Tag Archives: Edward G. Robinson

Scarlet Street

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SCARLET STREET is a dark, grimy film noir which ranks alongside DOUBLE INDEMNITY as a prime cinematic example of the destructive power of desire. This picture is the first of the recently purchased Edward G Robinson box set I’ve got round to watching, I have to say, the print is verging on terrible but it’s paradoxically refreshing to see a battered, scratchy old transfer on DVD. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely watchable and you really get that Sunday afternoon, independent cinema double bill feel from it. Putting this picture on Blu-Ray would be like putting brown sauce on a perfectly cooked fillet steak.

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Robinson plays the part of Christopher Cross (Chris Cross to his friends) who is a middle aged, straight laced cashier in the local bank. The picture opens with a dinner in his honour to celebrate 25 years of loyal service. It’s this opening that really took me aback. Here we see the usually wooden tough Robinson in the role of an obviously timid, obedient, white collar employee. It’s really something to see, and you can! Have a look at the aforementioned scene below. Fritz Lang introduces the film wonderfully, the table full of sycophantic employees roaring at JJ’s (the boss) jokes, the pan to reveal Robinson receiving the watch, the emotional track in to the gently uncomfortable acceptance speech….. It’s just great.

Cross’s night is going well until he happens upon a chance meeting that changes his life forever. As is so often the case in film noir (and in life itself perhaps) its bad luck and a “dame” that provides the catalyst for that change. Leaving the party, the ever sweet Cross offers to walk a friend to the bus stop in the rain, on leaving his friend he sees a girl being roughed up by hoodlum and charges over to her assistance. It’s this meeting, this dame in this street that means life will never be the same for Cross.

The girl is Kitty March played by Joan Bennett, a cool, deeply calculating “broad” who’s love for the loathsome but slightly unconvincing Johnny Prince (played here by Dan Duryea) leads her to befriend the instantly besotted Cross and start bleeding him for cash. The scene below shows Cross coming to Kitty’s rescue and the establishing of their budding relationship in a local bar. It’s an incredible important scene as Cross, in an attempt to impress the girl, makes himself out to be an artist rather than a lowly bank cashier. It’s this lie that proves to be the seed of Cross’s undoing. …

Kitty, under Johnny’s vile instruction, starts giving Cross sob stories about having no money and needing a place to stay. Cross buys it but, not being the successful artist he’s made himself out to be, steals the money from the bank safe to finance his lies, and his lust.

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Cross gets his fingers in the till.

There’s a nice bit of back story in this picture that focuses on Cross and his relationship with his wife, Adele Cross (played by Rosalind Ivan) who berates and torments him at every opportunity. Cross has been truthful with Kitty in that he does practise painting but his seemingly amateurish attempts are scorned upon by his bulldog spouse relentlessly. There’s also the hilarious hugely oversized painting of Adele’s dead husband that hangs in their lounge that cross constantly finds himself measured against…. He isn’t half the man he was!

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Chris Cross and “the wife”

Cross rents and apartment for Kitty to live in that also provides him some studio space. One afternoon, Johnny steals a couple of paintings and gives them to a street vendor to sell on, thinking they’ll make a couple of bucks. In true Hollywood style, a prominent art dealer just happens to walk by and spot Cross’s work. Hailing it as genius he hunts down Johnny who passes the work off as Kitty’s…. Cross paint’s them, Kitty signs em’. Amazingly, when Cross finds out their scam he’s happy to go along with it, this is only because he’s been led to believe that Johnny and Kitty are not an item and that the possibility of him and Kitty being together is very much alive. Coming home early one night however, the truth of their relationship and their deception is revealed leading to a violent, depressing, haunting end. These are the pictures that make film noir such a great genre to watch. Hollywood wasn’t concerned about delivering happy endings and thus you end up with some of the most truthful stories ever committed to celluloid.

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Cross breaks

The film is fairly easy to pick up on DVD; I suggest owning it rather than watching the whole thing on youtube. It’s a great picture to watch when you’re looking for confirmation that the world is completely rotten.

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Bargain Therapy

It’s been a strange and none too pleasant couple of days.

My daughter Lauren and I were in HMV this afternoon, buying a birthday present for a friend of mine when I found a little gem that has gone some way to lifting my spirits. Browsing the shelves for something interesting I could call a gift, a plain white box with plain black lettering and a Hollywood legend’s face shown in close up without any decoration came into view. It was THE EDWARD G ROBINSON COLLECTION, 3 discs for a mere £10.

Not bad I thought…. It was on discovering what 3 films were contained within that the excitement kicked in.

First up is:


THE RED HOUSE, Delmer Daves (1947)

I’d been looking for this film since seeing it referenced in the essential Martin Scorsese documentary A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES and was finding it impossible to source, that is until the good people at Elstree Hill Entertainment saw fit to put this neat little set together. My only previous exposure to director Delmer Daves has been the excellent DARK PASSAGE which “stars” Humphrey Bogart, although you don’t actually see his face until half way through the film. It had got the point where I was going to watch THE RED HOUSE in it’s entirety on Youtube, which should always be the last resort, and only employed by people doing serious time in jail with no access to a decent selection of DVD’s.


SCARLET STREET, Fritz Lang (1945)

I know very little about this picture other than it’s a remake of Jean Renoir’s LA CHIENNE, which I’ve also not seen. I’ve done a little research and there seems to be a raft of opinion that this is one of Robinson’s finest performances. This coupled with Fritz Lang at the helm should make this interesting viewing. Talking of Fritz Lang, I read a while ago that the lost sections of METROPOLIS had been found in the archives of a tiny cinema in Argentina. Exciting stuff as, for the time, METROPOLIS is genuinely stunning.


THE STRANGER, Orson Welles (1946)

This is Welles’s third feature (discounting JOURNEY INTO FEAR) following CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. It was apparently his first commercial success with Robinson again turning in a fine performance. The synopsis makes for interesting reading…
“Wilson of the War Crimes Commission is seeking Franz Kindler, mastermind of the Holocaust, who has effectively erased his identity. Wilson releases Kindler’s former comrade Meinike and follows him to Harper, Connecticut, where he is killed before he can identify Kindler. Now Wilson’s only clue is Kindler’s fascination with antique clocks; but though Kindler seems secure in his new identity, he feels his past closing in”

……. So. Daves, Lang and Welles for only a tenner. Maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

4 Days Away With Wilder

Just back from the rural residence of friend and director Jamie Stone where a vast amount of quality time was spent creating minescapes that, quite frankly, will look ace on 16mm. What’s great about being in Torrance is that after a hard days graft, the crew eat a tremendous meal together then congregate in the lounge to watch a film on the projector….. forget plasma, PROJECTION is where it’s at, a true cinema experience. Anyway, one night everyone else had gone to bed and, being only 11pm, I decided to take in another flick. The choice was inspired, Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944). I’ve seen this film many, many times on dvd but never on such a big scale, it was trully amazing. The film stars Fred McMurray as Walter Neff, an insurance salesman who falls for his clients wife, the cold, steely Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyk. Edward G. Robinson is his usual fantastic self as Barton Keys, the bloodhound claims manager who can smell a bogus claim a mile off.
What’s great about this movie is you find out who the killer is within the first few minutes, there’s no great reveal at the end of the picture, no massive finale. The journey this film takes you on however is one of the greatest in cinema. How far will a guy go to get the girl? How evil can the lure of the dollar make people? If you’ve got an interest in discovering film noir, there’s no better place to start.

This clip that shows the first meeting between Walter Neff and Phyliss Deitrichson, I love the dialogue especially, why can’t you get away with it in real life?…….