Felix E. Feist | The Man Who Cheated Himself | Tomorrow Is Another Day | The Man Behind the Gun

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Felix E. Feist

Felix E. Feist started out doing comedy shorts. Then he graduated to a few features. Finally, the bottom fell out of feature film making for him, and he switched over to directing TV in the 1950's and 1960's. He is a little known director today. I did not at all enjoy his grim film noir about hitchhiking, The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1948).

The Man Who Cheated Himself

The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950) is a film noir.

A Semi-Documentary?

The Man Who Cheated Himself has key features of the semi-documentary crime films of the era: The above characteristics are documented in detail, for a wide variety of films, at my Chart showing the History of the Semi-Documentary Detective Film.

However, the tone of The Man Who Cheated Himself is quite different from most semi-docs. The semi-docs usually glorify their Government heroes. The Man Who Cheated Himself has its lead policeman get corrupted, and try to cover up the crime. And there are no sinister villains, unlike typical semi-docs.

Two Women

Cobb's girlfriend is a rich woman, who has inherited money and doesn't work. She is contrasted with Dall's wife, who works at a job. This working woman is seen as more virtuous than the heiress.

An Inverted Mystery

The Man Who Cheated Himself is a standard kind of crime fiction, known as an inverted mystery. In inverted mysteries, first we see the criminal commit the crime, often covering up the events skillfully. Then we see the detective investigate and uncover the villain's scheme. The format goes back at least to "The Case of Oscar Brodski" (1910) by R. Austin Freeman. It is most famous in the TV series Columbo.

In The Man Who Cheated Himself the criminal is played by Lee J. Cobb, the detective by John Dall. Dall's character differs from Columbo's. Unlike Columbo, Dall has no idea of the criminal's identity until the end of the film. And therefore, he is not tormenting or taunting the criminal, the way Columbo does.

This is Dall's first case as a newly promoted homicide detective. His motive for his enthusiastic pursuit of the case seems to be "making good" as a detective. And as a newly married man, he needs the extra pay.

Philip MacDonald

Mystery writer Philip MacDonald contributed to the screenplay.

Such prose mystery novels by MacDonald as The Rasp (1924) (Chapter 4) and The Link (1930) (last part of Chapter 8) make a big deal about the corpse having been moved to a new location by the killer. The good guy detectives eventually deduce this, from evidence.

Similar events happen in The Man Who Cheated Himself:

Dall is also interested in the timetable of the crime. Such timetables play a role in The Link.


The close-up of the ticket in The Man Who Cheated Himself anticipates the close-up of the identity card in The Man Behind the Gun. Both are small items, that mix printed text with a small addition that is handwritten.

Modular Architecture

Architecture in The Man Who Cheated Himself tends to be composed of repeated small modules: There are also several windows made up of repeated small panes.

Modular architecture occurs in the films of directors Fritz Lang, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Robert Mulligan. See also the "repeated objects" in the films of Jacques Tourneur.

Odd Architecture

The outside entrance to the heroine's apartment looks like a small drawbridge. Inside the apartment is entered through an upper level, and a staircase leading down to the main floor.

The husband's revolving closet is an unusual feature too.


John Dall's suit and the end and fancy topcoat are double-breasted, like those of a 1940's film noir hero. They give him glamour. So do his well-shined black leather shoes, which he puts up on his new desk at the start.

By contrast, the square-looking Lee J. Cobb is in single-breasted clothes. This is a more working class look. It also aligns Cobb to the dull-looking 1950's men styles to come.

Tomorrow Is Another Day

The title Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951) always evokes a film noir in which Scarlet O'Hara tracks down hired killers in the back alleys of Atlanta. Unfortunately, no such film exists, although it might be fun... Instead, the real film Tomorrow Is Another Day seems to have no connection with Margaret Mitchell's Civil War novel, Gone With the Wind (1936).

Links to Stagecoach

The young hero of Tomorrow Is Another Day has just been let out of prison after serving a long term for murder, a murder he committed while in his teens. In this he resembles the hero of John Ford's Stagecoach (1939), the Ringo Kid. Both are young men who have had almost no real experience of the adult world. Although they look grown-up physically, neither has actually lived in society as a grown-up. Both are underdeveloped people with little experience in the ways of the world. Both are outsiders in the often corrupt society around them.

However, Tomorrow Is Another Day is a film noir that takes place in modern times, while Stagecoach is a Western. The Ringo Kid at least had plenty of ranching skills that would help him survive in the society of his day, while the young hero of Tomorrow Is Another Day is really lost at all levels.

A later Western TV episode has a similar premise: The Evil That Men Do (Stuart Heisler, 1963), an episode of The Virginian TV series. This is an outstanding work.

Child Abuse

Tomorrow Is Another Day deals with an issue that has gained in political prominence over the years. While still a child, the hero killed his father, a man who physically abused both his wife and children. Today there would be more sympathy for what this kid did. In the 1950's, abuse was not seen as a political issue. The young man is treated as a murderer, pure and simple. He is sentenced to a long prison term, and when he gets out, his status as an ex-con keeps him from getting a job. Tomorrow Is Another Day does not explicitly make child abuse a political issue, either. Yet it shows it as a major life experience for people, at a time in the 1950's when the subject was rarely discussed in public.

Tomorrow Is Another Day also violates what many people believe to be the norm of 1950's entertainment: that families were always happy and untroubled in Hollywood film and television. It is clearly a glaring counterexample to this idea.


Tomorrow Is Another Day features that staple of film noir, mirrors: Such mirror shots help give Tomorrow Is Another Day a film noir feel.

Car Culture

Tomorrow Is Another Day shows car culture: The Man Who Cheated Himself is also full of shots of characters in their cars. It shows a toll booth, where drivers have to stop and pay tolls.

Links to The Man Who Cheated Himself

Tomorrow Is Another Day shares features with Feist's The Man Who Cheated Himself:

The Man Behind the Gun

Complex Plot

The Man Behind the Gun (1952) has one of the most complex plots of any 1950's Western. In fact, the less you know about the plot, the more enjoyable the film might be. One of its chief pleasures is watching its endlessly complex plot unfold.

The film mixes the personal with the political: both the personal relationships of the characters are important, as well as their connection to the political drama in which they are caught.

The title The Man Behind the Gun has little relationship to the movie. It is a generic Western title that could have been slapped on any film.

Family Life: the Dark Side

The Man Behind the Gun shows skepticism about family life, again. The relation of the heroine to her boyfriend is troubled, as is the relationship between the Senator and his sister.

Los Angeles in the 1850's

The setting of The Man Behind the Gun is unusual: Los Angeles in the 1850's. Los Angeles is already a well-developed city by this time, but one drastically different from today's metropolis.

Most Westerns take place in a sort of never-never land. They might describe themselves as being set in Dodge City or Cheyenne, but little attempt is made to relate these places to the modern cities of the same name. These cities are just abstract Western towns, which could be given any name.

By contrast, the Los Angeles of this movie is recognizably both similar to and different from the city of today. The geography is the same, the all important issue of water rights is the same.

But the city also has an entirely different look and feel from today's city. The sets also do not look like the generic "Western town" sets of so many movies. Instead, they have a Spanish feel, crossed with an Old West look. They also look extremely prosperous and bustling. Many Western towns in the movies have a "primitive" look; but LA here looks sophisticated, even glamorous, and fairly well developed and booming. This makes this film as much a historical drama, as it is any sort of Western.