GenreCrime, Film-Noir, Drama ScreenplayCharles Schnee CountryUnited States
Release dateJuly 28, 1949 (1949-07-28) (United States) Based onthe story "Smashing the Bookie Gang Marauders"
by John Bartlow Martin WriterJohn Bartlow Martin (story), Charles Schnee (screenplay) CastVan Johnson (Mike Conovan), Arlene Dahl (Gloria Conovan), Gloria DeHaven (Lili), Tom Drake (Det. 'C.C.' Gordon), Leon Ames (Capt. A.C. Forster), John McIntire (Det. Fred Piper) Similar moviesDead & Nowhere, Man of Violence
TaglineBe there when it happens!
Scene of the crime trailer 1949
Scene of the Crime is a 1949 film noir directed by Roy Rowland and starring Van Johnson, Arlene Dahl, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake and Leon Ames.
Lieutenant Mike Conovan (Van Johnson), head of an LAPD homicide detective squad, investigates when Ed Monigan, an older member of his squad (and former partner), is murdered while off-duty and carrying $1,000 in cash. Conovan's current partner and one-time mentor, Fred Piper (John McIntire), is getting on in years and his eyesight is failing, while under Conovan's wing is rookie detective "C.C." (for "carbon copy") Gordon (Tom Drake), learning the ropes.
Out to dispel a theory that Monigan was secretly in cahoots with bookmakers, Conovan begins to track down a pair of downstate criminals ("lobos") known as the "Royalty Brothers." The trail leads to a stripper, Lili (Gloria DeHaven), whose ex-boyfriend Turk Kingby (Richard Benedict) has apparently pulled off a series of robberies of gamblers with his partner Lafe Douque (William Haade). Conovan's primary informant, Sleeper (Norman Lloyd), is brutally murdered for snitching. Conovan tracks down Lafe and places him under arrest, but leaving Lafe's apartment, gunshots ring out, killing Lafe. Conovan is convinced by his wife Gloria (Arlene Dahl) that police work is too dangerous. He agrees and tenders his resignation.
Lili calls headquarters with a tip for Conovan on where Turk can be found. Piper intercepts the message, investigates it himself and is gunned down. Conovan concludes that Lili has been double-crossing him, secretly helping Turk all along. Over the objections of his wife, he gets his old job back with the police force. Turk and his new partner attempt to flee, but Conovan sets up an ambush. He uses a truck to crash into Turk's armor-plated car, causing it to catch fire. Turk confesses to the murders and clears Monigan before he dies.
According to film critic Dennis Schwartz, the film is one of "few film noirs attempted by MGM. It came when Dore Schary was the studio head and insisted on producing more realistic films. This is a transitional film from the 1930's gangster film and a forerunner of the modern day TV cop show. It preaches the credo that 'Crime Does Not Pay.'"
According to MGM records the film earned $968,000 in the US and Canada and $423,000 overseas resulting in a profit of $151,000.
Schwartz like the film, writing, "It is directed in a workman like efficiency by Roy Rowland (Rogue Cop) ... It's filmed Dragnet style, following ordinary police procedures in solving the case. The film had a violent conclusion, which underscores the dangers of being an urban cop. It portrayed the hard-working policemen in a sympathetic light and showed how they are often misunderstood by the public and betrayed at times by reporters who are eager to grab the headlines and run with them even though they don't have all the facts. Mike comes out as a good cop, but is disillusioned by his low pay and all the pressures from home, the job and its politics, and from an unappreciative public."
Edgar Allan Poe Awards: Edgar - Best Motion Picture; 1950.