Quickly.

Can you identify the three muggs pictured above, and name the picture from which this still is taken?

Ok, we’ll help out since we’ve already headlined today’s blog about Sam Levene.  Yup, that’s Steve Brodie on the right.  You shouldn’t have too much trouble identifying the actor to the left.  He’s Robert Ryan.

How about the guy in the middle?  Yup, that’s Sam Levene, a super seasoned stage actor in the Forties who lent a certain New Yorkish ethnic spice to film noirs.

The movie involving all three is Crossfire, a 1947 thriller made during the Dore Schary “message movie” period at RKO, about four World War II Army buddies — one of whom is a deranged killer who meets an unfortunate end.

Levene, born Scholem Lewin in 1905, is properly revered today not only for his many solid film roles, usually as a cop, a friendly sidekick or sympathetic agent, but for an astounding 54-year theatrical stage career in which he created starring roles in 33 original Broadway productions.

The son of a cantor, Levene’s nearly 50-title movie career began in the mid-Thirties, taking him through some of the finest film noirs ever to come out of Hollywood. Four of the best movies costarred Burt Lancaster, Levene’s lifelong friend. Below is Levene in 1946’s The Killers.

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And then there was our man being roughed up by Hume Cronyn in 1947’s Brute Force.

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And perhaps most memorably as Burt Lancaster’s adversary in the 1957 classic The Sweet Smell of Success. (That’s Susan Harrison on the left as Lancaster’s daughter.)

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Levene died of a heart attack at age 75 in 1980, in New York City — his hometown.

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