Posts Tagged ‘henry hathaway’

Kiss of Death

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Kiss of Death (Fox Film Noir)

Tagline – It will mark you for life as it marked him for… Betrayal!

Starring – Victor Mature (Nick Bianco), Brian Donlevy (Asst. District Attorney Louis D’Angelo), Coleen Gray (Nettie Cavallo), Richard Widmark (Tommy Udo).

Released – August, 1947

Directed By – Henry Hathaway

Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – It’s Christmas Eve and things are about to go from bad to worse for ex-con Nick Bianco. Nick, along with three partners, pull off a jewelry store robbery located on the top floor of a skyscraper. During their escape, the alarm goes off and Nick is forced to assault a police officer. He himself is shot in the leg and captured.

Knowing that Nick is married and has two daughters, Asst. District Attorney D’Angelo tries to get Nick to identify his partners by offering the chance of a lighter prison sentence. Nick, confident that his partners will look after his family for him, refuses to talk and is sentenced to twenty years in Sing Sing Prison.

Nick’s confidence proves to be a huge error in judgement as, three years into his sentence, he learns that his wife, in dire financial straits, has committed suicide and his daughters sent to an orphanage.

Shortly after, Nick is visited in prison by Nettie Cavallo who used to babysit his daughters. Nettie tells Nick that his wife was having an affair with Pete Rizzo one of Nick’s accomplices. Angry and hurt by this news, Nick asks to see Asst. DA D’Angelo.

Nick offers to tell D’Angelo the names of the others who participated in the jewelry store heist, but too much time has elapsed for the information to earn Nick a break on his prison sentence. However, D’Angelo tells Nick that if he helps with another unsolved case he will get a parole. Nick also did time for that crime and informs D’Angelo that Rizzo and Attorney Earl Howser ratted him out.

Howser, who acts as both a fence for his clients and their attorney, is beginning to feel the police breathing down his neck. His plan is to close all potential loopholes that might link him to these crimes and he hires maniacal hitman Tommy Udo to kill Pete Rizzo.

When arriving at Rizzo’s apartment, Udo finds only his wheelchair-confined mother. Angry that he missed Rizzo, Udo settles for pushing Mrs. Rizzo down a flight of stairs, killing her.

D’Angleo arranges to get Nick released on parole so that he may help with his investigation. Nick immediately goes to see Nettie Cavallo and tells her that he has fallen in love with her. After doing so, Nick gets down to work.

D’Angelo helps Nick to run into Udo, who Nick knows from Sing Sing. Happy to see an old prison buddy, Udo takes Nick out for a night on the town. During their conversation, Udo offers enough information to link him to a murder. Nick passes the information along to D’Angelo and Udo is arrested.

By the time Udo’s trial arrives, Nick and Nettie are married and Nick, in order to keep his parole, must testity at the trial. In spite of what would seem like insurmountable evidence against him, Udo is acquitted.

Fear begins to take over as Nick realizes that Udo will come after both him and his family and there is just no way the police can completely protect them from this sadistic killer.

NOTABLE: Kiss of Death received Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Richard Widmark), and Best Writing, Original Story.

This motion picture was the film debut for Richard Widmark, and Susan Cabot. Many critics have also felt that it was Victor Mature’s best career performance.

The original story had some problems with the censors. Although reference is made to the suicide of character Nick Bianco’s first wife and that she was having an affair with Pete Rizzo, no details are offered. Before the censors moved in, the story detailed the rape of Nick’s first wife by Rizzo that resulted in her sticking her head in a gas oven to kill herself. The detail proved to be too much for censors.

In a sad case of life imitating art, New York mobster “Crazy” Joe Gallo, after seeing this picture, idolized Tommy Udo and began dressing and acting like the character giving rise to his “Crazy Joe” nickname.



13 Rue Madeleine

Monday, November 12th, 2012

13 Rue Madeleine

Tagline – The Most Sinister Address in History!

Starring – James Cagney (Robert Emmett “Bob” Sharkey), Richard Conte (Wilhelm Kuncel/William H. “Bill” O’Connell), Annabella (Suzanne de Beaumont), Frank Latimore (Jeff Lassiter).

Released – January, 1947

Directed By – Henry Hathaway

Produced By – Twentieth Century Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Film Corporation

Description – Bob Sharkey is the chief instructor in charge of training espionage agents to infiltrate Nazi occupied Europe during World War II, and he has a big problem.

There is a rotten apple in his barrel of agents. Intelligence has informed Bob that a German agent is part of his latest group of trainees and Bob must find out just who it is. Identifying the German agent is not difficult as one particular agent, Bill O’Connell, easily succeeds in a field problem that is designed to cause mistakes by novice agents.

Further investigation into O’Connell’s background confirms that he is actually top German agent Wilhelm Kuncel. It is the intention of Kuncel to learn the date and location of the planned Allied invasion of Europe.

Bob is instructed to pass the German along with the other new agents, but to provide him with false information regarding the planned invasion to pass along to his superiors.

The plan is to send Kuncel along with two other agents, Suzanne de Beaumont and Jeff Lassiter, into Europe. Kuncel is given a false mission while de Beaumont and Lassiter will be searching for the factory depot for V-2 Rockets that will be used against the Allied forces during the invasion.

Lassiter’s orders are to kill Kuncel if he follows him and de Beaumont rather than work to complete his own mission. This responsibility makes Lassiter nervous and his uneasiness is easily picked up on by Kuncel who is now suspicious that his idendity may be known.

When the three are parachuted over Holland to sneak behind enemy lines, Lassiter’s chute fails to open and he falls to his death. The planes jumpmaster discovers that Lassiter’s chute was deliberately cut and his death was no accident.

It is now obvious that Kuncel is aware of the plan to deceive him and can identify every agent that he trained with. He must be stopped before endangering the entire planned invasion. Feeling responsible for the dire situation, Bob Sharkey volunteers to replace Lassiter.

With the aid of the local French Resistance force, Sharkey is able to capture and return to Great Britain the Nazi collaborator who designed the V-2 Rocket depot.

While attempting to stop Kuncel from returning to Germany with the espionage information he is captured and their seemingly is no way to stop Kuncel from identifying all of the Allied agents and guaranteeing their death.

NOTABLE: James Cagney’s character, Robert Emmett ‘Bob’ Sharkey, was originally based on the World War II director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William Donovan (i.e. Major General William Joseph Donovan, USA, GCSS, KBE) as well as the spy agency being based on the O.S.S. Donovan objected to this, particularly the story element that the OSS had been infiltrated by a German Nazi agent spy. Alas, the spy agency became the “077” and any of Cagney’s character similarities with Donovan were removed.

Actor Rex Harrison was the first offered the lead role in 13 Rue Madeleine this motion picture, but turned it down.

Director Henry Hathaway and Producer Louis De Rochemont had previously worked together on the 20th Century Fox spy film titled The House on 92nd Street. Coincidentally, both films used street addresses in their titles.

The Dark Corner

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Released – April, 1946 

Directed By – Henry Hathaway

Starring – Lucille Ball (Kathleen Stewart), Clifton Webb (Hardy Cathcart), William Bendix (Stauffer/Fred Foss), Mark Stevens (Bradford Galt), Kurt Kreuger (Anthony Jardine).

Description – Save your lipstick, girls, he plays for keeps!

After serving a stretch in prison, Brad Galt, now a private investigator, has moved from San Francisco to New York. As for the prison time, Galt blames his lawyer partner Tony Jardine.

The coast-to-coast move was an effort to leave his past behind, but it seems that past is still out to haunt him. Brad is convinced that someone is following him and just may want to kill him. Brad believes that Jardine may be responsible.

Looking for some answers, Brad enlists the aid of his secretary Kathleen Stewart who just may be falling in love with him. While at dinner, the pair notice a man in a white suit following them. After dinner Brad puts Kathleen in a cab telling her to follow the man after Brad confronts him. Brad’s confrontation with the man reveals that he is private eye Fred Foss and that he was hired by Anthony Jardine to trace Brad’s every move. 

Jardine has continued his work as a corrupt lawyer and is having an affair with wealthy art-gallery owner Hardy Cathcart’s much-younger wife Mari. This scenario is starting to look a little too familiar to Brad and he senses that Jardine may just be setting him up to take another fall.

Foss contacts Brad offering, on Cathcart’s behalf, to sell him information regarding Jardine. Cathcart is to meet Brad in his apartment. Brad is ambushed by Foss who had slipped into the apartment before Brad got home. As it turns out, Foss is not really a private eye, but rather a thug named Stauffer who is working for Cathcart. Stauffer uses ether to knock out Brad.

Cathcart then summons Jardine to the apartment where he is murdered by Foss with a fireplace poker and the bloddy poker is placed in Brad’s hand. Brad is awakened by the sound of his door buzzer. It is Kathleen and she decides to help cover up the crime and help Brad find out just who is behind the murder and the frame-up.

NOTABLE: The Dark Corner provided a rare dramatic role for Lucille Ball who is legendary as a comedienne.

Television fans will recognize many faces in this film as having been on some of television’s most successful series. Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy), William Bendix, (The Life of Riley), Mark Stevens (Big Town), Reed Hadley (The Public Defender and Racket Squad).


The House on 92nd Street

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Released – September, 1945 

Directed By – Henry Hathaway

Starring – William Eythe (Bill Dietrich), Lloyd Nolan (Agent George A. Briggs), Signe Hasso (Elsa Gebhardt), Gene Lockhart (Charles Ogden Roper), Leo G. Carroll (Col. Hammersohn).

Description – A terror more deadly than murder!

With world-wide espionage increasing each day, American university student Bill Dietrich, of German heritage, is approached by Nazi recruiters hoping to enlist him.

Bill have given the Nazi’s the impression that he may be interested in their offer, but has reported the incident to the F.B.I. Agent George A. Briggs asks Bill to cooperate with the Germans and act as a double-agent for the F.B.I. Bill accepts.

The spy’s send Bill to Germany where he undergoes intensive and specialized training in espionage. When his training is complete his assignment will be to set up a radio station in the United States and also act as the paymaster for the other spies. He will work under the direction of a “Mr. Christopher.”

While Bill has been training a hit-and-run accident has occured in New York City that reveals a frightening secret. The accident victim was carrying a Spanish passport and a notebook written in German. This arouses the curiosity of the New York police and they report the information to the F.B.I.

It turns out the victim was a German spy and the notes translate to, “Mr. Christopher will concentrate on Process 97.” This information alarms Agent Briggs as Process 97 is one of the U.S. military’s most important and carefully guarded secrets concerning the development of the Atomic Bomb.

After completion of his training Bill returns to the United States and with the help of Agent Briggs hopes to infiltrate the spy ring effectively enough to discover just who is “Mr. Christopher,” and cut off the leaking information regarding Process 97 before it is too late.

NOTABLE: The House on 92nd Street won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story.

The film, released shortly after the end of World War II, was made with the full cooperation of the F.B.I. with Director J. Edgar Hoover appearing during the introduction.

Produced by Louis De Rochmont, this motion picture is considered to be the first successful semidocumentary style police dramas.

The motion picture is loosely based on a case known as the Duquesne Spy Ring and the work of a real double agent named William G. Sebold.


Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Released – January, 1953 

Directed By – Henry Hathaway

Starring– Marilyn Monroe (Rose Loomis), Joseph Cotten (George Loomis), Jean Peters (Polly Cutler), Max Showalter (Ray Cutler).

Description– Marilyn Monroe and Niagra, the high water mark in suspense!

After a long delay, Ray and Polly Cutler finally go Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. Upon arriving they find that the cabin they reserved in already occupied by George and Rose Loomis.

Politely, the Cutler’s accept another cabin and begin to get acquainted with George and Rose who seem to have an unhappy marriage. Rose is a beautiful woman and is quite a bit younger that George. Her beauty seems to be part of the problem as George is very jealous and definitely has anger management issues. Their is some hint that he has just been released from a mental hospital.

George may indeed have something to worry about as Polly witnesses Rose kissing a younger man. Rose has not attracted this younger man just for fun. She plans on using him in a plan to murder her husband Ray. Say hello to infidelity and greed.

Her plan is carried out, with big one problem. It’s not George who ends up dead, but rather the young man.

Rose now fears for her own life, Polly recognizes the dead man as the person she saw kissing Rose, and just what does George now have planned?

NOTABLE: Niagara, along with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How To Marry A Millionaire are the films that solidified Marilyn Monroe’s status a a legitimate box-office draw.

Although having a co-starring role, Marilyn Monroe was still under contract with 20th Century Fox as a stock player. For this film she received a smaller salary than her make-up man.

Unlike a traditional Film Noir, Niagara was filmed in Technicolor and proved to be one of the 20th Century Fox’s biggest hits of the year.