I Was a Shoplifter

Photo of Tony Curtis and Andrea King in Universal's "I Was a Shoplifter," 1950.

Tony Curtis and Andrea King in Universal’s “I Was a Shoplifter,” 1950.

“I Was a Shoplifter” (1950) was one of five films Andrea King made back-to-back for Universal Pictures right after leaving her studio contract at Warner Bros.

In the early 1950s, movies such as this were generally perceived to be hard-hitting semi-documentaries. But by today’s standards, this film would rightfully be considered high camp, rather than exposé. And on that level, “I Was a Shoplifter” succeeds beautifully. Andrea plays the satiny and villainous Ina Perdue, a nightclub owner who just happens to be the head of an underground ring of shoplifters. The off-the-cuff one-liners flow like cheap bourbon, and Andrea comes across as a fascinating combination of Joan Crawford and Fagin from “Oliver Twist.” Her handsome henchman and sidekick in the film was none other than Tony Curtis (billed then as Anthony Curtis). It marks one of his earliest screen appearances. According to Andrea, the fan mail poured in for Tony after the film’s release, and Universal took notice.

The two leading players are Scott Brady (looking very much like the square-jawed Dick Tracy) as an undercover agent, and Mona Freeman as the helpless, sappy heroine. Andrea lures them both into her den of iniquity.

Also making a brief appearance is mega-star-to-be Rock Hudson! So brief, in fact, that he is unbilled and only has three lines. Look sharp for Rock as a department store detective early in the picture, and once more near the end of the story. There’s no mistaking him.

Photo of Rock Hudson with Scott Brady and Mona Freeman in "I Was a Shoplifter."

Rock Hudson with Scott Brady and Mona Freeman in “I Was a Shoplifter.”

Photo of original lobby card with Andrea King and Tony Curtis (left).

Original lobby card with Andrea King and Tony Curtis (left).

Watch the first part of “I Was a Shoplifter” on YouTube now: