The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

Action, Drama | 89 mins | Released: 1959
Director: Charles Guggenheim
Starring: Steve McQueen, Crahan Denton, David Clarke, James Dukas, Molly McCarthy, Martha Gable, Larry Gerst
Our Rating: 6

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery tells the story of George Fowler (Steve McQueen) who shows himself as an ex-football hero. He finds himself slowly drawn into the world of gangsters. With the gang in need of just another $50, George asks his ex-girlfriend, Ann, for a check in that amount, supposedly for her brother Gino.

The plan starts to unravel when she sees Gino coming out of a restaurant across the street from the bank. When questioned about it, George later reveals he’s involved with robbing the bank. She writes “Warning” and beneath that “you will be robbed!” with lipstick on a bank window, but the bank takes it as a joke. As the day of the heist approaches, tensions within the gang increase with no one trusting anyone.

The robbers, having seen the lipstick warning, burst into George’s and Gino’s apartment that night and demand to know who talked to the girl about the robbery. Gino breaks about his sister’s talking to George. George goes to her apartment with the gang and talks her into going to Chicago. Gino and George go to a park and wait. While Willie and John are taking her down the fire escape, John gets fidgety and hurls her off the escape down to the street below.

They return to George and Gino, saying nothing about the murder. The next day, the robbery is attempted as planned. Meanwhile, the bank has moved the switchboard, previously inside the bank, downstairs to what seems to be a better control room. The robbers, who were planning to disable the switchboard, are unaware of this move. John distrusts George and compels Willie to drive, instead of George, who will now be inside robbing the bank even though it’s his first time on any illegal job.

The robbery goes as planned until George can’t find the switchboard they wanted to disable. The switchboard downstairs calls the police and they send a squad car over to the bank. When the police arrive, the robbery goes wrong. John is killed while trying to escape with a hostage and Gino commits suicide in the vaults.

Willie flees with the car, leaving his partners behind. George gets shot in the leg. He tries to escape with a female hostage, the woman’s husband offering himself instead. As the wife is in his headlock, his arm aiming the gun at her husband, she says: - It’s no use, he’s vicious. Realizing just how far he went, George relaxes his grip and falls to the ground, muttering how he isn’t ‘vicious’.

George is taken away, his last sight looking out the bars of the car.

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Movie Notes:

Based on true events of a real St. Louis Bank Robbery attempted in 1953, The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery features some of the real witnesses and bank employees playing the extras in the movie.

Directed by Charles Guggenheim.

Starring a young Steve McQueen.

Review of The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery:
Proposed bank heist suffers from unforeseen entanglements.
10 January 2002 | by rsoonsa (Mountain Mesa, California)
“This too little known noir work was filmed five years after the events of which it treats, and employs the settings where it occurred, Southwest Bank and its environs in St. Louis, while carefully utilizing within its cast the actual policemen, bank customers and area residents who were involved in the affair, all of which produce somewhat of a documentary impression.
Three ex-convicts are joined by a college expellee George Fowler (Steve McQueen during his Method period), creating an abruptly formed criminal quartet, with Fowler, assigned as wheel man for his first organized illegal endeavour, and we watch them as the robbery is carefully planned by the group’s leader, John Egan (Crahan Denton) amid an assortment of simmering frustrations and jealousies which infest the men.
Producer Charles Guggenheim also directs, with assistance from John Stix, and the duo focus upon obtaining a naturalistic setting from the interesting script, which is very intense in feeling, with rather harsh dialogue, resulting in a dark film, at the heart of which is an old fashioned shootout where tactics are forgotten by both sides.”

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