Posts Tagged ‘richard widmark’

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.



Pickup On South Street

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Released – June, 1953 

Directed By – Samuel Fuller

Starring – Richard Widmark (Skip McCoy), Jean Peters (Candy), Thelma Ritter (Moe Williams).

Description – How the law took a chance on a B-girl…and won!

The subway was crowded, and she was an easy mark for a skilled pickpocket like Skip McCoy. Taking the purse of Candy was the easy part; things will get a whole lot more difficult from here.

Unknown to Skip, inside Candy’s purse was a piece of top-secret microfilm that was to be passed by Candy to a Communist agent. Candy was just doing a favor for her ex-boyfried and didn’t know just what it was, or how important it is.

Also unknown to both Candy and McCoy was the fact that Government agents were watching her every move, knew of her destination, and saw McCoy take her purse.

When McCoy learns of the importance of just what he is in possession of he starts to get ideas. Meanwhile, Candy learns of McCoy’s whereabouts through Moe Williams, a police informer, and sets out to get the microfilm back through seduction.

Her efforts bring on another complication as she finds herself falling in love with McCoy. As for McCoy, he now has the Government agents, and the Communists agents hot on his trail. Personally, he has no favorite and hopes to give the microfilm to the first party to come up with $25,000.

However, this pickpocket may have bitten off more than he can chew.

NOTABLE: Pickup On South Street received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Thelma Ritter).

Director Fuller turned down a number of more famous leading ladies for the role of Candy. They included Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Shelly Winters, Betty Grable, and initially Jean Peters. However, while having lunch in the studio’s commissary and metting Peter’s once again, Fuller realized she was perfect, He liked her intelligence, spunkiness, and her ability to play different roles convinceingly.

The initial script was ruled as unacceptable by the Production Code due to “excessive brutality and sadistic beatings, or both men and women.” Script revisions were necessary to get approval.

The entire film was shot in 20 days.

Personal Note: A great job by Director Samuel Fuller and the excellent cast. This is a very good Film Noir, suspenseful, tough, and violent. 

The Frogmen

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Released – September, 1951 

Directed By – Lloyd Bacon

Starring – Richard Widmark (Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence), Dana Andrews (Chief Jake Flannigan), Gary Merrill (Lt. Cmdr. Pete Vincent), Jeffrey Hunter (“Pappy” Creighton).

Description – Uncle Sam’s underwater commandos!

This film is based on actual U.S. frogman operations against Japanese forces during World War II. It was the first movie of its kind and became an instant hit.

After the death of their former commander, a Navy Underwater Demolition Team is put in the charge of strict disciplanarian Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence. The men are distrustful of their new commander and matters only get worse.

Questionable decisions and what seems to be a reluctance to participate in a dangerous mission cause the men to believe their new commander may be a coward. A continued series of perilous missions places the safety of the frogman directly in the hands of Cmdr. Lawrence who turns out to be anything but what the men had feared.

NOTABLE: This film was nominated for two Oscars; Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, and Best Cinematography, Black and White.

The United States frogman forces were later to become the Navy Seals.

All female roles in the film were written out as a result of the belief that the working conditions were too “riotous” for women.

No Way Out

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Released – August, 1950 

Directed By – Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Starring – Richard Widmark (Ray Biddle), Linda Darnell (Edie Johnson), Stephen McNally (Dr. Dan Wharton), Sidney Poitier (Dr. Luther Brooks).

Description – An exercise in racism.  Wounded while robbing a gas station, brothers Johnny and Ray Biddle are taken to the prison ward of the County Hospital.  Johnny, the more seriously wounded, is being treated by Dr. Luther Brooks, who is black.

Johnny dies while being treated and his brother Ray, believing it was murder committed by the black doctor, wants vengence.  The situation only gets worse with bigotry and racial hatred escalating on both sides.  

NOTABLE: This film received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

The role of Dr. Luther Brooks was the feature film debut of Sidney Poitier whose portrayal was nothing short of excellent.

During filming Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier became immediate friends with Poitier stating that meeting Widmark “was the most pleasent and refreshing surprise in my initial exposure to the Hollywood scene.  The reality of Widmark was a thousand miles from the character he played.”  In fact, Widmark was so sensitive to the issue of racism, that he apologized to Poitier after each take that required his character to mistreat Poitier’s character.

This film also marked the screen debut of Ossie Davis, and was the first film where he appeared with his wife Ruby Dee.

Fearing he may be too young to land his role, Sidney Poitier lied to Director Mankiewicz about his age; stating he was 27, when in fact he was only 22 years old.

Personal Comment:  This is a tense, excellently acted film featuring two of my favorite actors of this era – Richard Widmark, and Sidney Poitier.

Halls of Montezuma

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Released – December, 1950 

Directed By – Lewis Milestone

Starring – Richard Widmark (Lt. Carl Anderson), Jack Palance (Pigeon Lane), Reginald Gardiner (Sgt. Randolph Johnson), Robert Wagner (Pvt. Coffman), Karl Malden (PHM2 C.E. ‘Doc’ Jones), and a lot more familiar faces.

Description – Action with the Battling Leathernecks!

An action-packed story about a company of Marines in the South Pacific during World War II.  Led by an ex-school teacher, we follow this company of Marines from their landing on the beach, through an enemy infested jungle on a race against the clock to find a Jananese rocked site.

A realistic war movie without glorifying war.

NOTABLE: This movie provided the film debut for actor Richard Boone.