Director Mervyn LeRoy
Music director W. Franke Harling
Genre Drama, Film-Noir
Cinematography Sol Polito
Country United States
|Release date May 28, 1932 (1932-05-28)|
Based on Two Seconds (play) by Elliott Lester
Writer Elliott Lester (play), Harvey F. Thew (adaptation)
Cast Edward G. Robinson (John Allen), Vivienne Osborne (Shirley Day), Guy Kibbee (Bookie), Preston Foster (Bud Clark), J. Carrol Naish (Tony), Frederick Burton (Judge)
Similar movies The Big Sleep, The Green Mile, The Asphalt Jungle, Detour, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard
Tagline HIS LIFE WAS A LIVING HELL until he killed the thing that Crushed him!
Two seconds 1932 edward g robinson
Two Seconds is a 1932 American pre-Code crime drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Edward G. Robinson, Vivienne Osborne and Preston Foster. It was based on a successful Broadway play of the same name by Elliott Lester. The title refers to the two seconds it takes the condemned person to die in the electric chair after the executioner throws the switch. Preston Foster reprises the role he played on the Broadway stage.
Two seconds 1932 exekution
As John Allen (Edward G. Robinson), a condemned murderer, is led to the electric chair, a witness asks the prison warden how long it takes for the condemned person to die. "A strongly built man like John Allen?" he is told, "It'll take two seconds". The witness remarks, "That'll be the longest two seconds of his life." As the executioner throws the switch, the events that led up to the execution appear in flashback.
Allen works with his friend and flatmate Bud Clark (Preston Foster), as a riveter, high up on the girders of a skyscraper under construction, getting paid $62.50 a week, "more than a college professor". Bud is engaged to be married, and tries to set up a date for Allen that night, but Allen expresses some disinterest, as Bud keeps setting John Allen up with "firewagons", his term for fat girls. Bud and John go out on the town after Bud winning $38 on the horses. John sees that the girl that Bud has brought along for him to double date is another "firewagon" (June Gittelson), so he splits off on his own, going to a Taxi dance hall nearby, where he meets dancer Shirley Day (Vivienne Osborne). After dancing and talking to Shirley for some time, he indicates that they should talk some more. "Can't. Gotta have a ticket". "Well OK", Allen dozily says. "Get a handful so we can dance a lot together". In the five minutes Allen is away buying tickets, Shirley has gone off with another customer. That customer gropes her, and Shirley Day causes a scene, shouting at the customer. "He paid a dime and he thinks that entitles him to privileges". John Allen Wades in, punching the customer to the floor. Tony, the dance hall owner (J. Carrol Naish), tells them both to get out, firing Shirley Day. Allen then takes Shirley for a milk shake.
Allen had earlier said to Tony that he wanted a woman with an education, aspirations: "Ain't no use both of us being dumb". She feigns respectability, telling him that she only works in the dance hall to support her sick parents, who live on a farm in Idaho and that she is educated ("got a year of high school"). Shirley pretends to be interested in attending a lecture with him. Later, Bud is remonstrating with John about him having hooked up with "a dance hall dame". "How much money has she had off you" Bud asks. "Not a red cent. "We're going to a lecture", John said. Bud: "if a dame tells a guy she's going to a lecture that means one thing, she's got designs on him". John indicates that he doesn't want to fall out with Bud, trying to get him to like Shirley: "She knows things". Bud: "That dame don't need to go to school, she knows everything". As John leaves, Bud says more cheerily, "Come home sober and bring me a lollipop". Instead of taking John to "a lecture", Shirley takes him to a speakeasy where she gets him drunk on "tea", bootleg gin was served in teapots to disguise its true nature, as alcohol was illegal then, due to prohibition. When John Allen protests, she says stupidly that they can go to the matinee (second performance) of the lecture. John Allen is drunk after the first floor show, drunk, bored and belligerent. He says that Shirley herself shouldn't drink too much. She intones "I must, because of my problems". "What problems", John Allen responds. Shirley starts crying: "Don't do that" John says, "not when I'm drunk, I hate that". He then brightens up a bit smiling with realisation "I'm drunk". Liquor was illegal and managing to get "blind drunk" (sometimes literally, the substances being ethanol, not alcohol) was something of an achievement to them. Shirley Day kisses him, cheering him up greatly. "You know I like that" he says. Shirley responds, "Would you like more?".
Shirley drags John to a justice of the peace (Otto Hoffman). Allen thinks he is still in a speakeasy. He still has a teacup on his finger and is yelling for a waiter to get more drink. The Justice of the Peace says Allen is too drunk, but Shirley bribes him with $10, and indicates that she already has a ring, which she has had for some weeks. When Shirley and a stupefied John Allen return to his apartment, Shirley has a blazing argument with Bud. Bud: "You dirty little ape, did you rope him in? Didn't take you long to find out he can't hold his liquor". "We're married", Shirley says, "right square and legal, and there's nothing that you or anyone else can do about it" (showing him the ring). Shirley throws Bud out. As Bud is leaving, Shirley is getting undressed to consummate the marriage somehow, to a drunk John Allen. Bud says viciously, referring to the comatose John, "You said you'd bring me back a lollipop. You did alright and a red one at that". He flicks a lit cigarette at Shirley's naked back.
Three weeks later, Bud and John are doing their job riveting, 28 stories up. During a break, they argue about Shirley. Bud berates John for being taken in by a liar: "She told you that her parents were living on a farm in I-dee-ho, and all the time they're living in a booze joint on Tenth Avenue". John admits that Shirley has had much of his money for clothes "which she needed". Bud: "where do you think she goes in the daytime?". John: "she goes to the movies!". Bud: "what about all the money she gets? There aint enough dimes in the day, even if she were on a merry-go-round!". John: "Don't talk that way about my wife!". John motions to hit Bud with a spanner and Bud falls to his death, shown spinning, screaming as John Allen sobs and the site alarm hooter sounds. The grief-stricken Allen then quits his job, but is demoralized by living off Shirley. Shirley has changed from the bookish nice girl, into a spiteful, controlling vamp. She puts John Allen down, saying "what have you got to live for?" and mocks his nervous condition. Allen responds: "Were you ever 30 stories up with a six-inch girder between you and hell?". Shirley asks him if he's got any insurance. A kindly doctor (Harry Beresford) is called and gives him a tonic. John Allen says that it's his nerves. The doctor says that John Allen's problem is psychological.
Shirley is putting a new dress on, new stockings and going out. "Where did you get those things?" John Allen asks. "Tony", Shirley says belligerently. "There, how do I look", she says to John. "Like what you are." John Allen says. John says that she can't go out looking that way, as his wife. Shirley indicates that she has credibility now, "with the other girls", as she's married, "there are things a Mrs. can get away with that a Miss can't". Lizzie, the cleaning lady (Dorothea Wolbert) tells Shirley that the landlady is after them for the rent. John Allen indicates that they must put this off, pay her later. Lizzie indicates that they'll get thrown out "her brothers a cop you know". Shirley pulls a clip of money out of her stocking. "Where did you get that from?" John asks. "Tony". Shirley tells him that the money is an "advance". She then tells John that she is trying to get Buds ex-girlfriend Annie, who she met at Buds funeral, a job at the dance hall. Allen: "Not Annie!. Annie was Buds 'steady company' (girlfriend). You can't make a tramp out of Annie!". Shirley throws a dollar at John Allen as she leaves. "Here's a BUCK, in case you need anything".
Allen has been betting on horses using techniques of multiple bets ("polys") used by Tony. The horseracing bookmaker (Guy Kibbee), arrives at John Allens apartment. John Allen: "What do you want?" Bookie "You've won". Allen "How much" Bookie: "$388". John Allen (brightening up momentarily) "$388?" Bookie: "niftiest little poly I ever saw". Bookie: "With that kind of money you can clear a lot of debt" John Allen "I'll clear them ALL off, that's what Bud would have wanted me to do" Bookie: "Don't talk like that". A deranged John Allen insists that he only wants $172 of the winnings. Allen rummages in a cupboard to find his teacup, the one he had on his finger when he got married to Shirley Day. "This teacup was once filled with bootleg liquor, then it was filled with the blood of my only friend". He throws the teacup on the ground, smashing it and exclaims "I'm going to be FREE!". John nervously counts out what Shirley got from Tony and enough for a gun.
Allen then strides off purposively to Tony's dance hall, where he finds Shirley in Tony's arms". Tony: "What is this?, are you trying to play the spurned husband gag on me?". John thrusts $162 into the hands of Tony, who doesn't want it, then turns to Shirley: "You. You made a Rat out of me. Bud was right, you were born rotten and now you're trying to make other girls as rotten as you are". "Born crooked" was how Tony had described Shirley, when arguing with Allen, just before falling to his death. Shirley turns to Tony in panic: "Tony he's going to kill me!". Johns sweaty deranged face is shown in closeup: "Yeah, i'm going to kill you. If I don't you're going to go on like this, from Tony to another man, always making yourself cheaper and dirtier". He fires several bullets into Shirley Day as Tony runs out of the room howling.
At his trial, Allen refuses to defend himself, saying he should have been "burned" (electrocuted) when he was at his lowest, a "rat", living off Shirley Day, not after he had paid off his debts. He explains his position in a pitiful, deranged speech, shown looking up, pleading with the judge. "It isn't fair! It isn't fair to let a rat live and kill a man!. It isn't reasonable! It don't make sense!. I won't let you do it!", Allen shouts as he slaps the judges bench with his palm.
The judge informs Allen that he could have used a defence of insanity, but chose not to, and that he would have been lenient if he had. John Allen is sentenced to death.
Mervyn LeRoy said in the 70s, when talking about the film, that at the time his production team were "highly organised". LeRoy made five films in 1932. The sound clarity is because of Vitaphone sound on disk technology.
Although he called it "a sordid and melancholy study" that was "glum and gruesome" and "minus any comedy relief", New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall also found a lot to like in Two Seconds. "Edward G. Robinson contributes a remarkably forceful portrayal," he wrote, adding that the film was "adroitly done [and] compels attention." He called LeRoy's direction "imaginative and lifelike" and praised the supporting cast: "Preston Foster plays Bud Clark, a rôle he also interpreted on the stage. His acting is capital. Vivienne Osborne is very real as the conscienceless Shirley. J. Carroll Naish makes the most of the part of Tony." In summary, he writes: "In spite of its drab tale, it calls forth admiration, for it never falters."
Variety's 1932 review was less enamored: "General slowness and stodgy overdramatics won't draw the flaps, nor will a tragic finale help." In later years, prolific critic Leslie Halliwell tersely called Two Seconds a "competent, pacy crime melodrama".
The film has been called an early (or first) example of film noir.
ReferencesTwo Seconds Wikipedia
Two Seconds IMDb Two Seconds themoviedb.org