Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: "Crossfire" is a Timeless Social Film (Remembering Robert Ryan)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 123 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Crossfire (1947)
Running time: 86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Edward Dmytryk
WRITER: John Paxton (based upon the novel The Brick Foxhole by Richard Brooks)
PRODUCER: Adrian Scott
EDITOR: Harry Gerstad
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Paul Kelly, Sam Levene, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, George Cooper, George Cooper, William Phipps, Tome Keene (as Richard Powers), Lex Barker, and Marlo Dwyer

The subject of this movie review is Crossfire, the 1947 Film-Noir drama and murder mystery from director, Edward Dmytryk. The film earned a best picture Oscar nomination, the first B-movie to receive that honor. Crossfire is based upon Richard Brooks’ 1945, The Brick Foxhole, which dealt with the murder of a homosexual victim. The victim in the film is Jewish.

Edward Dmytryk’s film Crossfire is an excellent crime drama about murder that resulted from unchecked bigotry. The filmed earned five Oscar® nominations including nods for “Best Picture,” and “Best Director.” In the film, police Captain Finlay (Robert Young) is trying to solve the murder of Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene), a man who befriended a group of soldiers at a bar. At first glance, the perpetrator would seem to be the drunk and depressed Cpl. Arthur Mitchell or “Mitch” (George Cooper), as his friends call him. However, Finlay and an Army Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) believe Samuels was murdered because he was Jewish, so they set about trying to sniff out the anti-Semite who really committed the crime.

The film is very entertaining, and is also a quite-effective mystery. The characters, even the bit players, are excellent, engaging, and intriguing. Robert Ryan earned an Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance as the slyly genial, yet menacing Montgomery. Quite a bit of the credit for this film’s success must be given to the John Paxton’s adaptation of Richard Brooks’ novel. Paxton’s script (which changed the novel’s murder victim from a gay man to a Jewish man) is filled with witty and effective dialogue, most of it brief, yet efficient enough to color and to establish even the smallest character parts.

Dmytryk, a master film craftsman, gives the entire work a finish and polish that makes the film’s defects charming rather than distracting. Crossfire is a movie that has stayed with me, and I often find myself, for a few moments, remembering it.

8 of 10

1948 Academy Awards: 5 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Robert Ryan), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Gloria Grahame), “Best Director” (Edward Dmytryk), “Best Picture” ((RKO Radio), and “Best Writing, Screenplay” (John Paxton)

1949 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Film from any Source” (USA)

1947 Cannes Film Festival: 1 win: “Best Social Film” (Edward Dmytryk)


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