Review: Jack Hively’s “Street of Chance,” Starring Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith and Claire Trevor in
Burgess Meredith and Claire Trevor in "Street of Chance"

1942 delivered two of the early defining films in the subgenre of “amnesia noir.” MGM’s more expensive Crossroads hit theaters first, but it was Paramount’s small-scale Street of Chance that took the best advantage of the memory loss gimmick. A load of debris tumbles off a building and lands flat on top of Burgess Meredith, who awakens mostly unscathed but unable to remember the past year of his life. Without a clue why, he soon finds himself a murder suspect on the run from the cops, and with only the help of a strange woman (Crossroads co-star Claire Trevor) must try and acquit himself before it’s too late. A fun score by David Buttolph pushes the film through its 75 minutes rapidly, and though Garrett Fort’s script (based on Cornell Woolrich’s book The Black Curtain) gradually runs out of steam, it end with a satisfying final beat. Meredith is well cast as the anxious, confused lead, while Trevor gives her flat part some life and intrigue. Countless noir films would follow the formula—from Spellbound to Somewhere in the Night, all the way up to Memento in 2000 which would take the premise to its extreme. While Street of Chance can’t claim to be the best of these films, or even the first, it does represent one of the earliest entries in the subgenre to show how it could work well.

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