Edmond O’Brien in 711 Ocean Drive

For gangster film aficionados and James Cagney lovers, Edmond O’Brien will forever be remembered as the “copper” in “White Heat” (1949). Here’s the famous scene where Cody Jarrett (Cagney) gets the bad news.

A year later, O’Brien is the gangster in “711 Ocean Drive” (1950).

O’Brien played Mal Granger, a telephone company repairman who likes to place a few bets with his bookie, Chippie, now and then. Chippie tells Mal that he can be living on easy street. The current Mr. Big, Vince Walters, can use a guy with Mal’s skills to get track info by wire. Mal goes for it and sets up such a great system, that he becomes indispensable to Mr. Big. Mal knows it and demands a 20% partnership interest in the business. Walters agrees.

One day, a bookie who is behind on his payments comes into Walters’ office begging for an extension of time. Walters has already given this guy extra time. He gives him a short deadline and threatens the man’s family. While Mal is in the other room, the bookie takes out a gun and kills Walters. Mal is questioned by the police but let go. One officer tells Mal that now would be a good time for him to walk away from that business before he ends up like Walters. But soon enough, Mal is Mr. Big, a position he relishes. Hell, Mal’s on a real power trip. The money is rolling in as he puts the squeeze on the bookies. Money’s not the only thing he’s making either– he’s making enemies.

The Vice Squad and organized crime syndicate want to deal with Mal, too. The law wants to take him down. The syndicate wants to get their hands on a substantial cut of his profits. Mal agrees to a 50/50 split with the syndicate in exchange for their protection. He soon learns that the split is more like 70/30. Further complicating the situation, Mal has fallen in love with Gail Mason, the wife of one of the mobsters.

Edmond O’Brien did a fine job in the role. He was initially presented as a nice guy who helps his friends out, and he did take care of Chippie (Sammy White) even after his rise to the top. I just wonder why they picked “Mal” for his first name. Jake or Fred, or even Hal, would have been better.

Joanne Dru played Gail. Joanne was the older sister of Hollywood Squares host, Peter Marshall. At this point in her life, she had just divorced singer Dick Haymes and married her “All the King’s Men” co-star, John Ireland.

Robert Osterloh had a part as Gizzi, a dirty double-crossing blackmailer. He also was in “White Heat.” He ended up dead in that one and he does in this one, too. I particularly liked the detail of Mal getting the blackmail money back.

“711 Ocean Drive” is available on TCM on Demand through September 16th. Amazon also has some good Edmond O’Brien noirs free with a Prime subscription if you have one, like “D.O.A” (1950) and “The Bigamist” (1953).

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