Film Review: Crossfire (1947)

Release Date: July 22nd, 1947 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Edward Dmytryk
Written by: John Paxton
Based on: The Brick Foxhole by Richard Brooks
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene, Jacqueline White

RKO Radio Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“My grandfather was killed just because he was an Irish Catholic. Hating is always the same, always senseless. One day it kills Irish Catholics, the next day Jews, the next day Protestants, the next day Quakers. It’s hard to stop. It can end up killing people who wear striped neckties.” – Police Captain Finlay

Crossfire is a pretty unique film-noir, as it is a very socially progressive movie for its time. The main crime in the film surrounds the murder of a Jewish man and it is discovered that the murder was inspired by bigotry and hatred. This was pretty heavy stuff for 1947 but kudos to RKO Pictures, Edward Dmytryk and John Paxton for putting this picture together. No, not the John Paxton that helped lead the Chicago Bulls to many NBA championships in the 1990s, he spelled his name “Paxson”. This John Paxton was a screenwriter that breathed life into film-noirs like Cornered and Murder, My Sweet.

This film also stars the three Roberts of film-noir: Young, Mitchum and Ryan. Okay, Young wasn’t in a lot of noir but Mitchum and Ryan lived in the genre. Plus, you also have Gloria Grahame, one of the queens of noir. Sam Levene also pops up in this but I feel like he is in almost every noir picture of the 1940s and 1950s. Then again, Elisha Cook Jr. probably has him beat.

Crossfire, despite its star power and its interesting premise, isn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. It’s not a bad movie but it just sort of exists and plays out without a lot of real suspense or tension.

The Academy thought it was pretty damn good though, as it was nominated for five Oscars. Plus, it won the award for Best Social Film at Cannes that year. But awards are typically political statements, even in the 1940s, and the people who hand out awards have always had a bias towards socially conscious cinema. From an accolades perspective, Crossfire greatly benefited from its subject matter.

I don’t mean to sound like I am in any way bashing the picture. It just wasn’t Oscar worthy, in my opinion. Especially in a year where we had Kiss of DeathThe Lady From ShanghaiNightmare AlleyBrute Force and Out of the Past. And those are just some of the film-noirs that I would rank higher not to mention all the other great films from other genres.

The three Roberts all put in solid performances though, as did Grahame. Edward Dmytryk is also a very good director. This is a very good film but when one has to compare it to what else was coming out at the time, it just isn’t on the same level as the films I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

If you love film-noir and any of the actors in this movie, it is still worth your time. I liked the picture and I would certainly watch it again but probably as part of a double feature or marathon.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: They Won’t Believe Me (1947)

Release Date: July 16th, 1947
Directed by: Irving Pichel
Written by: Jonathan Latimer, Gordon McDonell
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Robert Young, Susan Hayward, Jane Greer, Rita Johnson

RKO Radio Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“She looked like a very special kind of dynamite, neatly wrapped in nylon and silk. Only I wasn’t having any. I’d been too close to one explosion already. I was powder shy.” – Larry Ballentine

I’ve never seen this film-noir picture until I checked it out on TCM’s Noir Alley program. It is interesting, as it has a male in the traditional femme fatale role and even though the tale is told in flashback from a courtroom, there really wasn’t a crime committed in the film.

Robert Young, mostly known as a really nice guy thanks to his starring role in the television shows Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D., plays a selfish womanizing dope. His actions go on to ruin the lives of three women, as well as his own. His motivations don’t initially seem sinister, he is just out for himself but doesn’t really show the intent to hurt anyone. In fact, he does come off as guilt-ridden and remorseful when confronted with the consequences of his carelessness. Although, he does get to the point where he decides to murder his wife but he finds that she has committed suicide due to a broken heart.

Young played the role brilliantly and you couldn’t even really dislike him until murder came across his mind.

All three of the women in this film also did a fine job.

The ending was a bit bizarre but it was changed by the censors. Initially, Young’s character was supposed to jump from the courthouse window, committing suicide before the jury’s verdict. However, the ending was changed to a court officer shooting Young. The censors felt that a suicide would have had Young’s character evade the hand of justice.

They Won’t Believe Me is not an exceptional film-noir but it was much better than decent. The cinematography was pretty straightforward. There were no stylistic flourishes to set it apart from the norm but everything was well shot and well captured.

The picture isn’t forgettable but it also isn’t that memorable, unless you’re a Young fan. It exists in a vast sea of film-noir at the height of that cinematic style.

Rating: 7/10