Initial DVD release
February 19, 2002
December 28, 1945 (1945-12-28) (US)
La Chienne 1931 novel and play by Georges de La Fouchardiere (novel) Andre Mouezy-Eon (play)
Georges de La Fouchardiere (novel), Andre Mouezy-Eon (novel), Dudley Nichols (screenplay)
Edward G. Robinson(Christopher Cross),
Joan Bennett(Katharine 'Kitty' March),
Dan Duryea(Johnny Prince),
Margaret Lindsay(Millie Ray),
Jess Barker(David Janeway),
Rosalind Ivan(Adele Cross)
Act of Vengeance,
A Walk Among the Tombstones,
The GREAT STARS and DIRECTOR of
Cashier and part-time starving artist Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson) is absolutely smitten with the beautiful Kitty March (Joan Bennett). Kitty plays along, but shes really only interested in Johnny (Dan Duryea), a two-bit crook. When Kitty and Dan find out that art dealers are interested in Chris work, they con him into letting Kitty take credit for the paintings. Cross allows it because he is in love with Kitty, but his love will only let her get away with so much.
Scarlet Street is a 1945 American film noir directed by Fritz Lang about a middle-aged painter who is seduced by a woman and paints her a portrait, only to come across that shes a criminal and using him for his money and fame. based on the French novel La Chienne ("The Bitch") by Georges de La Fouchardiere, that previously had been dramatized on stage by Andre Mouezy-Eon, and cinematically as La Chienne (1931) by director Jean Renoir.
The principal actors Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea had earlier appeared together in The Woman in the Window (1944) also directed by Fritz Lang.
A man in mid-life crisis befriends a young woman after rescuing her from an attack. She believes he is rich and her boyfriend persuades her to con him out of his fortune.
Christopher "Chris" Cross (Edward G. Robinson), a meek, amateur painter and cashier for clothing retailer, J.J. Hogarth & Company, is feted by his employer, honoring him for twenty-five years of dull, repetitive service. Hogarth presents him with a watch and kind words, then leaves getting into a car with a beautiful young blonde. Walking home through Greenwich Village, Chris muses to an associate, "I wonder what its like to be loved by a young girl." He helps Kitty (Joan Bennett), an amoral fast-talking femme fatale, he sees apparently being attacked by a man, stunning the assailant with his umbrella. Chris is unaware that the attacker was Johnny (Dan Duryea), Kittys brutish boyfriend, and sees her safely to her apartment building. Out of gratitude and bemusement, she accepts his offer for a cup of coffee at a nearby bar. From Chriss comments about art, Kitty believes him to be a wealthy painter, adding, "To think I took you for a cashier."
Soon, Chris becomes enamored of her because he is in loveless marriage and is tormented by his shrewish wife Adele (Rosalind Ivan), who idealizes her former husband, a policeman who apparently drowned while trying to save a woman. After Chris confesses that he is married, Johnny convinces Kitty to pursue a relationship in order to extort money from Chris. Kitty inveigles him to rent an apartment for her, one that can also be his art studio. To finance an apartment, Chris steals $500 in insurance bonds from his wife and later $1000 from his employer. Meanwhile, Johnny unsuccessfully tries selling some of Chriss paintings, attracting the interest of art critic David Janeway (Jess Barker). Kitty is maneuvered by Johnny into pretending that she painted them, charming the critic with Chriss own descriptions of his art, and Janeway promises to represent her. Adele sees her husbands paintings in the window of a commercial art gallery as the work of "Katherine March" and accuses him of copying her work. Chris confronts Kitty, who claims she sold them because she needed the money. He is so delighted that his paintings are appreciated, albeit only under Kittys signature, that he happily lets her become the public face of his art. She becomes a huge commercial success, although Chris never receives any of the money.
Adeles supposedly dead first husband, Higgins (Charles Kemper), suddenly appears at Chriss office to extort money from him. He explains he had not drowned but had stolen money from the purse of the suicide he tried to save. Already suspected as corrupt for taking bribes from speakeasies, he had taken the opportunity to escape his crimes and his wife. Chris let Higgins into his wifes room ostensibly so he could get the insurance money from his death but did so when she was asleep in the room, reasoning that his marriage will be invalidated when his wife sees her still-living first husband. Believing he can then marry Kitty, he goes to see her but finds out that Kitty has cheated on him. He later confronts Kitty, but still asks her to marry him; she scoffs him of him being old and single and that she refuses to marry him. Enraged with humiliation, he murders Kitty with an ice-pick. Police come to see Chris at his job, but it is not for the murder but his earlier embezzlement. Although his boss refuses to press charges, Chris is fired. Johnny is accused, convicted, and put to death for Kittys murder, despite his attempts to implicate Chris. At the trial, all of their deceptions work against Johnny, and Chris denies painting any of the pictures. Chris goes unpunished but Kitty is erroneously recognized as a great artist. Haunted by the murder, Chris attempts to hang himself. Although rescued, he is impoverished with no way of claiming credit for his own paintings and tormented by thoughts of Kitty and Johnny being together for eternity, loving each other.
The film made a profit of $540,575.
Bosley Crowther, The New York Times critic, gave the film a mixed review. He wrote, "But for those who are looking for drama of a firm and incisive sort, Scarlet Street is not likely to furnish a particularly rare experience. Dudley Nichols wrote the story from a French original, in which it might well have had a stinging and grisly vitality. In this presentation, however, it seems a sluggish and manufactured tale, emerging much more from sheer contrivance than from the passions of the characters involved. And the slight twist of tension which tightens around the principal character is lost in the middle of the picture when he is shelved for a dull stretch of plot. In the role of the love-blighted cashier Edward G. Robinson performs monotonously and with little illumination of an adventurous spirit seeking air. And, as the girl whom he loves, Joan Bennett is static and colorless, completely lacking the malevolence that should flash in her evil role. Only Dan Duryea as her boy friend hits a proper and credible stride, making a vicious and serpentine creature out of a cheap, chiseling tinhorn off the streets."
A review in Variety magazine included: "Fritz Langs production and direction ably project the sordid tale of the romance between a milquetoast character and a gold-digging blonde...Edward G. Robinson is the mild cashier and amateur painter whose love for Joan Bennett leads him to embezzlement, murder and disgrace. Two stars turn in top work to keep the interest high, and Dan Duryeas portrayal of the crafty and crooked opportunist whom Bennett loves is a standout in furthering the melodrama."
The film critic at Time gave Scarlet Street a negative review describing the plot as cliched and with dimwitted, unethical, stock characters.
In 2008, Scarlet Street was nominated for AFIs Top 10 Gangster Films list.
More recently, critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "Scarlet Street is a bleak psychological film noir that has the same leading actors as his [Langs] 1944 film The Woman in the Window. It sets a long-standing trend of a criminal not punished for his crime; this is the first Hollywood film where that happened...The Edward G. Robinson character is viewed as an ordinary man who is influenced by an evil couple who take advantage of his vulnerability and lead him down an amoral road where he eventually in a passionate moment loses his head and commits murder. Chriss imagination can no longer save him from his dreadful existence, and his complete downfall comes about as the talented artist loses track of reality and his dignity."
In 1995, Matthew Bernstein wrote in Cinema Journal: "The film is a dense, well-structured film noir and has been analyzed and interpreted numerous times. Some of the earliest interpretations came from censors in three different cities," adding:
On January 4, 1946, the New York State Censor Board banned Scarlet Street entirely, relying on the statute that gave it power to censor films that were "obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, sacrilegious" or whose exhibition "would tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime." As if in a chain reaction, one week later the Motion Picture Commission for the city of Milwaukee also banned the film as part of a new policy encouraged by police for "stricter regulation of undesirable films." On February 3 Christina Smith, the city censor of Atlanta, argued that because of "the sordid life it portrayed, the treatment of illicit love, the failure of the characters to receive orthodox punishment from the police, and because the picture would tend to weaken a respect for the law," Scarlet Street was "licentious, profane, obscure and contrary to the good order of the community." ... Universal was discouraged from challenging the constitutionality of the censors by the protests of the national religious groups that arose as the Atlanta case went to court.
ReferencesScarlet Street Wikipedia
Scarlet Street IMDb Scarlet Street themoviedb.org