Evocative of a Raymond Chandler mystery populated with sleazy characters and the troubled offspring of the wealthy, Tony Rome is an entertaining whodunit set in sunny Miami Beach.
Frank Sinatra stars in the lead role as a former cop turned private investigator who lives on a houseboat (when he’s not placing bets with his bookie) in the first of a series of retro hardboiled detective movies filmed in the late 1960’s. Daughter Nancy sings the title track.
When his former partner Ralph Turpin (Robert J. Wilke) calls in a favor to remove a drunk and unconscious Diana Pines nee Kosterman (Sue Lyon) from the motel he manages Tony agrees to pick her up for a fee. The motel has already had run-ins with law enforcement and doesn’t want any further trouble upon realizing that Diana is the heiress daughter of politically connected, construction magnate Rudolph Kosterman (Simon Oakland).
When Tony delivers Diana home her father hires him to investigate why his daughter is lately behaving so erratically. On his way out Tony gives a ride back to the Fountainebleau Hotel to sultry and thrice divorced Ann Archer (Jill St. John) who’s a guest of a party the Kosterman’s had the previous evening. Through out the movie the predatory Archer will provide Tony with useful information as well as tempting propositions.
After Tony is knocked out (with ether) by a couple of goons who ransack his boat, Diana shows up to thank him but also claiming to have lost a diamond pin the night before. Interestingly enough the thugs from the night before were also asking Tony about a pin. Diana hires Tony to find her diamond brooch.
But no sooner has Tony accepted the job offers from pere and fille Kosterman when Mrs. Kosterman (Gena Rowlands) also counter-hires him to report to her first any unpleasant information he discovers on her step-daughter before reporting to Mr. Kosterman.
Not only does Tony learn that Diana has been funneling large sums of money to her alcoholic mother Lorna (Jeanne Cooper), but as he goes deeper into this maze he uncovers a series of links involving blackmail, stolen jewels, deceit and murder. All the while trying to stay one step ahead of various shady characters, including murderous jewelers, and an unlicensed doctor as well as his old friend, homicide detective Santini (Richard Conte) who’s pressing Tony for information regarding the corpse found in Tony’s office.
Though not one of Sinatra’s most memorable performances, Tony Rome nevertheless was well received by critics at the time of its release. With witty and well timed deadpan cracks, a motley crew of characters worthy of a pulp novel including a stripper and her lesbian lover, a drug addict and her foppish pusher, the movie is actually quite enjoyable and entertaining.
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