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Caught in the CROSSFIRE (1947)


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I am very pleased that Dr. Goldman has selected Edward Dmytryk's CROSSFIRE as part of the Jewish Image Series on TCM. It will air on Tuesday September 23.

 

Here is a portion of the original review in Variety:

 

Crossfire is a frank spotlight on anti-Semitism. Producer Dore Schary, in association with Adrian Scott, has pulled no punches. Here is a hard-hitting film [based on Richard Brooks' novel, The Brick Foxhole] whose whodunit aspects are fundamentally incidental to the overall thesis of bigotry and race prejudice.

 

There are three Roberts (Young, Mitchum and Ryan) all giving capital performances. Young is unusual as the detective captain; Mitchum is the 'right' sort of cynical GI; and Ryan a commanding personality, in this instance the bigoted soldier-killer, whose sneers and leers about Sam Levene and his tribe are all too obvious.

 

The pic opens with the fatal slugfest in Levene's apartment, when his hospitality is abused and Ryan kills him. Director Edward Dmytryk has drawn gripping portraitures. The flashback technique is effective as it shades and colors the sundry attitudes of the heavy, as seen or recalled by the rest of the cast.

 

Crossfire. (1947). Variety Movie Reviews, (1), 14.

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Richard Brooks wrote the novel while he was in the Marines in WW2. He also directed the film.  The original story had a homosexual as the victim. But in 1947 the Hollywood Hays forbid the mention of any homosexuality, so the victim was changed to Jewish and antisemitism was the plot.This was the first "B" picture to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Ryan and Gloria Grahame also was nominated for best supporting and Director and screenplay was also named, but it lost out to another film that delt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

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I'm glad this one is coming up, it's been awhile. I remember liking Robert Young a lot, something a bit different for him as I remember, a laid-back police chief (a rarity for anyone) and though Gloria steals the show for female yumminess I do remember being somewhat smitten by the unknown Jacqueline White in a smaller role. Saying no more for the moment, it's quite murky and I need to watch again ... nice that threads like this start sufficiently in advance of the TCM showing. It is scheduled for the DVR.

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Richard Brooks wrote the novel while he was in the Marines in WW2. He also directed the film.  The original story had a homosexual as the victim. But in 1947 the Hollywood Hays forbid the mention of any homosexuality, so the victim was changed to Jewish and antisemitism was the plot.This was the first "B" picture to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Ryan and Gloria Grahame also was nominated for best supporting and Director and screenplay was also named, but it lost out to another film that delt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

 

How would Crossfire ever have been considered a "B" movie, given its cast and the obvious importance of its message?  If that's what it was, it certainly had more recognizable stars than any "B" movie this side of Three on a Match.

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I am very pleased that Dr. Goldman has selected Edward Dmytryk's CROSSFIRE as part of the Jewish Image Series on TCM. It will air on Tuesday September 23.

 

Here is a portion of the original review in Variety:

 

Crossfire is a frank spotlight on anti-Semitism. Producer Dore Schary, in association with Adrian Scott, has pulled no punches. Here is a hard-hitting film [based on Richard Brooks' novel, The Brick Foxhole] whose whodunit aspects are fundamentally incidental to the overall thesis of bigotry and race prejudice.

 

There are three Roberts (Young, Mitchum and Ryan) all giving capital performances. Young is unusual as the detective captain; Mitchum is the 'right' sort of cynical GI; and Ryan a commanding personality, in this instance the bigoted soldier-killer, whose sneers and leers about Sam Levene and his tribe are all too obvious.

 

The pic opens with the fatal slugfest in Levene's apartment, when his hospitality is abused and Ryan kills him. Director Edward Dmytryk has drawn gripping portraitures. The flashback technique is effective as it shades and colors the sundry attitudes of the heavy, as seen or recalled by the rest of the cast.

 

Crossfire. (1947). Variety Movie Reviews, (1), 14.

Thank you for the heads up. Sam Levene, an under-appreciated actor, is beyond excellent in this movie.

 

Robert Mitchum, whom I have enormous respect for - despite his yummy appeal, he was married to the same woman for 57 years, no Lee Marvin for him - was excellent.

 

Robert Ryan, it goes without saying, is always excellent. Robert Young, not always excellent, was excellent.

 

I don't usually swoon over such a male-centric movie, but this one actually could have been made better had Warren William and James Gleason been in it.

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Richard Brooks wrote the novel while he was in the Marines in WW2. He also directed the film.  The original story had a homosexual as the victim. But in 1947 the Hollywood Hays forbid the mention of any homosexuality, so the victim was changed to Jewish and antisemitism was the plot.This was the first "B" picture to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Ryan and Gloria Grahame also was nominated for best supporting and Director and screenplay was also named, but it lost out to another film that delt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

but it lost out to another film that dealt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

 

Did it really. What a shame. Crossfire was electric compared to the lukewarm water of G/A with my favorite block of wood, Gregory Peck.

 

Guess the Academy liked the yada yada yada blather-ness of G/A as compared to the in yer face-ness of Crossfire.

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Richard Brooks wrote the novel while he was in the Marines in WW2. He also directed the film.  The original story had a homosexual as the victim. But in 1947 the Hollywood Hays forbid the mention of any homosexuality, so the victim was changed to Jewish and antisemitism was the plot.This was the first "B" picture to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Ryan and Gloria Grahame also was nominated for best supporting and Director and screenplay was also named, but it lost out to another film that delt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

Thanks for the comments. Was it really a B film? It was definitely an RKO noir programmer. And I think it exceeded the studio's expectations, particularly in light of the Oscar nominations.

 

It will be interesting to hear Dr. Goldman's comments on CROSSFIRE, especially as it relates to anti-semitism substituting for homophobia in this picture.

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This was the first "B" picture to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Ryan and Gloria Grahame also was nominated for best supporting and Director and screenplay was also named, but it lost out to another film that delt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

 

Not the first time the better movie lost out.

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Thank you for the heads up. Sam Levene, an under-appreciated actor, is beyond excellent in this movie.

 

Robert Mitchum, whom I have enormous respect for - despite his yummy appeal, he was married to the same woman for 57 years, no Lee Marvin for him - was excellent.

 

Robert Ryan, it goes without saying, is always excellent. Robert Young, not always excellent, was excellent.

 

I don't usually swoon over such a male-centric movie, but this one actually could have been made better had Warren William and James Gleason been in it.

 

Yes,  great acting all around.    While I'm a hugh fan of MItchum I don't view Crossfire as a Mitchum film.   Yea, he is good in it,  but the other Bobs stand out more;  Young because he often gives flat performances and he doesn't in this one  and Ryan because this was one of the first hints of the Ryan noir persona that would dominates many future films.

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but it lost out to another film that dealt with the same subject, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck....

 

Did it really. What a shame. Crossfire was electric compared to the lukewarm water of G/A with my favorite block of wood, Gregory Peck.

 

Guess the Academy liked the yada yada yada blather-ness of G/A as compared to the in yer face-ness of Crossfire.

I like the fact that both films are airing back to back on TCM on the 23rd. We have GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT followed by CROSSFIRE.

 

In reality, CROSSFIRE came first-- a New York premiere on July 22, 1947 with nationwide release in August. GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT did not hit screens until November 11, 1947.

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Thanks, fredbaetz, for pointing out that Crossfire's original target for irrational hatred and prejudice was a gay man. 

You can tell, a little, in an early scene in which the Sam Levene character invites the young G.I to his apartment for a party. There's something a little off-kilter about the tone of this scene. ("Off-kilter" by 1947 standards, not today's, of course.)

Of course, the typical straight audience back then would likely not have picked up on this. 

 

Crossfire is a fine little semi-noir. ( I say "semi" because to me, it's more a post-war crime drama than a typical noir plot. But then, one could argue that most noirs were "post-war crime dramas". It just seems to me the focus is on that post-war alienation and angst, that "what do I do now?" feeling so many soldiers must have had, and of course, on anti-Semitism, than on the usual noir themes. But who cares? This is a quibble.)

I love that it has three -count 'em, three - big Roberts from that era in it. I don't mind Robert Young, and I'm besotted with Robert Mitchum. But the film belongs to Robert Ryan's explosive, furious, frightening portrayal of the bigoted and hate-possessed soldier Montgomery. 

 

Also, ya gotta love anything with Gloria Grahame in it. Although in Crossfire, I find the whole G.G. sub-plot confusing. What's going on with her and "Mitch"? I can't tell if there's supposed to be some kind of sexual attraction between them, or if he's just scared and on the run, and she feels sorry for him. Why does she invite him to her apartment - without her, yet! ? - he's supposed to wait for her til she gets off work (the dancehall).  Who's that other guy in her apartment? Is it really her husband? What the hell is Mitch doing there, anyway?

And why is Grahame's character so immovable about giving vital information, information that could help prove Mitch's innocence, to the police detective (Robert Montgomery) and MItch's wife? Is she jealous of the wife? But she'd only just met Mitch ! 

The whole Gloria Grahame side-story is interesting but weird, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

 

Still, it's a compelling film. I find it a much better movie than the virtuous, ponderous, dialogue-heavy Gentleman's Agreement, which, as has been noted by others here, also deals with an anti-Jewish theme, and came out the same year as Crossfire.

 

Anyway, this Edward Dmytryk gem is definitely worth a watch. If you haven't seen it yet, try and catch it this Tuesday night.

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 ( I say "semi" because to me, it's more a post-war crime drama than a typical noir plot. But then, one could argue that most noirs were "post-war crime dramas". It just seems to me the focus is on that post-war alienation and angst, that "what do I do now?" feeling so many soldiers must have had, and of course, on anti-Semitism, than on the usual noir themes. But who cares? This is a quibble.)

 

Quibble on quibble:  I understood that post-war alienation and angst was a usual theme in film noir.

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Quibble on quibble:  I understood that post-war alienation and angst was a usual theme in film noir.

Not long ago I created a thread in the film noir sub-forum about pre-war noir. The roots of noir go back to the silent film era, with the original version of THE RACKET.  Though maybe we can say at that stage in the game, it was post WW I alienation as opposed to post WW II alienation.

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Still, it's a compelling film. I find it a much better movie than the virtuous, ponderous, dialogue-heavy Gentleman's Agreement, which, as has been noted by others here, also deals with an anti-Jewish theme, and came out the same year as Crossfire.

 

I haven't seen Gentleman's Agreement all the way through yet (I plan on doing so next week), but it's not really fair to compare it to Crossfire, since they deal with two different forms of anti-semitism.

 

Gentleman's Agreement is about the more "genteel" strain of anti-semitism, the "old-fashioned" kind that was practiced by the same sort of people who also looked down upon the Irish and the Italians.  To these upper and upper middle class bigots, Jews were seen as "not our kind of people", but their bigotry was shown in restrictive clauses and social blacklisting, not in blind outbursts of hatred and violence.  It was often ambiguous and accompanied by a certain amount of shame and denial, as Gentleman's Agreement depicts very well in the parts that I've seen.  The excessive dialogue is necessary to illustrate the nuances of this particular form of bigotry, since these people weren't punching out Jews in bars----in their bars, Jews were simply never invited through the door.

 

OTOH Crossfire is about the type of raw anti-semitism that has more in common with anti-black racism, and in fact it was often practiced by many of the same classes and groups (other white ethnics) that were themselves looked down upon by the anti-semites in Gentleman's Agreement.  These were the folks who had been lapping up Father Coughlin's anti-semitic conspiracy theories.  To put it in crude terms, it was a lower class form of prejudice, obviously not "better" or "worse", but it was definitely different.

 

 

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Quibble on quibble:  I understood that post-war alienation and angst was a usual theme in film noir.

 

Yup. No argument from me on that. I knew some dedicated film noir fan would pick up on that. Yes, slayton, baby, you're right. I thought that myself, I just didn't want to go back and re-edit and re-word and fuss, and the next thing you know, god forbid, we'd be getting into one of those endless discussions on "what exactly is film noir?"

 

Guess I just meant, the focus of the film was more on the police hunt and the anti-Semitism than on the "post-war alienation" etc.

 

Of course, yes, yes, many noirs are basically "police hunts". 

 

Actually, the most noirish character in Crossfire is Montgomery. He's the kind of ugly, violent character one often finds in noirs. Although most noirs don't have an anti-Jewish theme to them.

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Still, it's a compelling film. I find it a much better movie than the virtuous, ponderous, dialogue-heavy Gentleman's Agreement, which, as has been noted by others here, also deals with an anti-Jewish theme, and came out the same year as Crossfire.

 

I haven't seen Gentleman's Agreement all the way through yet (I plan on doing so next week), but it's not really fair to compare it to Crossfire, since they deal with two different forms of anti-semitism.

 

Gentleman's Agreement is about the more "genteel" strain of anti-semitism, the "old-fashioned" kind that was practiced by the same sort of people who also looked down upon the Irish and the Italians.  To these upper and upper middle class bigots, Jews were seen as "not our kind of people", but their bigotry was shown in restrictive clauses and social blacklisting, not in blind outbursts of hatred and violence.  It was often ambiguous and accompanied by a certain amount of shame and denial, as Gentleman's Agreement depicts very well in the parts that I've seen.  The excessive dialogue is necessary to illustrate the nuances of this particular form of bigotry, since these people weren't punching out Jews in bars----in their bars, Jews were simply never invited through the door.

 

OTOH Crossfire is about the type of raw anti-semitism that has more in common with anti-black racism, and in fact it was often practiced by many of the same classes and groups (other white ethnics) that were themselves looked down upon by the anti-semites in Gentleman's Agreement.  These were the folks who had been lapping up Father Coughlin's anti-semitic conspiracy theories.  To put it in crude terms, it was a lower class form of prejudice, obviously not "better" or "worse", but it was definitely different.

Andy,

 

I am going to slightly disagree. I think GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT seems more genteel because of its polished production values-- compared to CROSSFIRE which has much grittier staging (or as the French say, mise en scene).

 

The main problem I have with GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT is that it lacks action. A film can still have a lot of thought-provoking dialogue, but exciting things need to happen. By comparison, CROSSFIRE is much more kinetic, explosive, powerful-- because we see things going on that illustrate the reality of anti-semitism. It is much less an experiment than GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT-- more the actuality, the reality of seeing anti-semitism play out before our eyes on screen.

 

In the final analysis, Zanuck's Oscar winner seems like a long-winded sermon-- while Dore Schary's CROSSFIRE is a plot-driven indictment of one of society's great evils.

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Andy,

 

I am going to slightly disagree. I think GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT seems more genteel because of its polished production values-- compared to CROSSFIRE which has much grittier staging (or as the French say, mise en scene).

 

The main problem I have with GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT is that it lacks action. A film can still have a lot of thought-provoking dialogue, but exciting things need to happen. By comparison, CROSSFIRE is much more kinetic, explosive, powerful-- because we see things going on that illustrate the reality of anti-semitism. It is much less an experiment than GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT-- more the actuality, the reality of seeing anti-semitism play out before our eyes on screen.

 

In the final analysis, Zanuck's Oscar winner seems like a long-winded sermon-- while Dore Schary's CROSSFIRE is a plot-driven indictment of one of society's great evils.

Crossfire is great and it is fun watching Ryan's Montgomery get more and more desperate throughout.

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Andy,

 

I am going to slightly disagree. I think GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT seems more genteel because of its polished production values-- compared to CROSSFIRE which has much grittier staging (or as the French say, mise en scene).

 

The main problem I have with GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT is that it lacks action. A film can still have a lot of thought-provoking dialogue, but exciting things need to happen. By comparison, CROSSFIRE is much more kinetic, explosive, powerful-- because we see things going on that illustrate the reality of anti-semitism. It is much less an experiment than GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT-- more the actuality, the reality of seeing anti-semitism play out before our eyes on screen.

 

In the final analysis, Zanuck's Oscar winner seems like a long-winded sermon-- while Dore Schary's CROSSFIRE is a plot-driven indictment of one of society's great evils.

 

I think your explanation may account for part of the difference, but I also think that Gentleman's Agreement isn't trying to depict the sort of anti-semitism that Crossfire is.  I may change my mind when I see the entire film, of course, but from what I've seen of Gentleman's Agreement so far, I think it captures the nuances of "genteel" anti-semitism quite well.  Admittedly it's preachy, but so far it also seems quite accurate in its portrayals of the country club set's "genteel" bias.

 

I should add that I think Crossfire is a terrific movie, mainly because Ryan captures the sheer ugliness of the face of bigotry so compellingly.  What an actor he was, not just here but in every movie he was in.

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I think your explanation may account for part of the difference, but I also think that Gentleman's Agreement isn't trying to depict the sort of anti-semitism that Crossfire is.  I may change my mind when I see the entire film, of course, but from what I've seen of Gentleman's Agreement so far, I think it captures the nuances of "genteel" anti-semitism quite well.  Admittedly it's preachy, but so far it also seems quite accurate in its portrayals of the country club set's "genteel" bias.

 

I should add that I think Crossfire is a terrific movie, mainly because Ryan captures the sheer ugliness of the face of bigotry so compellingly.  What an actor he was, not just here but in every movie he was in.

I think it's interesting that John Garfield appears in GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT instead of CROSSFIRE. His screen persona is better suited to noir or gritty crime dramas.

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Andy,

 

I am going to slightly disagree. I think GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT seems more genteel because of its polished production values-- compared to CROSSFIRE which has much grittier staging (or as the French say, mise en scene).

 

The main problem I have with GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT is that it lacks action. A film can still have a lot of thought-provoking dialogue, but exciting things need to happen. By comparison, CROSSFIRE is much more kinetic, explosive, powerful-- because we see things going on that illustrate the reality of anti-semitism. It is much less an experiment than GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT-- more the actuality, the reality of seeing anti-semitism play out before our eyes on screen.

 

In the final analysis, Zanuck's Oscar winner seems like a long-winded sermon-- while Dore Schary's CROSSFIRE is a plot-driven indictment of one of society's great evils.

In the final analysis, Zanuck's Oscar winner seems like a long-winded sermon-- while Dore Schary's CROSSFIRE is a plot-driven indictment of one of society's great evils.

 

Excellently put, TB.

 

Or, as I succinctly put it, it was chock full of yada yada blather. Yes, it is good, and yes, it made a salient point. But I don't like Peck, never have, never will, but he was perfect for this movie. He would have KILLED Crossfire, however, put a stake through its heart.

 

I adore Sam Levene, and the rest of the cast of Crossfire was perfect. Again, as I put it, that was an inyerface kind of movie, and I mostly like those kinds of movies. If I didn't, I would re-watch Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, which I won't.

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I think your explanation may account for part of the difference, but I also think that Gentleman's Agreement isn't trying to depict the sort of anti-semitism that Crossfire is.  I may change my mind when I see the entire film, of course, but from what I've seen of Gentleman's Agreement so far, I think it captures the nuances of "genteel" anti-semitism quite well.  Admittedly it's preachy, but so far it also seems quite accurate in its portrayals of the country club set's "genteel" bias.

 

I should add that I think Crossfire is a terrific movie, mainly because Ryan captures the sheer ugliness of the face of bigotry so compellingly.  What an actor he was, not just here but in every movie he was in.

mainly because Ryan captures the sheer ugliness of the face of bigotry so compellingly.  What an actor he was, not just here but in every movie he was in.

 

I find him amazing, early on, later on, whenever. I used to mix up Ryan and Hayden before I was movie savvy, but still find them cut from the same cloth.

 

Manly men actors is how I see them, perhaps given to treating their women in a way of which I am not fond, but so outstanding in their craft that I am able to overlook the misogyny of the time. Unlike Pat O'Brien, who can't act his way out of a paper bag and was ugly to women in movies...............i....................m...........................o. :)

 

I'm sitting here, trying to think of a modern day peer to Ryan and Hayden..........nope, can't do it.

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oh man did i wish there was a scene made where ryan and mitchum would've squared up.

 

ryan would've kicked mitchum's butt.

 

also, three guys named robert starring in the same flick.      ^_^

 

Who's watching GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT and CROSSFIRE tonight?  I am!

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