Today’s movie is Crime of Passion (1957). This classic Film Noir was directed by Gerd Oswald. It has an amazing cast featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Raymond Burr, Sterling Hayden, and King Kong’s love interest Fay Wray.
Eddie Muller in his intro to this film for Noir City called it a proto-feminist film where boredom drives a housewife to murder. But I think it was more blind ambition.
One of my favorite things about this movie is that it is a very different story. The plot is different and takes the viewer down an unexpected path. Okay, let’s jump right into the veteran actors.
Barbara Stanwyck played newspaper reporter Kathy Ferguson Doyle and Femme Fatale par excellence. The wonderful Stanwyck was covered in Episode 37 – The Violent Men (1955).
Raymond Burr played Police Inspector Anthony (Tony) Pope. Burr was covered in Episode 115 – The Blue Gardenia (1953). Fay Wray played the wife of the Inspector, Alice Pope Wray was covered way back in Episode 1 – King Kong (1933).
Royal Dano played Police Capt. Charlie Alidos, the heir apparent to the Inspectors job. Dano was covered in Episode 15 – The Undefeated (1969).
One of my favorites, Jay Adler, played Mr. Nalence. Adler was covered in Episode 38 – 99 River Street (1953).
Stuart Whitman had a teeny tiny role as a Laboratory Technician. Whitman was covered in Episode 16 – Night of the Lepus (1972).
Sterling Hayden played Police Lt. Bill Doyle. Hayden is the real deal as you will see momentarily. Hayden was born in Mount Clair, New Jersey in 1916. He grew up living along the eastern seaboard. He attended prep school at Wassookeag in Maine. At the age of 17, he ran away to the sea. He worked a variety of jobs including ship boy, dory man, seaman, and fireman. By 19, he was captaining his own ships. During this time, he sailed around the world several times.
Around 1940, at the urging of his friend, Hayden met with producer Edward H. Griffith and eventually signed with Paramount. His first two films, Virginia (1941) and Bahama Passage (1941) came out prior to World War II. However, Hayden joined the forerunner of the OSS to be a commando and later joined the Marines under an assumed name.
It wasn’t for the above that I said he was the real deal. It is because during World War II he ran Nazi blockades to smuggle guns to Yugoslavian partisans and parachuted into Croatia for commando work. That’s real Guns of Navarone (1961) stuff!
Following the war, Hayden went back to acting. He had briefly been associated with the Communist Party and he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and named names. He is said to have regretted this deeply.
He made so many great movies and I will try to hit a few of the highlights. He played Dix in The Asphalt Jungle (1950), the tale of a robbery gone horribly wrong, he was the sheriff in Suddenly! (1954) where three assassins hold a family hostage as they wait to kill the president, he was Johnny Clay in The Killing (1956), another robbery that goes horribly wrong, of course, he was Gen. Jack D. Ripper, the person that started all of the trouble in Dr. Strangelove (1964), he was Police Capt. McCluskey before Michael Corleone killed him in The Godfather (1972), and he was to play Quint in Jaws (1975) but was stopped for tax reasons. Oh, by the way, I skipped all of the westerns.
His last acting was as abolitionist John Brown in “The Blue and the Gary” mini-series 1982. Hayden died of cancer in 1986.
Virginia Grey played wife Sara Alidos. Grey was born in LA in 1917. Both of her parents were in the movie business and she started acting at the age of 10 in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927). She did a few movies, stopped for a few years, and then returned for adult roles. She worked her way up with bit parts as dancers and such until she was regularly working in B-movies. Some of her better-known films are Another Thin Man (1939), All That Heaven Allows (1955), The Rose Tattoo (1955), and The Naked Kiss (1964). Her last acting role was on television in 1976. She died in 2004 at the age of 87.
Gail Bonney was cast as Mrs. London. Bonney was born in Ohio in 1901. She had almost 200 roles in film and television, however, she is best known for Crime of Passion (1957), Fly Saucer Daffy with the Three Stooges, and Herbie Rides Again (1974). You remember Herbie, the love bug, a Volkswagen Beetle with a personality. She died in 1984 at the age of 81.
At the San Francisco Post newspaper reporter Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) is a super star However she clearly doesn’t get the respect she deserves. Her editor Mr. Nalence (Jay Adler) sends her to report on the search for female murderous, in the Dana case. At the same time, he manages to insult her copy and has no regard for her time.
The reporters wait at the police station but the two Los Angeles detectives that have come down for the case don’t treat the reporters with the respect they are used to receiving. Police Capt. Charlie Alidos (Royal Dano) and Police Lt. Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden) come in and tell the reporters that they will give them something when they pick the suspect up. Kathy, not one to be pushed around, says they have a job to do as well. Alidos says her job should be cooking supper for her husband. She locks eyes with Doyle after the insult.
She takes the insult from the LA cops as a challenge. She begins writing letters in the newspaper to the murder suspect, one woman to another. Mr. Nalence doesn’t even listen when she presents her copy. A montage, beginning with Doyle, then women in all conditions, are shown reading the paper and feeling great sympathy.
Before long she gets the call from the murder. She calls Alidos and Doyle and tells them she has been contacted. Alidos comes in with a heavy-handed attitude and threatens to have Kathy arrested. Kathy gives him a fake address and Alidos leaves Doyle behind to watch her. Doyle is a lot nicer. Kathy tells Doyle that she gave a fake address and says he can have the arrest himself. Doyle is a straight arrow and immediately calls Alidos back. Doyle and Kathy start doing a little flirting and find out that each other is single. He asks her out to dinner and she happily accepts because he is a manly man.
A dinner that night Kathy says she has no interest in getting married. When Doyle tries to find out why she says the police mind is working. He denies this but she confirms that the policeman may be off duty but his mind is always looking for crime.
A shot of two candle flames shows how hard the pair is falling. The couple stays together right up to the point the two policemen load Dana on the airplane for Los Angles. Doyle says murder starts down in the heart and not the head. Before they part, Kathy says she likes him, he is a nice guy, and he probably won’t get very far.
Sometime later, Kathy quits her job for a new one in New York. She really gives Mr. Nalence the business about disrespecting her work. On the way out, she gets a call from Doyle. He says he can have her ticket re-routed so she can visit him in Los Angles before she goes to New York. They meet at the airport and in the next clip, they are getting married by a justice of the peace. Alidos is at the wedding as is his wife, Sara (Virginia Gray).
Doyle takes his new bride to their modest house in the valley. I guess that’s where the karate kid lived later. Kathy then starts questioning Doyle about who he is. You know the kind of stuff you talk about on a second date. Kathy says she is devoted to taking care of Doyle and keeping him happy. They go into the bedroom and the screen fades to black. I noticed there is a picture of “The Flower Carrier” by Diego Rivera in the bedroom. This picture was on the wall in the movie In a Lonely Place (1950). Popular picture?
Doyle gives Kathy a tour of the police station including a mention that Inspector Pope is the big cheese. She files all the information for later use.
Next Kathy and Doyle host a party for the police squad and their wives. The men and women are separated and the comments of the women are banal. Oh, he’s a wonderful man, oh the chief likes him so much, and a lot of kissing up to Sara Alidos. The men are meeting in the kitchen and all of the talk is about retirement and pensions. When Kathy tries to join the only slightly more stimulating conversation, her remarks are ignored.
Later Kathy and Doyle meet for lunch. Doyle sits down and tells how he broke a case. No sooner does he finish talking than a detective comes to get him because Inspector Pope called Capt. Alidos and Alidos didn’t know about it because it was another’s work. They demand Doyle report immediately to Alidos, Kathy is left alone.
They have another party and the ladies are clustered around tiny sandwiches while the men play poker. Sara cannot keep from mentioning her and her husband’s relationship with Inspector and Mrs. Pope. All of the other ladies’ gush at the friendship. Alidos is even the boss of the men at the poker table. Back with the women, Kathy hears about a news story where Alidos was praised by Inspector Pope for the case that Doyle solved. When she hears Sara and Alidos are going to the Pope’s anniversary dinner, she can’t stand it anymore and runs out sick.
Later that night Doyle wakes up and Kathy is sitting in the dark smoking. Sounds like a plan is being hatched! She rages at Doyle when he tries to help. She hates her new life as a mindless housewife and her husband being a suck up to his boss. She screams about his lack of ambition.
Next Alice Pope (Fay Wray) walks out of her large house and drives away. Kathy watches from a car parked across the street. The next day the same thing. It’s good advice to avoid patterns, as it protects against assassins. On the third day, same thing but this time Kathy swerves in front of Alice and crashes her own car into a pole. In the post-accident briefing, the presently shaken Kathy mentions where her husband works. Alice picks up the bait and they become friends.
This gets Kathy and Doyle an invitation to the anniversary party. Sara can’t stand that they are there and Alidos knows they have been out maneuvered. Kathy is left along with Inspector Tony Pope (Raymond Burr). Since the police mind is always working, he questions her about why she was on this side of town when she was heading downtown. He tells her not to answer and says he will save that question for later. Tony really likes her because she is sharp and because reporters and detectives do the same work. Except for the guns.
Alice and Kathy are BFFs and are hanging out. Alice mentions that she has not been feeling well and she and Tony are going to Palm Springs for his birthday weekend. Kathy inserts herself as host for a surprise party before the trip. She calls all of the important people on Alice’s list and starts making her ins. Her big break comes when Sara Alidos calls to invite Doyle and Kathy to rideshare to the desert birthday party. Sara finds that Kathy and Doyle weren’t invited. Kathy knows that party has been canceled. She doesn’t mention that the party has been moved to Saturday in town. Kathy only asks Sara is she can change her plans. Lying by omission.
At the party, Kathy reports to Alice that Sara just said she couldn’t change her plans. Kathy is the hit of the party and is meeting all of the right people. Kathy ends up outside with Tony and he sees right through her trick with the Alidos’. Tony says a woman like her needs more. He tells her about a special file he has with “Strange Offenses.” She meets Tony at his office and loves reading the file. She gets closer to Tony. Tony says he and Kathy are the same type of person. She says she is looking for an escape “from time to time.” Is this the beginning of the affair? It not really clear. Maybe they are kindred souls.
Later back at Kathy and Doyle’s house, Doyle tells how Alidos has been riding his butt for every little thing. She tells him she wants him to quit Los Angeles and go to Beverly Hills where it is easier. He agrees to do it.
At lunch the next day, Doyle says he tried to resigns but Tony asks him to talk it over with Kathy and he is thinking about making Doyle his assistant. In his new job, Doyle is traveling all of the time. I guess Kathy is spending more time with Tony, but this is not shown. Kathy is shown laying a note out on the dresser. It never tells if she wrote it or if it was real. But she clearly set it out for Doyle to find. She pretends to be asleep.
Doyle is happy to be home but when he finds the note he goes nuts as the note says she has been running around with Tony. Kathy finally lets out that the note came from Sara Alidos. Doyle storms down to the station and bust in the room where Alidos and two other detectives are sitting working on a case.
When Doyle storms into the room, Alidos goes for his gun. Doyle smacks him in the face and the gun comes out during the fight. The other two detectives break up the fight. Doyle makes a threat of murder before he leaves.
Tony calls all of the men in the next morning. Alidos is marked up pretty good. Tony controls the testimony in favor of Doyle. When the detectives say Alidos was reaching for his gun, it all goes against Alidos. Tony asks Alidos why he would expect Doyle to attack him and he is stumped for an answer. Doyle talks to Tony in private and tells about the note but not Tony’s involvement. Tony brings Alidos back in and says he will drop the issue.
A paper is then shown that has Alidos being assigned to another division and Doyle has taken over Alidos’ job as chief of Central Homicide.
Sometime later, Kathy is at home alone. A car pulls up and the doorbell rings. Tony is at the door. She makes him a drink and asks what’s wrong. He says Alice is ill and is in the hospital. Tony says Alice can’t take the pressure much longer. The doctors say she needs a complete release from tension. So, do I! Tony says he is going to retire and spend a few good years with Alice because he owes her that much. Kathy is worried about her scheme. She moves in and nominates Doyle for the job. Tony says he might be a choice. She then jumps on him and lip locks him.
Kathy calls Alice at the hospital. She finds out that Alice and Tony are leaving next week. By the way, she is in the largest hospital room ever, complete with a sitting chair and table. Kathy then calls Tony and tells the operator she is his wife. He has not been accepting her calls. He says he will meet her in a bar.
Tony comes into the bar where she is waiting. He says he doesn’t feel good about what he did because of Doyle. He says Doyle is not ready the job and he is not putting him in. He is selecting Alidos, who now hates Doyle. She fades into a hazy drunken stupor. The way it is shot, I’m not even sure Tony showed up.
Later she is preparing breakfast for Doyle and she is in a snot. That night he and Kathy go to the fights but she is not being any fun. He gets a call and has to go into work. Kathy comes into the police station with Doyle. The detectives have two hop heads that have been robbing drug stores. There are two guns on the evidence table. Doyle goes into the interrogation room and Tony comes by and ignores Kathy. She snatches one of the guns off the evidence table. Bad chain of custody. Doyle has to stay so Kathy says she will drive herself home.
She drives straight to Tony’s house and when he drives in she follows him to the house. He gives her a hard brush off and she starts yelling so he lets her inside. She begs for some justification for herself. He calls her out on causing the car wreck and beginning the whole thing. When she has had enough, she pulls the gun and shoots him through the head. She drives home, just beating Doyle there. When he pulls up, she strips and jumps in bed.
Before long the body of Tony was discovered and Doyle was called back out. The couple passionately kiss before he leaves. Doyle puts everybody on 24-hour duty until Tony’s killer is found. Kathy hears the news of the killing on the radio.
The ballistics technician (Stuart Whitman) shows Doyle a photograph of the bullet that killed Tony. Doyle takes the photograph and commits it to memory. He calls Kathy and she pretends to have just heard. Doyle tells Kathy to go stay with Alice and she looks as if this is the first time she remembered Alice.
Doyle wakes on the couch and seems to know the truth. He goes back to the lab and shows that the gun used in the drug store robbery is the same one that killed Tony. When he goes to the property room there is only one gun in inventory and it is not the one that killed Tony. Doyle grills the arresting officers and the desk sergeant. They don’t have any answers. Doyle has another aha moment.
Doyle drives back to the house where Kathy is waiting. He asked her what she did with the gun and she replies I love you. She then confesses to the murder. She rages and says she killed Tony because he wouldn’t promote Doyle. He says he is the same cop.
Doyle drives her to the station and walks her to the booking desk.
This movie was the last of many Film Noirs for Barbara Stanwyck and Raymond Burr. They both left the genre on top. Stanwyck at 50 moved to television as did Burr.
World-Famous Short Summary – I love you, cutie, but police work is my duty
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Beware the moors