with bigger ambitions, scrubbed writer Paul Jarrico’s name from the credits, blacklisting him for his red-tinted ties. Jarrico fought back in the courts, but Lady Justice wasn’t blind—she was peeking through the loopholes. The verdict? Jarrico had played his hand and lost, his morals clause the ace up the industry’s sleeve.

That gavel’s echo rang through the studios, a siren call for the moguls. It was open season on the blacklisted scribes, their words worth their weight in gold but their names too hot to handle. The McCarthy Era had its grip tight on Hollywood’s throat, and the credits rolled on without the names of those who penned them. It was a time of shadows and whispers, where allegiances were questioned and loyalty was a currency few could afford.

The acquisition of RKO Radio Pictures by Howard Hughes in 1948 marked a significant turning point in the history of American cinema. This essay explores the complexities and outcomes of Hughes’s involvement with RKO, alongside an analysis of the 1952 film noir  The Las Vegas Story,  produced during his tenure.


Las Vegas... where everybody plays a game! And these two play the oldest game on earth... with a new twist!

Hear Jane and Hoagy sing!

THAT GIRL... with her a man always runs a risk... but he never runs far!

THE LOSER... wins the jackpot... of bullets... when these two boys fight it out!

HELICOPTER attack on a fleeing auto... the most terrifying duel ever waged!

GAMBLING palaces lure thrill-seekers to a world of wild gaiety and revelry!

Victor Mature and car-phone in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Hughes’s entry into RKO was a dramatic affair, characterized by his purchase of 929,000 shares from Floyd Odlum’s Atlas Corporation for $8,825,000. His ambition was to rejuvenate the ailing studio, but his management style led to turmoil and disastrous outcomes. Initially, RKO released notable films such as  The Set-Up  and  They Live By Night,  but it soon became a last resort for independent filmmakers. Hughes’s erratic behavior and preoccupation with litigation further impeded production.

In the early 1950s, as losses mounted, Hughes engaged in financial maneuvers, selling and repurchasing a controlling interest in RKO. By 1954, he sought to buy all outstanding stock as a tax write-off. The struggle for control continued until mid-1955 when Hughes sold his interests to General Teleradio, a subsidiary of General Tire and Rubber Company.

Cabbie noir in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

General Tire’s acquisition of RKO in July 1955 for $25 million signaled a shift in priorities. The new owner valued RKO’s film library for television syndication over production. Consequently, RKO’s output shrank, with few notable releases. Despite producing Disney classics and quality noir thrillers, Hughes’s era ended disastrously with  Jet Pilot,  completed in 1957 after his departure.

The syndication of RKO’s film library, including atmospheric horror films like  I Walked with a Zombie,  was a significant development. Hughes’s influence on Hollywood was undeniable, with his production of controversial films like  The Racket,   Hell’s Angels,  and  Scarface. 

In the smoky corners of the  Last Chance Casino, where the piano’s melancholy tunes spill into the night, Happy, the ivory-tickler, can’t shake the thought of what tore apart Linda Rollins and Dave Andrews. It had to be something swift, something that cut deep.

Linda, with a heart heavy as lead, rolls back into Sin City on steel rails, her arm twisted by Lloyd, her no-good husband, who’s got a hankering for the Vegas vice. They hit the pavement, and right on their heels, Tom Hubler, a fella with a keen interest in their comings and goings, makes his own hasty exit from the train.

At The Fabulous Hotel & Casino, Lloyd’s playing a dangerous game, begging for credit, while Linda smells trouble brewing—trouble with a capital T, the kind that reeks of desperation and dirty money. Lloyd’s got his eyes on the prize, pushing Linda to flaunt her ice—a necklace worth a cool 150 grand.

When Linda crosses paths with Dave, now a badge with the Sheriff’s Department, sparks fly and old flames flicker. They tangle words over the ashes of their burnt-out love.

Hubler, slick as a greased weasel, tries to warm up to Linda poolside, but she ain’t buying what he’s selling. He spills the beans to Lloyd—he’s the watchdog, sent to keep eyes on the prize. But the jig is up when Mr. Drucker, the big cheese at The Fabulous, sniffs out Lloyd’s con and gives him the boot.

In the Top Ten of Lousy Husband Noir Vincent Price and Jane Russell in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Lloyd, desperate, pawns Linda’s sparkler at Clayton’s joint, aptly named the Last Chance. But Lady Luck’s not on his side, and he blows it all. Clayton’s got no sympathy for a washed-up gambler, leaving Lloyd high and dry, with nothing but the morning sun to find Clayton cold and the necklace gone.

Dave slaps the cuffs on Lloyd, but the alibi’s as empty as a ghost town—Linda was cozying up with Dave, rekindling old flames.

Hubler, playing the sleuth, has Linda walk him through the crime scene, but he’s sloppy, lets slip details only the killer would know. Dave puts two and two together when Happy, ever the observer, sings a tune about Hubler’s slip-up.

The plot thickens as Hubler, hungry for the necklace, snatches Linda. Dave takes to the skies, hunting the kidnapper from above. A high-speed chase, a stolen car, and a showdown at an abandoned airstrip—bullets fly, and when the smoke clears, it’s Dave standing tall, Hubler biting the dust.

Hoagy Carmichael and Jane Russell in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

The curtain falls on Vegas, with Linda cutting Lloyd loose, staying put in the city of second chances. Lloyd, fresh out of the frying pan, finds himself back in the fire, slapped with charges that’ll keep him in stripes for a good long while.

And there, by the piano, the survivors gather, with Happy crooning  My Resistance Is Low,  a tune for those left standing in the neon glow.

Hughes’s personal life was as tumultuous as his professional one. He dated famous actresses and later became known for his reclusive lifestyle and eccentric behaviour, influenced by his struggle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His condition led to extreme contamination fears, and he became increasingly reclusive, contributing to his codeine addiction.

The Las Vegas Story  is a quintessential film noir that reflects the era of Hughes’s RKO. The movie, set in the dazzling yet dangerous world of Las Vegas, follows Linda Rollins as she becomes embroiled in a web of crime and deception. The film’s suspense is heightened by the mystery surrounding Linda’s necklace, with the Mojave Airport serving as the backdrop for the climax.

The decline of RKO Radio Pictures had a significant impact on the film industry, both in terms of the studio system and the broader landscape of American cinema. 

Jay C. Flippen in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

RKO’s fall from grace marked a turning point in the decline of the traditional Hollywood studio system. The studio’s troubles, exacerbated by Howard Hughes’s erratic management, signalled the vulnerability of even the most established studios. As RKO faltered, it became a cautionary tale of how mismanagement could lead to the downfall of a once-powerful player in the industry1.

 With RKO becoming a studio of last resort for independent producers, directors, and stars, its decline contributed to the rise of independent film production. This shift allowed for more creative freedom and diversity in film content, influencing the types of movies that were produced and how they were made1.

Vacuum cleaners in film noir. That is Vincent Price in the elevator. The Las Vegas Story (1952)

RKO was known for its film noir classics, and its decline meant fewer such films were produced under its banner. However, this also led to the dispersal of talent and ideas, which influenced other studios and filmmakers, contributing to the evolution of the genre1.

 The decline of RKO coincided with the rise of television as a dominant form of entertainment. RKO’s decision to syndicate its film library for television viewing was a pioneering move that other studios would follow, changing the relationship between cinema and television. This also pushed other studios to produce bigger blockbusters to compete with television, altering the landscape of film production1.

The syndication of RKO’s film library helped preserve many classic films, making them accessible to new audiences through television. This not only kept the films alive in the public consciousness but also influenced future filmmakers who drew inspiration from these classics1.

RKO’s decline, while a loss for the studio itself, contributed to a rich cultural and historical legacy. The studio’s films, including works by directors like Orson Welles and producers like Val Lewton, continue to be studied and appreciated for their artistic contributions to cinema

Film noir, a style best known and loved and loved most dearly, unto the depths of the murky black barrel, loved that much, is indeed characterized by its dark, pessimistic atmosphere and morally ambiguous characters, often uses city names in its titles to evoke a sense of place that complements the film’s moody aesthetic. This essay delves into a selection of film noir titles that include city names, exploring how these urban settings contribute to the narrative and thematic elements of the genre.

New York Confidential (1955) Set in the heart of the American dream, New York City,  New York Confidential  is a gritty portrayal of a crime boss and his entanglement with corrupt politicians. The city’s skyline becomes a symbol of the reach and power of organized crime, and the film’s narrative unfolds against a backdrop of multi-million dollar deals and ordered murders, reflecting the city’s dual nature of glamour and corruption.

Moments in Vegas in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Niagara (1953)  Niagara  uses the iconic Niagara Falls as a metaphor for the tumultuous relationship between a wife and her husband. The natural wonder’s beauty contrasts with the dark plot of murder, mirroring the film’s theme of appearances versus reality. The falls serve as a relentless force, much like the film’s narrative that sweeps the characters towards their inevitable fates.

The Lady from Shanghai (1947) Orson Welles’  The Lady from Shanghai  takes viewers on a journey through exotic locales, but it is the titular city that leaves a lasting impression. Shanghai represents the mysterious and the foreign, a perfect setting for a film that deals with deception and a complex murder plot. The city’s name evokes a sense of intrigue, aligning with the film’s enigmatic storyline.

99 River Street (1953) The title  99 River Street  suggests a specific location within a city, hinting at the film’s focus on the urban underbelly. The river, often a symbol of change and transition, reflects the protagonist’s struggle to navigate the treacherous currents of his life after being framed for murder.

Why do the men always grab your arm? Jane Russell in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

711 Ocean Drive (1950) In  711 Ocean Drive,  the ocean is a vast, uncontrollable entity surrounding the city, much like the crime network that the protagonist becomes a part of. The title suggests a convergence of natural force and human ambition, encapsulating the film’s themes of greed and the destructive path it leads to.

Sunset Blvd. (1950)  Sunset Blvd.  is synonymous with Hollywood, the epicenter of the film industry and dreams. The boulevard is where fame and obscurity meet, a fitting locale for a story about a faded film star’s desperate attempt at a comeback. The title itself is evocative of the end—the sunset of a career and the darker side of the entertainment industry.

The men grab the women's arms in film noir in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Berlin Express (1948) Post-war Berlin, as depicted in  Berlin Express,  is a city divided and in ruins, an apt metaphor for the fragmented lives and alliances formed within the film. The city’s name carries the weight of recent history, and the film’s plot of a Nazi assassination plot is intertwined with the city’s own struggle for identity and reconstruction.

Macao (1952)  Macao  conjures images of an exotic port city, a place of escape and mystery. The film uses this setting to explore themes of exile and redemption, with the protagonist seeking to restore his name amidst a web of crime. The city’s name enhances the film’s atmosphere of danger and romance.

Brad Dexter in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

The Phenix City Story (1955)  The Phenix City Story  brings attention to a small Southern town overrun by gambling and prostitution. The city’s name, with its allusion to the mythical phoenix, suggests a place of rebirth or destruction, paralleling the film’s narrative of a fight against corruption.

Scarlet Street (1945)  Scarlet Street  uses its title to evoke a sense of foreboding, with the color scarlet associated with both passion and danger. The street becomes a place where a mid-life crisis and a con intersect, leading to a tragic downfall.

Pickup on South Street (1953)  Pickup on South Street  immediately places the audience in a specific locale within a city, where a seemingly insignificant event spirals into a larger espionage plot. The title’s reference to a street suggests the randomness of urban encounters and the hidden dangers that lurk in the city’s corners.

Kansas City Confidential (1952)  Kansas City Confidential  speaks to the anonymity and secrecy often found in urban settings. The film’s plot revolves around a framed robbery, and the city becomes a character in itself, a place where identities are obscured and the truth is elusive.

Key Largo (1948) The tropical setting of  Key Largo  contrasts with the film’s tense standoff between a war veteran and a gangster. The island’s isolation becomes a pressure cooker for the film’s drama, with the approaching hurricane mirroring the escalating conflict.

The Las Vegas Story (1952) Las Vegas, the city of lights and luck, sets the stage for  The Las Vegas Story,  where a web of murder and deceit unfolds. The city’s reputation for both opulence and vice complements the film’s plot, highlighting the thin line between fortune and misfortune.

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill offers a panoramic view of the city, a fitting metaphor for the film’s exploration of identity and deception. The house becomes a symbol of the protagonist’s new life in America, built on the shaky foundation of a stolen identity.

Port of New York (1949) New York Harbor is a gateway for both people and contraband, as depicted in  Port of New York.  The film’s focus on narcotics smuggling aligns with the port’s role as a hub of activity and exchange, where legality and criminality intersect.

Jane Russell in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Brighton Rock (1948) Set in the seaside town of Brighton,  Brighton Rock  uses its location to explore the seedy underbelly of a place known for leisure and escape. The town becomes a battleground for a gang leader’s struggle to maintain control, with the beachfront serving as a stark contrast to the film’s dark themes.

Suddenly (1954) The small town of Suddenly becomes the unlikely setting for an assassination plot in  Suddenly.  The town’s name suggests the abruptness with which violence enters the lives of its residents, turning the familiar and mundane into a site of terror.

High Sierra (1940) High Sierra  takes its audience to the mountains of California, where a notorious thief plans a heist. The rugged terrain mirrors the protagonist’s rough exterior and the challenges he faces, both from the law and his own conscience.

Brad Dexter and Jane Russell in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

The Woman on Pier 13 (1949) San Francisco’s piers are places of arrival and departure, and in  The Woman on Pier 13,  they become the backdrop for a tale of political intrigue and personal betrayal. The pier symbolizes the protagonist’s past connections to the Communist Party and the inescapable reach of his former affiliations.

Deadline (1952)  Deadline  captures the urgency of a newspaper editor’s race against time to expose a gangster. The title suggests both the temporal pressure of the newsroom and the life-or-death stakes of the protagonist’s investigation.

Hangover Square (1945) London’s  Hangover Square  is a fictional location that evokes the aftermath of excess and the disorientation of a hangover. The film’s protagonist, a classical musician, navigates the dissonance between his public persona and private turmoil, much like the square’s juxtaposition of respectability and decadence.

Copter car chase in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) San Francisco Bay, often shrouded in fog, sets the scene for  Hell on Frisco Bay,  where an ex-cop searches for the truth behind his wrongful conviction. The bay’s murky waters reflect the film’s exploration of the blurred lines between justice and revenge.

Tokyo Joe (1949) Post-war Tokyo, as seen in  Tokyo Joe,  is a city in transition, grappling with the aftermath of conflict. The film’s protagonist returns to a changed Tokyo, where the past collides with the present, and the city’s name underscores the tension between old loyalties and new realities.

Chicago Confidential (1957)  Chicago Confidential  takes viewers to the Windy City, where a crime syndicate’s grip on a labor union leads to murder and conspiracy. Chicago’s history of organized crime resonates with the film’s narrative, emphasizing the city’s reputation for toughness and resilience.

RKO’s decline had a multifaceted impact on the film industry, influencing the production, distribution, and preservation of films, as well as the careers of filmmakers and the evolution of genres. It also played a role in the transition of the industry as it adapted to new challenges and opportunities in the mid-20th century.

Howard Hughes’s impact on RKO Radio Pictures and American cinema was profound. His tenure at RKO was marked by creative ambition and financial chaos, leaving a legacy that is still discussed today.  The Las Vegas Story  remains a testament to the studio’s production capabilities during a time of significant transition, encapsulating the allure and peril of the era it was produced in. Hughes’s life, marked by cinematic triumphs and personal struggles, continues to fascinate and serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between art and the human condition.

The Las Vegas Story (1952)

Directed by Robert Stevenson

Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Marriage Drama  |   Release Date - Jan 30, 1952 (USA)  |   Run Time - 87 min | The Las Vegas Story (1952) on Wikipedia

Jane Russell filmography does not include three film noirs, or even films that could be conceptually squeezed into the medium or the style by dint of other qualities, eg science fiction or supernatural. There are plenty of Westerns and drama as well as comedies:

  • The Outlaw (1943)
  • Young Widow (1946)
  • The Paleface (1948)
  • His Kind of Woman (1951)
  • Double Dynamite (1951)
  • The Las Vegas Story (1952)
  • Macao (1952)
  • Son of Paleface (1952)
  • Montana Belle (1952)
  • Road to Bali (1952; cameo)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
  • The French Line (1953)
  • Underwater! (1955)
  • Foxfire (1955)
  • The Tall Men (1955)
  • Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955)
  • Hot Blood (1956)
  • The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
  • The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)
  • Fate Is the Hunter (1964; cameo)
  • Johnny Reno (1966)
  • Waco (1966)
  • The Born Losers (1967)
  • Darker than Amber (1970)
Jane Russell and Hoagy Carmichael in The Las Vegas Story (1952)

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