In pursuit of as many oddities as I can squeeze out of my Netflix queue, I rented The Green Glove, a 1952 thriller (sort of) about the hunt for a bejeweled gauntlet from the church in a small south-of-France mountain town called St. Elizaire. We know that the glove is green thanks to the title and some lurid imagery on the DVD jacket, which makes it look like Glenn Ford’s hand is being consumed by a snake demon that slithered across the Channel from Hammer Studios. The film, however, is in B&W, so all the references to the fabulously hued relic fall a bit flat.
Glenn Ford plays American ex-GI, Michael Blake, who first glimpsed the valuable accessory during the last days of the war, when he parachuted behind enemy lines and encountered the slippery count/art dealer Paul Rona (George Mcready of Gilda fame). A convenient artillery shell allows Rona to escape, although he must leave behind his briefcase with the glove. Michael is rescued by a family of aristocratic resistance fighters who live in an enormous empty castle. He leaves the briefcase in their keeping.
Flash-forward seven years, and down-on-his-luck Michael is back in France, with the idea of finding the glove and reversing his woeful life fortunes. He is quickly on the defensive, running from a hit man hired by Count Rona, who seems to have been lurking all these years, just waiting for Michael to pop up on the Champs Elysees. On the run on the Eiffel Tower, Michael meets-cute with an American tour guide, Christine (Geraldine Brooks, who played opposite a stark raving mad Joan Crawford in Possessed) and enlists her in his race to the Midi to find Elizaire and the glove before Rona catches up with him.
A fair amount of well-played chase material done entirely on location comes to a grinding halt halfway through as Michael and Chris are forced to pretend they are newlyweds in order to spend the night at a small country inn. Suddenly, the movie turns into bad screwball farce as Michael gets drunk, Christine alternately shuns and seduces him, and the innkeeper’s wife rolls her eyes and makes “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” jokes about the “first night.” Brooks, who has been adequate up to this point, morphs into a very shrill imitation of Katharine Hepburn. The only saving grace in this long interlude is a lovely stroll along the leafy shore of a placid stream—it recalls the sun-dappled reverie of Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country (and indeed the cinematographer is Claude Renoir, who photographed A Day in the Country and was the great director’s nephew and the grandson of the Impressionist master).
Sobered up, Michael manages to find the now-impoverished aristos, and lo and behold, they have keep the briefcase all these years without every looking to see what is inside. Rona and his henchmen show up trying to muscle it away from Michael and Christine in a series of somewhat intricate and doomed-to-fail bits of chicanery and threats.
Then, miraculously, The Green Glove saves itself with a rousing finish as Michael tries to outrace Rona to the rocky redoubt of Eliizaire. The chase takes place entirely on foot across a switch-back-laden goat trail, up sheer rocky outcroppings and over a Sierra-worthy waterfall and cataract. The camera takes in most of this action from a distance that emphasis how precarious the footing of the stuntmen, who truly look as if they pushed their lives to the edge. Here, at the end of an otherwise disposable film, is some of the most breathless raw physical action imaginable, done without any process photography.
Director Rudolph Maté came from a cinematography background, working on Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr, before moving to Hollywood and working as a director of photography on To Be or Not to Be and Gilda, as well as working with Welles on The Lady From Shanghai. He also filmed the classic Gary Grant/Irene Dunn screwball comedy My Favorite Wife, which may account for the ill-considered comic relief in The Green Glove. He switched to directing in the late ’40s with mixed result, although his name will live forever as the director of D.O.A.