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Another Sadly Missed Type Of Movie.
jpdoherty20 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
RKO's "Out Of The Past" (1947) is regarded by many as the finest Noir ever to come out of Hollywood. But CROSSFIRE, made just prior to it the same year, was a fair contender for that coveted title. Produced by Adrain Scott for RKO, the recognized home of Noir, it was magically photographed in beautifully defined black and white by J.Roy Hunt. Written for the screen by John Paxton from a novel by Richard Brooks it was stylishly directed by Edward Dmytryk and was fleshed out with an imaginative cast headed by the three Roberts - Young, Mitchum and Ryan plus Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene and Paul Kelly.

A Jew (Levene) is murdered in a hotel room by anti-Semitic GI Montgomery (Robert Ryan) leading to pipe smoking detective Robert Young investigating three soldiers who are suspects. Interestingly, in the original novel it is a homosexual that is murdered, but in 1947 homosexuality was very much a taboo subject to put on the screen so the murder victim was changed to be Jewish. The change had little effect on the story's impact for it is still a dynamic and potent drama.

CROSSFIRE is not only a fascinating well produced motion picture but it also has a fascinating look to it. Taking place entirely at night the deserted dark wet streets, filmed with a bug-eyed lens, together with the shadow filled interiors make for some of the most startling and vibrantly shot sequences ever seen in pictures. Also, though it is sparsely scored by RKO's resident Noir composer Roy Webb there is a thundering and punchy Main Title and a reflective love theme. Webb must have been saving himself for his masterpiece "Out Of The Past" which would come later that year. Also heard in the night club scenes in CROSSFIRE is the great New Orleans trombonist Kid Ory (1886/1973) And His Creole Jazz Band (uncredited) playing some wonderful jazz numbers. And later in Grahame's apartment Ory can be heard again on the radio playing the marvellous Jelly Roll Morton composition "Whinin' Boy Blues" which lends a persuasive atmosphere to the drab surroundings.

Performances are generally good! Robert Young is excellent in what is probably his best remembered role as the detective. But disappointing and wasted is Robert Mitchum! He doesn't really have very much to do in what amounts to nothing more than being cast in a sombre and subdued role. The acting honours however must go to Robert Ryan's blistering performance as Montgomery the violent Jew hating GI. His sneaky and scary portrayal deservedly earned him an Acadamy Award nomination. Also effective is Sam Levene as Samuels the ill-fated Jew and Gloria Grahame as the girl in the night club who picks up the naive George Cooper. And watch out too for a young Lex Barker in one of his first film appearances.

Not as good as the magnificent "Out Of The Past" that came later that year but still an engrossing and tight little thriller from that once great RKO studio in Hollywood who produced exceptional movies that we can never forget and which now, sadly, Hollywood itself seems to have forgotten.
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Fascinating Noir with a dynamite cast.
Infofreak24 July 2003
'Crossfire' is a very interesting movie. It begins like a murder mystery, but it becomes obvious very quickly who the murderer is, and the plot becomes more concerned with his motive. And it is his motive which makes the movie so interesting. 'Crossfire' is a "message" movie but it is also a cracking good drama, and that's what I enjoyed about it. Plus the cast is dynamite - Roberts Preston, Mitchum and Ryan, and the beautiful Gloria Grahame ('In A Lonely Place'). Mitchum doesn't have a big a role as you might expect (the movie was released the same year as 'Out Of The Past' in which he gives a much more substantial performance), but he's always great to watch, and Robert Ryan ('The Wild Bunch') steals the movie as a very nasty piece of work. I find many 1940s romance and comedy movies to be too corny for my taste, but the crime movies are much more to my liking. They are usually grittier and more realistic, and 'Crossfire' is a great example of this. Highly recommended.
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A gem from the past
insomnia21 July 2003
'Film Noir' is a much-used (and misused), catch phrase, coined to describe

Hollywood films of the forties and fifties. These films were invariable in black and white (hence the paucity of such films on Australian commercial TV), and shot on tiny budgets in a matter of a few weeks. The plots are generally formulaic. Someone is murdered, someone else will be framed for that murder, and a

'dame' figures somewhere in the proceedings. "Crossfire" is low budget, and shot in black & white: admirably so by J. Roy Hunt. And yes, there's a 'dame' involved. What sets "Crossfire" apart from most of the other films of that era, is that it's not just another murder mystery, however well executed. This is a film about

religious intolerance. That people are killed is but the flesh on the bones of a film about (without preaching), racial vilification. The director, Edward Dmytryk was a fine, and now, a sadly neglected director. He knew how to work within the confines of the studio system, and turn out a

quality film like "Crossfire" The original thrust of the films' message, was, apparently, about homophobia. This upset the Hays Office. and religious

persecution was substituted instead. There is not a wasted frame in this picture. It runs a taught 86 minutes. For my money, Robert Young, who plays the detective charged with solving who

murdered whom, and why, is a standout. This in face of an understated Robert

Mitcham, and a powerful performance by Robert Ryan as the psychotic

Montgomery - think of his role as Claggart, in the film "Billy Budd". Believe me when I say that it was truly refreshing to see a film (thank god for late night TV), where the actors can act, the dialogue is intelligent, and where

computer graphics and special effects were not used as a substitute for plot
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"The best years of our lives"turned film noir.
dbdumonteil15 September 2002
SPOILERS Not only does this movie boasts three Roberts,but it also possesses all that makes a film noir great:a murky sticky atmosphere, a fine supporting cast , a lot of characters we remember even if they appear on the screen barely fifteen minutes(Gloria Grahame and her husband for instance).The first scene sets the tone:a murder ;we can only see the shadows on the wall.

Edward Dmytryk,whose career would dismally end (the likes of "Shalako") ,was here at the height of his powers:he films his story with a stunning virtuosity and there are unforgettable moments:the scene in the Jew's apartment seen thru the eyes of the drunken soldier;the way the director films brilliant Robert Ryan ,using dizzying high and low angle shots.He's arguably the stand-out and his performance is really spooky;the conversation during which you can only see Ryan's face in a mirror;all these stairs which seem to be death traps.

It seems that these soldiers can only survive in the dark:in the nightclubs,in Grahame's seedy apartment,in a movie theater.They are just about at breaking point,as if they had come from hell to wind up in another one.But one should notice that ,at least in the first half of the movie,their camaraderie,their solidarity remain intact:brothers in arms indeed;the police are the enemy.

Robert Young's cop is a thousand miles above your usual detective routine:the scenarists achieves the feat of including his own story (actually his grandfather)in this murder mystery.He really pleads for the right to difference:today the Jews,tomorrow the hillbillies from Tennessee ,then the guys with striped ties...His words have a contemporary feel:it's because they don't know the Jews,the fags (check the novel)that some people use them as scapegoats.

Robert Ryan's portrayal is one of the most frightening of all the film noir genre.It's interesting to compare his part with the one he plays in Robert Wise's "odds against tomorrow"(1959).In both movies ,his character is a racist or anti-Semite;in both movies no explanation.Ryan was known for his very liberal ideas,what a clever actor he was!
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A viewing treat
BruceCorneil19 July 2003
Definitely a "must see" for all fans of film noir.

Thanks to a fine script and crisp, razor sharp direction, a top cast comes together and works like a well oiled clock to produce a crackerjack psychological thriller. Wonderful characterizations articulate the movie's powerful message about the dangers of racial and religious intolerance.

It's difficult and almost unjust to single out any one, particular performance because there isn't a weak link in the entire company. But Robert Ryan as the hateful and violent white supremacist is truly spine chilling.

Making this film in the 1940s would have taken a lot of courage. Now,all these years later, at a time when contemporary movies are dominated by a ridiculous over abundance of foul language, bare breasts, crummy acting and deafening soundtracks, it's refreshing to get back to the basics of quality film making with a viewing treat like "Crossfire".

Another low budget gem from the Hollywood archives .
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Dmytryk transmutes message movie into stylish postwar thriller
bmacv25 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Taut and organically gripping, Edward Dmytryk's Crossfire is a distinctive suspense thriller, an unlikely "message" movie using the look and devices of the noir cycle.

Bivouacked in Washington, DC, a company of soldiers cope with their restlessness by hanging out in bars. Three of them end up at a stranger's apartment where Robert Ryan, drunk and belligerent, beats their host (Sam Levene) to death because he happens to be Jewish. Police detective Robert Young investigates with the help of Robert Mitchum, who's assigned to Ryan's outfit. Suspicion falls on the second of the three (George Cooper), who has vanished. Ryan slays the third buddy (Steve Brodie) to insure his silence before Young closes in.

Abetted by a superior script by John Paxton, Dmytryk draws precise performances from his three starring Bobs. Ryan, naturally, does his prototypical Angry White Male (and to the hilt), while Mitchum underplays with his characteristic alert nonchalance (his role, however, is not central); Young may never have been better. Gloria Grahame gives her first fully-fledged rendition of the smart-mouthed, vulnerable tramp, and, as a sad sack who's leeched into her life, Paul Kelly haunts us in a small, peripheral role that he makes memorable.

The politically engaged Dmytryk perhaps inevitably succumbs to sermonizing, but it's pretty much confined to Young's reminiscence of how his Irish grandfather died at the hands of bigots a century earlier (thus, incidentally, stretching chronology to the limit). At least there's no attempt to render an explanation, however glib, of why Ryan hates Jews (and hillbillies and...).

Curiously, Crossfire survives even the major change wrought upon it -- the novel it's based on (Richard Brooks' The Brick Foxhole) dealt with a gay-bashing murder. But homosexuality in 1947 was still Beyond The Pale. News of the Holocaust had, however, begun to emerge from the ashes of Europe, so Hollywood felt emboldened to register its protest against anti-Semitism (the studios always quaked at the prospect of offending any potential ticket buyer).

But while the change from homophobia to anti-Semitism works in general, the specifics don't fit so smoothly. The victim's chatting up a lonesome, drunk young soldier then inviting him back home looks odd, even though (or especially since) there's a girlfriend in tow. It raises the question whether this scenario was retained inadvertently or left in as a discreet tip-off to the original engine generating Ryan's murderous rage.
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A study of hate crime through the lens of film noir
imogensara_smith18 September 2006
As a rule, there are few things more dispiriting than Hollywood's attempts to be courageous. Mixing caution with heavy-handedness, "message movies" pat themselves loudly on the back for daring to tackle major problems. CROSSFIRE is not entirely free from this taint; it includes a sermon on the nature of senseless hatred that is embarrassingly obvious, assuming a level of naivity in its audience that's depressing to contemplate. As late as 1947, it was a big deal for a movie to announce that anti-Semitism existed, and that it was bad. (It was unthinkable, of course, for Hollywood to address the real subject of the book on which the movie was based—its victim was a homosexual.) Nevertheless, thanks to good writing and excellent acting, CROSSFIRE remains a persuasive examination of what we would now call a hate crime.

Postwar malaise was one of the major components of film noir, and CROSSFIRE addresses it directly. The film is set in Washington, D.C. among soldiers still in uniform but idle, spending their days playing poker and bar-crawling. Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), an intelligent and kindly Jew, explains that the end of the war has created a void: all the energy that went into hating and fighting the enemy is now unfocused and bottled up. Samuels meets three soldiers in a bar: the sensitive Mitchell, who is close to a nervous breakdown, the weak-willed Floyd Bowers, and Montgomery, a tall, overbearing bully who nastily belittles a young soldier from Tennessee as a stupid hillbilly. The three soldiers wind up at Samuels' apartment, where the drunken Monty becomes increasingly abusive, calling his host "Jew-boy." Samuels is beaten to death, and Mitchell disappears, making himself the prime suspect for the killing.

Unraveling the crime are Detective Finlay (Robert Young), dry and by-the-book, and Sergeant Keeley (Robert Mitchum), a thoughtful and experienced friend who knows Mitchell is incapable of murder. Among the pieces of the puzzle are Ginny (Gloria Grahame), a nightclub hostess who met Mitchell and gave him her apartment key, and Floyd (Steve Brodie), who as a witness to the crime holes up terrified in a seedy rooming house. While there is no real "whodunit" suspense, the story remains gripping, and the trap laid for the killer is extremely clever.

The strong noir atmosphere saves the movie from feeling didactic or sanctimonious. The cinematography is a striking shadow-play, with inky darks and harsh lights, rooms often lit by a single lamp filtered by cigarette smoke. World-weariness is as pervasive as noir lighting. "Nothing interests me," Finlay says quietly; "To nothing," is Ginny's toast in the nightclub. Gloria Grahame, the paragon of noir femininity, nearly steals the movie with her two scenes. Platinum-blonde, jaded and caustic, she's the quintessential B-girl, poisoned by the "stinking gin mill" where she works ("for laughs," she says bitterly), her sweet face curdling when Mitchell tells her that she reminds him of his wife. Now and then a wistful kindness peeks through her defensive shell, as when she dances with Mitchell in a deserted courtyard, then offers to cook him spaghetti at her apartment. When he goes there, he meets a weasely, crumple-faced man (Paul Kelly) who seems to sponge off Ginny, and whose conversation is a dense layering of lies and false confessions. Gloria blows Mitchell's good-girl wife off the screen in a scene where she's asked to give Mitchell an alibi. Slim and frail in her bathrobe, with her girlish lisp, she lets us see just how often Ginny has been insulted and dismissed as a tramp.

Robert Young is a nondescript actor, and he stands no chance against Mitchum's charisma, but he does a good job of keeping his pipe-smoking character, saddled with delivering the movie's earnest message, this side of pompousness. Mitchum, meanwhile, gets some cool dialogue, but not nearly enough to do; still, even when he's doing nothing but lounging in a corner you can't take your eyes off him. The third Robert, Ryan, creates a fully shaded and frighteningly convincing portrait of an ignorant, unstable bigot; we see his phony geniality, his bullying, his resentment of anyone with advantages, his "Am I right or am I right?" smugness; how easily he slaps labels on people and what satisfaction he gets from despising them.

CROSSFIRE's message seems cautious and dated now, though not nearly so much as the same year's A GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT. Finlay's speech about bigotry cops out by reaching back a hundred years for an instance of white victimhood, reminding us that Irish Catholics were once persecuted; next it could be people from Tennessee, he says, or men who wear striped neckties. Or maybe blacks, or Japanese, or homosexuals, or communists? The script seems afraid to mention any real contemporary problems. It sweetens its message by making the Jewish victim saintly, as though his innocence were not sufficient; and it takes care to exonerate the military, having a superior officer declare that the army is ashamed of men like Montgomery, and stressing that Samuels served honorably in the war. Still, it did take some guts to depict, immediately after World War II, an American who might have been happier in the Nazi army, and the movie's basic premise is still valid. If Monty were alive today, he would have gone out on September 12, 2001, and beat up a Sikh.
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Murder and Prejudice
claudio_carvalho24 September 2013
In the Post WWII, Police Captain Finlay (Robert Young) investigates the murder of the Jewish Joseph "Sammy" Samuels (Sam Levene) in his apartment after a beating with his team. Out of the blue, soldier Montgomery "Monty" (Robert Ryan) comes to the apartment and tells that three soldiers – Corporal Arthur "Mitch" Mitchell (George Cooper), soldier Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie) and himself – had been in the apartment drinking with Sammy, and Mitch would have been the last one to leave the place. Finlay finds Mitch's wallet on the couch and he becomes the prime suspect.

Finlay visits Sergeant Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) and he tells that his friend Mitch is a sensitive artist incapable to kill a man. Keeley decides to investigate the case to protect and clear the name of his friend. When Keeley discuss the evidences with Finlay, the captain concludes that Mitch did not have the motive to kill Sammy, who was a stranger that he met in a bar. Now Captain Finlay has another suspect and he decides to plot a scheme to expose the assassin.

"Crossfire" is a great film-noir, with top-notch director (Edward Dmytryk) and cast with three Roberts - Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Robert Young; excellent story of murder and prejudice; magnificent screenplay that uses flashbacks to disclose and solve the mystery; and very impressive quotes. The theme – hatred against Jews – is unusual and this is the first time that I see a film-noir with this type of sordid story (and without the femme fatale). My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Rancor" ("Rancor")
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Redefining the Enemy
PlutonicLove21 April 2004
Unlike most film noir, Edward Dmytryk's Crossfire, adapted from a novel by Richard Brooks, is not nearly as concerned with its murder mystery, which, at first sight, might seem superficially formulaic to the casual viewer, as it is with the complex motives of its characters and the oppressive ambience of its accurately rendered post-WWII setting, evoking feelings of disorientation, loneliness and entrapment. Under its classic noir exterior, it is about hardened and aloof veterans' struggle with postwar reintegration, utterly unable or unwilling to put their traumatic experiences behind them, and about their desperate attempt to redefine their goals. For those who define themselves by who their enemies are, such as hateful loner Montgomery (the brilliant Robert Ryan), this necessitates establishing a new one, a role filled here by Jewish intellectual Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), who becomes the regrettable victim of a senseless hate crime.

At first the film appears to simply be going through the motions: After the ambiguously shot opening murder scene all evidence points, for reasons I cannot presently remember, to Corporal Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper). Captain Finley (Robert Young) investigates and is soon joined by the idealistic Sergeant Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum), who is certain of Mitchell's innocence. Two minor military characters, Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie) and Bill Williams (Richard Benedict) are also somehow involved. Monty murders the former, while the latter, after a stern, Hugh Beaumontesque talking-to, reluctantly aids Finley and Keeley in setting a trap for the dastardly ne'er-do-well. Or perhaps it was the other way around -- I watch so many movies that Bowers and Williams might as well have been stranded in the South Seas and mistaken for Gods by the natives. Or, possibly, they have to spend a night in a haunted house before they can claim their inheritance, where they find a monkey that can play baseball and helps the local team win some games. At any rate, there's also the obligatory femme fatale Ginny Tremaine (Gloria Grahame) and a compulsive liar (Paul Kelly, delivering a wonderful performance) who might or might not be her husband, and exists mostly for local color and comic relief.

However, the real meat of the piece is the complex characterization of the veteran archetypes. Mitchell, for instance, suffers from a classic case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (often also referred to as `shell shock,' `war neurosis' or `combat stress') and, like many suffering from this condition, is taunted and branded as a coward by his fellows. He has become utterly self-loathing and fears the return to normalcy. The scene in which is wife finally gets him to confront these fears and enables him to return to her (and his art) is one of the film's many highlights. Then there's Peter Keeley, perhaps the most positive military archetype on display here: the natural born leader. He is extremely charismatic and persuasive, has great concern and compassion for his fellow soldiers, and manages to bring out these qualities in others. It is Keeley's considerable understanding of both human nature and his compatriots' dilemma that makes him so valuable to Captain Finley, the only other character of equivalent moral fiber. Their polar counterpart is Montgomery, a sadistic, racist bully who vents his frustrations by mocking and humiliating his fellow men. Left without an enemy, he creates elaborate rationalizations to justify his hate for a substitute. This really could be the member of any marginally different group (in the novel, I am told, the victim is a homosexual), but in this case it happens to be a Jew. While one's initial reaction might be that Montgomery obviously fought on the wrong side during the war, it is important to remember that, at the time, anti-Semitism was far from limited to Nazi Germany. Indeed, after World War One, the financial and societal crisis of the Great Depression caused anti-Semitism to reach its zenith, and violent attacks on Jews were quite commonplace in many major cities. Later, the U.S. refused entry to countless German-Jewish refugees, interpreted by Hitler as a clear sign of approval for his Final Solution.

Still, as Captain Finley correctly points out, practically anyone would have done as a victim for someone like Montgomery.
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Cradle Of Fear.
Spikeopath10 February 2009
A man by the name of Joseph Samuels is found brutally murdered in his apartment. It would appear that Samuels was visited by a group of drunken soldiers the previous evening, and with one of them seemingly missing, the evidence certainly implicates the missing soldier. But as detective Finlay digs deeper into the case he finds that they could be barking up the wrong tree, and that this crime is dealing with something desperately sad and vile - anti-Semitism.

Crossfire was born out of the novel written by Richard Brooks, adapted by John Paxton and directed by the shrewdly excellent Edward Dmtryk. Crossfire (originaly titled "Cradle Of Fear") is a taut and gripping picture that boldly tackles anti-Semitism. Though the makers were forced to tone down the story from the original source, the novel is about homosexual hatred as opposed to anti-Semitism, what remains, largely due to RKO supremo Dore Schary and producer Adrian Scott, is a sort of creeping unease that drips with noirish style.

The cast features three Bob's, Young, Mitchum and Ryan, with noir darling Gloria Grahame adding the emotional female heart. Though only third billed, it's Robert Ryan's picture all the way, his portrayal as the bullying, conniving Montgomery is right from the top draw and perfectly showcases the talent that he had in abundance. Ryan had good cause to give Montgomery some of is best work for he had served in the Marine's with Richard Brooks himself, both men having discussed the possibility that if the novel was to be made into a film, then Ryan wanted in and to play Montgomery. Thus the genesis of Ryan's career as weasel types was well and truly born!

Gloria Grahame also puts in a wonderful and heartfelt turn, which is all the more remarkable since she was being plagued by her abusive husband at the time, one Stanley Clements. He was known to be violent towards her and his constant presence around the set irked other members of the cast, but Grahame, probably channelling real life emotion, became the character of Ginny and shone very bright indeed. Both Bob Mitchum and Bob Young come out with flying colours as well, to really seal the deal on what proves to be a smartly acted picture.

Crossfire was released before the other 1947 anti-Semitic picture, "Gentleman's Agreement", and raking in over a million and a quarter dollars at the box office, some of its thunder was stolen by the Academy Award winning picture from Fox Studio. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ryan), Best Supporting Actress (Grahame), Best Director and Best Screenplay, it won nothing. Yet critics of the time hailed it as a brilliant shift in American Cinema, and today it stands tall, proud and dark as a bold and excellent piece of work. 8.5/10
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Good movie, could have been great
Putzberger3 May 2009
"Crossfire" feels like an underdeveloped masterpiece -- it's well acted and beautifully filmed, but thinly written and way too short. As is, it's just a decent police procedural with hints of film noir (at its zenith in 1947) and social commentary (also trendy at the time) thrown in for good measure. It's remembered today as one of the first two Hollywood films to deal with anti-Semitism, and as being much better than the similarly-themed "Gentleman's Agreement" (no mean feat). But its real subject is the difficulty that WWII soldiers, as trained killers, were having as they made the transition to civilian life. (For a more genteel take on this topic, try "The Best Years Of Our Lives.") A man is beaten to death in the first few frames of the film. We do not see his attacker. The movie is about the investigation of this murder, which is actually pretty straightforward, but it takes some unnecessary detours, like when the main suspect, a depressed soldier, winds up in the apartment of Gloria Grahame, a dance-hall hooker with a really weird pimp played by Paul Kelly. There's also a civics lecture halfway through the movie that slows the proceedings to a crawl, and the ending is tidy enough for a cop show. But otherwise it's a pretty decent mystery. Still, what a great noir it could have been. Director Edward Dmytryk drops a few hints at the subject of the original novel -- homosexuality, not anti-Semitism -- like when sadistic creep Monty seethes at the image of his friend Mitch talking with a strange man at a bar. And the cast is excellent. Robert Ryan makes for a very credible cretin, and even becomes a little sympathetic in his final scenes, not unlike Peter Lorre as the child murderer in "M." He deserved an Oscar but lost to Edmund Gwenn that year (you can't beat Santa Claus). Robert Mitchum is onhand as a soldier friend of the accused killer. Was Mitchum a great actor or a great star? Someone else can figure that out, but his sleepy eyes and bemused half-smile work very well here since they imply that his character knows something everyone else doesn't. (And he does.) And Robert Young, as the detective assigned to the murder, is surprisingly gritty, discarding his usual avuncular affability even when he has to deliver the civil-rights sermon midway through the picture. There's no question that Bogart or Tracy would have been brilliant in the role, but neither of them were at RKO in 1947 so you'll just have to deal with Dr. Welby. Still, Young is good enough to make you wish someone had cast him in a detective drama instead of "Father Knows Best," which he hated and which drove him to alcoholism and suicide attempts. The man deserved better than smarm and Sanka.
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The depth of Robert Ryan's acting
shrine-216 January 2000
Edward Dmytryk directed this shadowy movie about a murder investigation involving demobilized military personnel. Robert Young gets to lecture us about hatred, Robert Mitchum walks through most of this picture, and Gloria Grahame revisits the feistiness she exhibited in "It's A Wonderful Life." It's Robert Ryan who gets at the heart of the matter: anti-semiticism. He goes so deep into his role as Monty Montgomery (Imagine parents named Lawrence calling their son Larry!), that the drama sits squarely on his shoulders, and he is more than up to the challenge. Without him, the movie would be commonplace. Ryan has played a number of memorable villains in his day ("Bad Day at Black Rock;" "Billy Budd"), but this performance put him on the map. With Sam Levene as the murder victim.
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Great Message, Great Symbolism, Very Good Movie
secondtake2 July 2009
Crossfire (1947)

Great Message, Great Symbolism, Very Good Movie

It's hard to go totally wrong with Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, and Robert Ryan all together as the three male leads, and with director Edward Dmytryk pulling together a complicated murder and detective yarn. That's reason enough to watch it once and even twice.

You might need a second look to fully catch the plot as it is explained (too much) or shown in flashback (also too much) because it's a little complicated without good reason. But it makes sense overall, and we see early on (too early probably) who the culprit is, and even why.

Besides the drama, well done in typical noir lighting and filled with those short quips that make post-war films dramatic, there is the social message, the anti-anti-Semitic point of it all. It only borders on preachy once or twice, and it's such an obviously good point to make we watch it being made approvingly and wait for the plot and the dramatic acting to take front row. Which they do, especially Young, who is a brilliantly laconic and patient detective, and Ryan, who is mean in a believably crude and angry way (Ryan is good at that, his typecasting reasonable). Mitchum mostly plays a watered down version of what he is famous for, and the fourth known acting force, Gloria Grahame, is a great, brief, presence even if slightly dispensable.

Though the movie is dominated by the sequence of events and by the message, both of which grow in force as we go, it is really easy to watch just for the lighting, camera-work, and acting, including the classic fight scene that opens the first few seconds of the film, all done with shadows.

The archetypes of soldiers presented is very deliberate, and this might be something people at the time were very familiar with and could relate to as much as the anti-Semitism thread. The shell-shocked soldier rendered helpless (but still intrinsically capable), the modest youngster without confidence (but capable, too), and the weary but outwardly able veteran are all there. And of course, the angry, violent soldier who is a product of the war, too. This last is also a responsibility of society--even the army goes all out to make good on the injustices here, not just because they are criminal, but because they stem from the wear and tear of a long awful war.

The audience then, more than now, could really get, but it's there to appreciate still.
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Powerful, well-made but a little overstated
preppy-311 April 2001
A bigoted soldier kills a man for being Jewish and tries to pin it on a fellow soldier. Not as good as the novel it was based on ("The Brick Foxhole") in which it was a gay man who was killed...but Hollywood wouldn't touch that in 1947. That said, it's still a very good film. The anti-Semitism is handled very well, but it's hammered into the audience that bigotry is bad...well duh! But this was 1947. The picture is well-acted by the entire cast (especially Robert Young and Robert Ryan) and the tone is very it should be. Very atmospheric too. A deserved big hit in its day...well worth seeing.
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alankohn@erols.com12 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Crossfire's discomforting feel and subject matter are most convincingly brought forth by the Rashomon-like dedication to subjectivity that we see in the film's first half. By the time that we are sure of the murderer's identity, the film has evolved into straight narrative, which is perhaps required for the film's message of desire for brother/sisterhood to be successfully transmitted.

Most intriguingly moody was the character Mitchell, whose victimization - marked by post-War disorientation, loneliness, and uncertain marital relations - stood out from that of his fellow soldiers. No wonder that the film's initial victim, a veteran whose murder the story was built around, was able to break through Mitchell's fog and help him verbalize his sense of bewilderment.

I found Robert Young's detective to be keen, aware of his own weaknesses and strengths in his job, as dedicated to his work (and keeping his pipe lit) as the servicemen were to theirs (although in the film's Washington DC, cops and MPs were the heavies, always keeping an eye on the soldiers who were just marking time, no longer having anything positive to contribute to society.)

Crossfire moved along at a steady pace, never rushed. The editing was pleasingly crisp, notably superior to most films of it genre, with superb matched action shots. Long takes and invisible camera movement were successfully employed during lengthy monologues.

Whatever the relationship might have been between Paul Kelly's character, Mr. Tremaine, and Gloria Graehme's Ginny, his inventions made for comic relief.

SPOILER: Mitchell is hiding out in a movie theater, sitting in the last row of the balcony. His face is blank, lifeless, uninterested in the cinema, with its sweet orchestral soundtrack. Unbeknownst to Mitchell, his wife climbs the balcony steps, seeking him out. The music builds to a crescendo as Mrs. Mitchell approaches her husband. He turns to screen left, his face revealing surprise and a never before seen smile as he sees her. The two embrace wordlessly as the music reaches its peak intensity. One soundtrack joins two levels of film. Masterful.
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One of the finest film noirs ever made
grasshopper5420 July 2000
I can't begin to put into words the effect that this film has. It is superbly done and has a dynamite cast featuring the three Roberts, Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan and the incomparable Gloria Grahame, possibly the most beautiful woman on the planet in 1947. Many think that the movie "Gentlemen's Agreement" was the first to address the problem of anti-semitism, but few realize that "Crossfire" came first. It is a classic example of the dark, sullen, shadowy and gloomy atmosphere that film noir is noted for. It is riveting from beginning to end and worth watching again and again. Grahame appears only briefly, but her performance as Ginny Tremaine leaves the viewer clamoring for more of this lethally beautiful woman. It is a must see for all fans of film noir.
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Pretty Good Noir.
rmax30482311 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I haven't read the source, Richard Brooks' novel "The Brick Foxhole," which I hope is not as infelicitous as its title, but I understand the original villain was a homophobe not an anti Semite. (And to be honest, Sam Levene is written as a gay guy who picks up a drunken soldier.) But, okay, you have to go with the flow. Consider 1947. Not even anti-Semitism has been treated on screen yet. Many of the people responsible for contemporary movies were themselves Jews but anti-Semitism had been verboten for years because it was considered unpleasant. So we can hardly blame the makers of this film for not leaving the victim a homosexual. Now that's REALLY unpleasant -- and besides there might have been many among the audience rooting for Robert Ryan to get away with it. We are by no means free of prejudice but we've still come a long way since 1947.

Watching this again for the first time in years I was impressed with the rather slow pace of the first half of the movie, the many shots of two people talking, the shadows, the time that passes between the question and the answer, the uninspired editing. But I could live with that because of the film's subject matter and because of a few other things.

One of the things that keep me glued to events as they unfold so deliberately is Robert Ryan's performance. The guy does a splendid job. At times he can seem thoughtful, cheerfully subordinate and helpful to the police -- "Any way I can help, yes sir." Then, alone or with another soldier, the simmering hatred rises to the top, not so much through what he says but the way he LOOKS. That scowl, that penetrating stare, those dark eyes glittering. Wow.

The film has taken a lot of heat because of Robert Young's preachy speech about his Grandfather's murder. That doesn't bother me at all, although I guess Dmytryk didn't have to have Young shove his face into the camera while talking about "MICKS and PAPISTS". Still, taking the context into account, it's one of the more shocking moments of the film. Part of its impact is due to Young's almost casual delivery of the message, and part of it is due to the message's not having been heard on screen before.

Another feature of the film that transforms it almost into the surreal is the Paul Kelly character and his relationship to the whore Gloria Grahame. Holy Guacamole, what elliptical conversation Kelly is given to. "You know what I told you? All those things I just told you? They're all lies." His character neatly crosses pathos with creepiness. It's impossible to know what to make of him. He adds virtually nothing to the plot but the movie would be a lot less without his presence.

It's a moody, murky film. Its people live in the dark. And there is murder afoot. Practically no one screams or shouts. The horror that these men have experienced and that some of them still carry with them like malaria seems just beneath the surface.

See it if you have a chance.
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Truly Strange, Brilliantly Acted and Fascinating
trpdean4 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
**** SPOILERS THROUGHOUT **** This is a very strange film - particularly for its time - in every respect. For six years, American movies had shown American soldiers as everybody's son, brother, father.

In movies like The Best Years of Our Lives and Til the End of Time, our hearts are tugged by the difficulty that the sweet returning soldiers have in adjusting to peace and their families. Yet in this same year, this film shows soldiers as a mix of people rather worse than the viewer - one message of this film is - "lock up your daughters."

Even the good soldiers - with plenty of time on their hands - are gambling all the time, getting stupefyingly drunk, and are wholly indifferent to whether they even have wives any more. And their reaction to the police investigating a murder is -- to conspire against them.

Mitchum, the most sympathetic soldier says things like "I don't know if my wife wants to make a go of it now after the War. Haven't seen her in two years. Do I care? Not really. Maybe we'll make a go of it, maybe not."

Another soldier is shown as unusually sensitive because after years away, he would like to see his wife again.

Later, when this soldier states at the police station that he spent the evening at a whore's home - without knowing his wife is sitting just behind him, there seems to be no question whatever that his wife will be fine. Indeed, she is - I guess it's "Hey, soldiers will be soldiers".

The police detective played by Robert Young who is trying to crack a murder case, states convincingly and with infinite weariness about someone's account of their actions on the night in question,

"Do I care? No. I don't really care about anything any more. I've done this too long, I guess."

A man shows up at the whore's apartment. He says "I'm just a man like you, interested in" the whore. Then he says, "No that's a lie, I'm her husband. I'd like to be in the military, I was turned down before." T

hen he says, "No, that's a lie, why would I want to be a soldier?" He goes through another series of lies when the police ask him who he is. To the end of the movie, we haven't a clue who he is or why he is there!He's one of the strangest characters in the history of movies!

A man stands with his girlfriend at a bar talking to four soldiers, when a clumsy soldier knocks a drink onto his girlfriend. She leaves to change her dress - and is right back wearing another, no problem. Yet the man doesn't leave with his girlfriend - who simply disappears - but instead follows one of the soldiers when he leaves to go to another area of the bar! The man then extrapolates from the minimal information he's learned about the soldier -- to philosophize grandly about the problems of returning soldiers -- and immediately invites the soldier home because he is drunk and feels sick. This is strange stuff.

Similarly, a dance hall girl is irritated by the sentimental soldier who would like to take her out "for a real dance - and dinner maybe". Yet she does dance with him - and immediately gives him the key to her home!

Were people in the late 1940s always urging soldiers to come to their homes after they just met them?

Robert Ryan kills his host, a stranger, when he's enraged that the Jewish host tries to get the steadily drunker Ryan out of his home. The reason for the murder? "No Jew tells me how to drink". "How to drink?" Huh? What does that mean?

This movie is always off-kilter, quite deliberately so - the soldiers act consistently with total complete defiance of the law, and all the characters are as cold and tough as any movie I've ever seen.

And yet the movie is utterly gripping! You simply have no idea how these people are going to act - or what new bizarre character is going to pop up - without anyone thinking the person's actions are strange in the least - e.g., the wife's behavior.

The acting is about the finest I'e ever seen - from Robert Young, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame (who earned an Oscar nomination), Paul Kelly and other actors I'd never heard of.

I'd never heard of this movie - and it's a complete delight that I've discovered one that I shall want to see again and again and again. it's really strange but impossible to look away from because you've no idea what these creatures will do next.
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One of the Greatest Film Noire Films!
bsmith555217 July 2005
"Crossfire" is remembered not so much for the fact that its three stars all had the first name "Robert" but as being one of the first Hollywood films to deal with anti-semitism.

The story opens with the murder in silhouette of a man whom we later learn is a Jewish man named Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene). Pipe smoking police Captain Finlay (Robert Young) is assigned to the case. An ex-soldier, Montgomery (Robert Ryan) comes upon the murder scene and we learn through flashback that he had met Samuels in a bar along with other soldiers who were in the process of being mustered out of the service following WWII.

According to Montgomery, he and pal Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie) had followed Samuels and Cpl. Arthur Mitchell (George Cooper) to Samuels' apartment for drinks. Montgomery tells Finlay that Mitchell left the apartment first and that he and Floyd followed soon after with Samuels still alive and well.

Unable to locate Mitchell, Finlay suspects him of the murder. He enlists Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) to help him locate Mitchell. Mitchell meanwhile has been wondering the streets in a dazed state. He meets prostitute Ginny (Gloria Grahame) in a bar and strikes up a friendship. She gives him a key to her apartment and he goes there to rest. Unexpectedly a man (Paul Kelly) turns up looking for Ginny. Mitchell, still in a daze, leaves and goes back to meet Keeley and his pals. Keeley manages to keep him from the police and hides him in an all night movie house.

From Mitchell's perspective we learn that Montgomery hates jews and is probably the killer. Finlay begins to focus his investigation on Montgomery trying to prove his guilt. He arrangers to have one of the soldiers, a kid named Leroy (William Phipps) set a trap for Mongomery.

"Crossfire" is considered to be one of the best of the "film noire" genre. In fact it garnered several Academy Award nominations including Ryan and Grahame for best supporting actors. It was made on a modest budget in about three weeks.

It has all of the elements of classic "film noire", the shadows, low key lighting and the story playing out mostly at night. The requisite "femme fatale" of the piece is Grahame's Ginny who plays a minor role but is nonetheless your classic "femme fatale". The unnamed character played by Paul Kelly (in an excellent bit) has been chewed up and spit out by Ginny and was she about to do the same to Mitchell?

Robert Ryan steals the picture as the brutal Montgomery although it would type cast him in similar roles for years to come. Robert Young makes a good low key detective but Robert Mitchum has little to do other than befriend the Mitchell character. Others in the cast are Jacqueline White as Mitchell's wife, Lex Barker (who would go on the following year to play "Tarzan") as one of Mitchum's soldier pals and Richard Powers (who was previously known as Tom Keene) as Finlay's assistant.

Director Edward Dmytryk would shortly run afoul of The House Un-American Committee as having communist affiliations and spend a couple of years in jail.
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Corrosive Nature Of Hate
bkoganbing8 September 2008
Crossfire is one of those films from the Forties that is crying for a remake, if for no other reason than maybe it's time it should be done as originally written. The story on which the film is based is about the killing of a gay man. But anti-Semitism was certainly a hot topic in the days of post World War II with the holocaust fresh in everyone's mind.

In the Lee Server biography of Robert Mitchum, Edward Dmytryk the director was interviewed and and bluntly said that the film could never have been made about a hate crime against gays at the time with The Code firmly in place. It could have been though because the character of Robert Ryan is such an equal opportunity hater of everything that deviates from his societal norms.

Mitchum was told in no uncertain terms that he was in the film strictly for the ride. Robert Young was cast as the Washington, DC Police homicide captain who catches the case and while Mitchum was second billed, he knew from the beginning the film would belong to Ryan. But he was RKO's new star by dint of his performances in The Story Of GI Joe and Till The End Of Time so he was there for box office insurance. Mitchum's part was as a sergeant and friend of the original suspect in the case, George Cooper.

Crossfire is not a whodunit, even though we don't see the crime it becomes clear that Montgomery is the one who kills Sam Levene, the quintessential Jewish salesperson. And it becomes clear to Young and Mitchum that Ryan is the guilty party almost as fast as it does to the audience. It becomes just a question of getting the evidence.

Ryan earned one of several Academy Award nominations the film garnered, his Best Supporting Actor category. Though he lost to Edmund Gwenn, the film was Ryan's breakthrough role. Similarly Gloria Grahame was nominated for a brief part as a party girl for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost to Celeste Holm for Gentleman's Agreement. In fact Crossfire ran up against Gentleman's Agreement and lost for Best Picture and Best director for Dmytryk to Elia Kazan. It's fifth nomination for Best Screenplay and Crossfire came up short again with the winner being Miracle on 34th Street.

Gloria Grahame also had her own problems on the set which spilled over from her personal life. She was having big trouble with her then husband Stanley Clements who was an abusive husband. He was hanging around the set causing Ed Dmytryk a lot of problems. Fortunately Grahame's part was a small one. In fact the whole film was shot in typical RKO economy style in 20 days.

Robert Young has a particularly fine scene with William Phipps a young kid from Tennessee in Mitchum and Ryan's outfit who Ryan constantly belittles. Young is most eloquent in speaking about the corrosive nature of hate and how it affected his family as Irish Catholics who came over in the potato famine years. It was one of Robert Young's best moments on screen in his long career.

As fine a film as Crossfire is, it's time to be remade as a story about an anti-gay hate crime. Especially with the real killing of Barry Winchell from the last decade and the debate about gays in the military.

That's a film who's time has come and almost gone.
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Fine socially conscious Noir
gortx28 July 2018
CROSSFIRE is an unusual film in that it is considered both a standard of the Noir genre, while also attaining mainstream success both critically and commercially, having been nominated for Five Oscars including Best Picture, Screenplay (John Paxton) and Director (Edward Dmytryk). Supporting performers Robert Ryan and Gloria Grahame were also nominated. The Academy Awards attention is more attributed to it's social consciousness than for its crime elements. Indeed, the Best Picture that very same year was the similarly themed GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT. The concept of a military murder has been the premise of a couple of later notable Academy Awards nominated pictures - Norman Jewison' A SOLDIER'S STORY and Rob Reiner's A FEW GOOD MEN. Make no mistake about it, topical subject matter or not, CROSSFIRE is a fine Noir - particularly the first hour or so which takes place over one long night. The set-up is simple enough as four friends, including Montgomery (Ryan) from military backgrounds go to a bar where they meet two strangers including Sam Levene (Joseph Samuels). As the bar scene winds down, a group of them split off and end up in a hotel apartment. One ends up dead. The police join the scene of the crime in the form of smooth detective Finlay (Robert Young). Questions are asked and not always directly answered. During the night, one of the soldiers Mitchell (George Cooper) wanders off and ends up in the arms of pay-per-dance bar girl Ginny (Grahame). Robert Mitchum plays Keeley, the roommate of the missing soldier, who also gets questioned. The long night sequence is Noir at its finest. Dark, smoky and full of a heavy atmosphere where the longueurs of the evening weigh heavily upon all the characters. Grahame's has a sort of admirer/stalker (Paul Kelly). He's not even given a name, just called "The Man" in the credits. But, Graham (in a star-making performance) and The Man are the kinds of peripheral characters that make great Noir so indelible. Bitter, despondent people with little to look forward to, let alone live for. When day breaks, a couple of problems arise with the film. The first is the long-held belief that the anti-Jewish motive for the killing is 'preachy'. One does have to keep in mind that prejudice was a touchy subject at the time. The novel (by acclaimed filmmaker Richard Brooks) the screenplay is based on actually had homosexuality as the motive - but, that was even more verboten a subject for the era. One can defend the prejudice angle while also wishing that it were presented more cinematically. As fine a performance as Young delivers, it does come off as speechifying. If screenwriter Paxton and Dmytryk had found a way to have woven that subplot into the the investigation scenes it would have flowed more organically and excitingly rather than just watching folks sitting in an office (plus, you have a fine actor like Mitchum basically just looking on and nodding - have him interact somehow). The even larger qualm is that the mystery to be solved isn't that thrilling. Brooks, Dmytryk et al. weren't trying to make the most intricate of murder plots, but, here, it's so obvious who did it that the last act of the movie drags a bit. Although, it must be noted that the final scene is quite well handled. Still, one can't help but feel that the spell cast by first hour of the film is broken by the daybreak (it would require a bit of a re-write, but, I'd love to see a version where the entire story takes place in that one night).

Flaws aside, CROSSFIRE is still a fine film. There is a reason it has become a touchstone of the Noir genre as well as a Best Picture nominee that has endured for over 70 years - something which can't be said about a lot of fellow nominees over the decades.
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Caught in the Crossfire
MarkJGarcia15 March 2010
A March 1947 New York Times article described Crossfire as one of the first Hollywood films of the 1940s to "face questions of racial and religious prejudice with more forthright courage than audiences have been accustomed to expect." While RKO was producing Crossfire, Twentieth Century-Fox was making Gentleman's Agreement, another story about antisemitism. RKO raced to beat the much "ballyhooed" Fox picture to the theaters, releasing Crossfire several months before Gentleman's Agreement. In July 1947, RKO screened Crossfire for representatives of various Los Angeles religious groups. In addition, several surveys, which were designed to gauge the audience's prejudices, were conducted before and after screenings of the film. Crossfire received both praise and criticism for its depiction of antisemitism in America and was the subject of many editorials. Crossfire received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, but lost to Gentleman's Agreement. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Robert Ryan), Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame), Best Director and Best Screenplay (Adaptation). In September 1947, Crossfire was named Best Social Film at Cannes. In December 1947, Ebony magazine, an African-American publication, gave the film its annual award for "improving interracial understanding." Loved this movie. If you get the chance to watch it, see it.
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Important film, important message
blanche-25 April 2009
"Crossfire" is a justifiably famous 1947 noir that's a murder mystery with a strong message. It stars Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Sam Levene, and Gloria Grahame, and is strongly directed by Edward Dmytryk. We witness the murder in shadow at the beginning, and for the rest of the film, Young, as the detective, Finlay, in charge of the case, seeks to figure out which of three soldiers is responsible for the death, and just as important, why. The victim, Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene) is someone the soldiers meet in a bar; they go up to his apartment to continue their visit, and Samuels winds up dead.

I don't know about 1947, but seeing "Crossfire" today, one knows who did it and why the minute we see the suspects. I don't suppose it was so apparent back then, as these actors were just getting started. Nevertheless, the film packs a big punch with its powerful acting, good direction, violence, and unsparing anti-Semite language.

The characterizations are vivid, including that of Gloria Grahame in a smallish role - she's a woman who meets Mitchell (George Cooper), one of the suspect soldiers, in a bar and can provide him with an alibi. The big performance in the film belongs to Robert Ryan, but everyone is excellent. Robert Young especially is effective as a tough but intelligent police detective. Mitchum is very likable as a soldier trying to help his confused friend Mitchell, a lonely man unsure if he still has feelings for his wife.

Truly excellent, and a must see.
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Really good. Impressed.
gazzo-217 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was also especially pleased to find Robert Young in the lead role, as the cool as a cucumber detective in this. He smokes his pipe, kinda looks down his nose at the perp, and then pulls out the evidence, generally to devastating effect. Having seen him mostly as either Marcus Welby, Sanka-man or Father Knows Best-I thought it was neat watching him play a very serious role in a convincing manner.

Robert Mitchum is alright, basically does an investigation and glowers and so forth. He's much better in this than he was in Racket-which was a rush job(and then some) that just didn't work. This one does.

Finally high marks to Robert Ryan(who was Also in the Racket). In that one, he over-acted. In this one, he plays against type as a racist violent man, and is positively scary. He was nominated for the Oscar that year and prob. shoulda won it. This was a good good actor.

***1/2 outta ****. Check it out.
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the 3 Roberts are tops!!!!
kidboots14 March 2008
My top 2 actors happen to be in this film - Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum.

Ryan could play anything from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller and play it magnificently. In this film when he starts his speech "...people with names like Samuels and others with names that are hard to say" - it is chilling to watch him.

Robert Young plays the policeman who is called to investigate the murder of Samuels (Sam Levine), a civilian, who is chatting with several soldiers in a bar. Mitchell is the soldier wanted in connection with it - his wallet has been found in the apartment. But Mitchell is a gentle soldier, who is only missing his wife.

The story is told from different perspectives. Mitchell and Samuels strike up a friendship and go back to Samuels apartment. Samuels seems to know the loneliness that Mitchell is feeling. "For years you have been concentrating on one peanut and now it is gone you don't know what to feel" he says about the war.

Ryan is superb as Monty, the psychotic racist.

Robert Young (along with Dick Powell) was an actor whose career was re-juvenated by film-noir. "Crossfire", "They Won't Believe Me" and "The Other Woman" are great examples.

Robert Mitchum is his usual laid back self as the philosopical Keeley.

Gloria Graham and Paul Kelly as the "odd couple" are outstanding as well in their brief but telling roles.

This is probably the best film about racism ever made.
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