Noirvember 2021, Episode 15: Chicago Syndicate (1955)
Chicago Syndicate (Columbia, 1955) directed by Fred F. Sears
When an accountant is scheduled to tell all to journalist David Healey (Richard H. Cutting) as to the mob’s activities from inside several Chicago businesses, said accountant finds himself in the red, that is, filled with bullet holes. Unable to let this go, Healey taps another bookkeeper named Barry Amsterdam (Dennis O’Keefe) to infiltrate the gang led by Arnie Valent (Paul Stewart). Amsterdam knows this isn’t exactly the best thing for his health, but he goes ahead anyway, mentally counting the $60,000 he’s going to earn, if he can stay alive.
Maybe Valent’s hired nightclub singer Connie Peters (Abbe Lane) is Amsterdam’s way into the mob. (The house band is led by Xavier Cugat, who has a small but significant role in the picture.)
Or maybe frequent gambler Sue Morton (Allison Hayes) can get him past the front door.
I can’t explain it, but I’m a sucker for any movie about “the syndicate” or one with “syndicate” in its title. Syndicate seems such an outdated, almost archaic word, I almost laugh every time I see or hear it. (Maybe that comes from watching too many cop shows on TV when I was a kid. They seemed to use the word 20 or 30 times per episode.) But Chicago Syndicate is a reasonably fun ride, made more so by good performances by O’Keefe and Stewart, one of my favorite character actors (noir or otherwise).
Stewart always gives the impression that he’s smarter than everyone else in the room, and that if he and a couple of the boys didn’t like you, they’d take you into a back room and do things to you that would make a mad scientist squirm.
There’s also a nice rivalry between Connie and Sue, and Abbe Lane and Allison Hayes are willing to get scrappy, resulting in a nice catfight that I wish had gone on a little longer.
Chicago Syndicate is also the last film from the Indicator Columbia Noir box sets (#4 in this case) that I hadn’t previously seen. It's worth checking out.