Wiretapper (1955)

wiretapper 1955

Biopic about wiretapper Jim Vaus,Jr. based on his book “Why I Left Organized Crime.” It’s actually an hour and twenty-five minute commercial for the Billy Graham Crusade.

Jim (Bill Williams) is a Captain in the army in 1945. He faithfully writes his girlfriend Alice (Georgia Lee) from wherever he’s posted. What she doesn’t know is that Jim is in prison. He was court-martialed for stealing government equipment. When a prisoner is released to return to his home state, Jim gives him a letter to mail.

Jim gets an early release and is busted to private. Before going home he buys some medals and captain’s bars. Alice falls hook,line and sinker for his phony story. He opens an engineering business. Months go by without a customer.

Finally a chauffeur comes in with a radio that needs fixing. Jim charges him twenty bucks and says it’ll take hours. He leaves and Jim fixes it in seconds. Alice is upset that he lied. Jim delivers the radio to the home of mob lawyer Charles Rumsden (Charles Kennedy).

He and his boys including Herbie (Paul Picerni) and Nick Castro are discussing how to close up a woman who is running an escort service and won’t cut them in. The doorbell doesn’t work and Jim is asked if he can fix it.

He goes under the house and discovers that the joint is bugged and the cops are listening in next door. Rumsden tells him to leave it in place. He wants Jim to wiretap the woman’s phone and tips off the cops. Jim has the tap in place and the cops shut the operation down and Jim is a hero. He and Alice get married.

Now he starts down that slippery slope. He’s too busy with his new pals and Alice is tired of being ignored. One night she takes him to a church service and the speaker is the prison chaplain. On the way home he pulls over and tells Alice all about his stay in the big house. She’s not amused, especially since she’s pregnant. But, they’ll work it out.

No they won’t. While she’s in the hospital delivering the baby Jim is with his gangster buddies. Earlier a small time bookie was gunned down outside of Nick’s tailor shop. Jim has installed an alarm system in Nick’s house. He realizes he should be with Alice and goes to the phone to call the hospital. Just then the alarm goes off and everyone goes outside to see who is sneaking around. Jim finds a time bomb.

It takes a while for Jim to defuse it and by that time Alice has delivered. Nick gives him a tip on a fixed horse race and Jim bets the farm. No one told the horse so Jim’s a big loser. In a restaurant Jim says he can devise a system to tap into the race wire so they’ll know the results before the bookies.

Nick and company start to leave and Jim stays behind drawing his plans. They tell him to come on. Good thing he waited because a hail of bullets greets the guys. One of them will bet no more. Back home Alice is leaving a note saying she’s going back to mother.

The cab driver shows up and hands her the paper. The headline is about the shooting and there’s a nice picture of Jim and the gang on the front page. Alice decides he needs her help and stays put.

Jim works on his device and goes in with Tony and double crosses Nick and Rumsden. They clean up. Tony says he has one more account to settle and then they can quit. Nick and Rumsden don’t have sense of humor about their pal Tony and gun him down. The take Jim to Rumsden’s place where he’s worked over. He’s ordered to go to St.Louis and get set up so Rumsden can take over the syndicate.

He goes home all bruised up and tells Alice he was sideswiped by a car and knocked down. He lies some more and says he has to go to St.Louis. He’s driving her to her mothers’ when she spots a billboard about Billy Graham. She wants to go to the tent where he’s preaching. Billy is in top form. Can he get through to Jim?

One thing that really drags this down is the character of Alice. She is so sickly sweet you could die of syrup poisoning being around her. On the plus side the movie is not preachy until near the end with Billy doing his thing. But, another real drawback is the completely unrealistic ending.

Bill Williams had a long career in movies and TV. He was the title character in “The Adventures Of Kit Carson” (1951-55). He played Betty White’s husband in “Date With The Angels” (1957-58).

Georgia Lee didn’t do a whole lot. She did a blink and you’ll miss her appearance as a woman in an elevator in of all things, “Linda Lovelace For President” in 1975.

 

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About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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