Released – August, 1947
Directed By – Henry Hathaway
Starring – Victor Mature (Nick Bianco), Brian Donlevy (Asst. District Attorney Louis D’Angelo), Coleen Gray (Nettie Cavallo), Richard Widmark (Tommy Udo).
Description – It will mark you for life as it marked him for… Betrayal!
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 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 get a break for Nick. However, D’Angelo tells Nick that if he helps with another unsolved case he will get a parole. Nick 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 charactor 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 charactor giving rise to his “Crazy Joe” nickname.