She needs to get a few things at Schultz’s (Leander De Cordova) butcher shop, and she insists that Dan snap a photo of her outside the entrance for one reason or another. As Dan trips the shutter, three men walk out of the jernt…and are notably perturbed that they had to smile for the camera. The Reillys soon learn the reason why—old man Schultz was beaten up by the three goons, much to the dismay of Mrs. Schultz (Edit Angold).
What gives? Well, Dan does a little investigative reporting (I know, it was like this movie from another era or something) and learns from Patterson (Stanley Andrews) at the Bureau of Livestock Investigation that there’s a “bootleg beef” racket in full force—unsavory criminals are selling meat without state or federal inspection (this is why it’s good to have regulations, kids). Reilly decides—with the approval of his editor Hutch (Michael Whalen)—that this would provide the grist for a good story, and it soon makes front page headlines.
The tenacious Reilly isn’t so easily scared off, and after he and Margie conduct surveillance on a delivery truck outside of Schultz’s they soon find themselves on a ranch that’s the center of operations for the bootleggers…so they pose as a impoverished couple (they go by “Jim and Amy Hill”) in need of work in order to blow the racket wide open. (That’s reporter talk.)
This Day and Age (1933), Donald Barry officially launched his movie career. Barry appeared in small roles and bits in films like Dead End (1937), The Last Gangster (1937), and Young Dr. Kildare (1938) before going to work for Republic Pictures and receiving featured parts in films like Wyoming Outlaw (1939—with John Wayne and the Three Mesquiteers) and Days of Jesse James (1939—with Roy Rogers). It was at Republic that Barry would get the film role that made him a household name (and inspired him to add to his own); he starred in that studio’s 1940 serial, The Adventures of Red Ryder, and soon started being billed as Don “Red” Barry.
Barry is often described as “the poor man’s James Cagney,” and his onscreen persona resembled Jimmy’s in that he may have been short in stature but his cockiness/pugnaciousness more than made up for it. Barry’s B-Westerns at Republic were very popular with theatergoers, with titles like Ghost Valley Raiders (1940), Wyoming Wildcat (1941), Two-Gun Sheriff (1941), Death Valley Outlaws (1941), and Outlaws of Pine Ridge (1942). Unfortunately for “Red,” he took himself a little too seriously as a Cagney wannabe and alienated a lot of the directors with whom he worked at the studio. (Red Ryder co-director William Witney derisively called him “the midget” and the other director on that serial, John English, vowed never to work with the star again after 1943’s Black Hills Express.)
Determined not to go gently into that good night, Don signed a contract with Lippert Pictures, and made some fairly decent oaters like Red Desert (1949) and Border Rangers (1950). At Lippert, Barry also got the opportunity to don a producer’s hat—one of those pictures was today’s “Forgotten Noir,” Tough Assignment (1949).
(It’s not a great movie, but it kept me entertained for its sixty-four-minute running time.) The supporting cast in this one is Assignment’s most valuable asset, with noir icons like Steve Brodie and Marc Lawrence present…and as always, Lippert’s “good luck charm” Sid Melton is on hand for comic relief. (Suffice it to say, I am somewhat more tolerant of Mr. Melton’s shtick than my good friend Scott C. at World O’Crap.) Lawrence and Melton have an amusing scene where Sid finds out that Marc has been making time with Sid’s girlfriend (played by TDOY fave Iris Adrian in an all-too-brief appearance), and Sid’s response to Marjorie Steele’s news that she’s going to cook a meal “just like Mother made” is a riot: “Nuh-uh…that’s why I left home in the first place!”
There are also contributions from familiar faces like Stanley “The Old Ranger” Andrews, Stanley Price, Fred Kohler, Jr., and Frank Richards—with Dewey Robinson providing Assignment with an amusing closing bit. The film was directed by the indefatigable William Beaudine, and at the American Film Noir website there’s a section on “Bad Film Noirs” where the authors comment: “Beaudine, one of the most prolific directors in Hollywood history, was known for delivering cheap films with a fast shooting pace. He certainly didn’t disappoint us with this effort.” (Ouch!)
Fingerprints Don’t Lie  …which definitely is) but discriminating viewers may not take to it…which is kind of a sad commentary on my existence if you think about it. I chuckled at the cover of VCI’s Forgotten Noir Vol. 5 because Assignment receives the appellation “Co-Hit” alongside what appears to be the DVD’s “main” feature, FBI Girl (1951). As for Don “Red” Barry, he became one of the busiest actors on the small screen (he had a regular role as “Lt. Snedigar” on TV’s Surfside 6) yet continued to experience difficulty with his personal life and he committed suicide in 1980.