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The Big Steal

This article is about a 1949 film. For the 1990 Australian film, see The Big Steal (1990 film).
The Big Steal
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by Jack J. Gross
Screenplay by Gerald Drayson Adams
Daniel Mainwaring
Based on the story "The Road to Carmichael's" 
by Richard Wormser
Starring Robert Mitchum
Jane Greer
William Bendix
Patric Knowles
Ramón Novarro
Music by Leigh Harline
Cinematography Harry J. Wild
Edited by Samuel E. Beetley
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release dates
  • July 1, 1949 (1949-07-01) (US)[1]
Running time
71 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Big Steal is a 1949 American black-and-white film noir/comedy reteaming Out of the Past stars Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. The film was directed by Don Siegel, based on the short story "The Road to Carmichael's" by Richard Wormser.[2][3]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Critical response 4.1
  • References 5
    • Notes 5.1
    • Additional sources 5.2
  • External links 6


U.S. Army lieutenant Duke Halliday (Robert Mitchum) is robbed of a $300,000 payroll by Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles). When Halliday's superior, Captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix), suspects him of having taken part in the theft, Halliday has no choice but to pursue Fiske into Mexico. Along the way, he runs into Joan Graham (Jane Greer), who is after the $2000 she loaned to her boyfriend, Fiske. The two join forces, though they are not sure at first if they can trust each other. Fiske stays one step ahead of the couple, while they are in turn chased by Blake. When Halliday is knocked down trying to stop Fiske from getting away, he comes to the attention of Police Inspector General Ortega (Ramon Novarro). Ortega lets him go after Halliday claims to be Blake (using identification he took from the captain after a brawl), but keeps an eye on him. His suspicions are confirmed when the real Blake shows up at his office for help.

Halliday and Graham track Fiske to an isolated house in the desert, where Fiske is meeting with Seton (John Qualen), a fence who offers Fiske $150,000 in untraceable bills in exchange for the payroll. The couple are captured by Seton's henchmen. When Blake shows up, Halliday is initially relieved to be rescued, until he learns that Blake is actually Fiske's partner in crime.

Fiske wants to take Graham with him, but Blake makes it clear that he intends to dispose of both her and Halliday. Fiske reluctantly gives in. However, when he starts to leave, Blake shoots him in the back, explaining that his ex-partner, apparently still at large, can take the blame for the missing payroll. Halliday then points out to Seton that if Blake got rid of him too, he could give the stolen money back to the army and keep the $150,000 for himself. Taking no chances, Seton pulls a gun on Blake. When Graham creates a distraction, a fight breaks out, which Graham and Halliday win.


Black and white promotional headshot of Robert Mitchum facing right and looking left
Mitchum, 1949


The movie was filmed in Los Angeles and on location in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico.


Critical response

Channel 4 film reviews describes the movie as, "Sparkling dialogues, fast-paced chases and the occasional twist make this an at first somewhat confusing but ultimately hugely entertaining film."[4]

Hal Erickson writing for Allmovie calls the film "tautly directed by Don Siegel, who manages to pack plenty of twists and turns into the film's crowded 71 minutes."[5]



  1. ^ "The Big Steal: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Screenplay Info for The Big Steal (1949)".  
  3. ^ Lizabeth Scott had been set to play Joan Graham, but due to the controversy surrounding Mitchum's recent marijuana drug arrest and short jail sentence, she pulled out three weeks before filming started. According to Ken Annakin, author of Early Film Noir: Greed, Lust and Murder Hollywood Style, RKO owner Howard Hughes had been keeping Greer, a former girlfriend, from appearing in any RKO films in an attempt to ruin her career, finally hired her when no other female lead would take the part. Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, claimed in his introduction to the film that the married Greer had earned Hughes' enmity by refusing to date him.
  4. ^ Channel 4 Film Reviews. Last accessed: March 11, 2008.
  5. ^ Erikson, Hal. The Big Steal at AllMovie.

Additional sources

  1. ^ Ken Annakin (2003). Early Film Noir: Greed, Lust and Murder Hollywood Style. McFarland & Company.  

External links

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