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Plot: Jim McLeod is a hard-nosed and cynical detective. He believes in a strict interpretation of the law and doesn't believe in turning the other cheek. The current object of his zealousness is Karl Schneider, an abortionist responsible for the death of several young women. Schneider's lawyer tells the… Runtime: 103 min Release Date: 09 Nov 1951
Kirk Douglas was in the forefront of a set of movie stars in the post war period with Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Burt Lancaster, and a little later Paul Newman who had more emotional problems than initially appeared in their characters. Douglas looked competent and able in every part, but sooner or later something would show his less attractive personality. When he played Midge, the great boxer, in CHAMPION, his selfishness expands and expands as his reputation does. His motivations for joining forces with Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp in GUNFIGHT AT THE O. K. Corral <more>
is based in part on a rivalry with John Ireland as Johnny Ringo, a rival of Doc Holiday for a woman. And his Detective Jim McLeod is a modern day Inspector Javert, ashamed of his father's criminal behavior that drove his mother insane - and determined to root out all evil, no matter how big or small it is.DETECTIVE STORY, a successful play by Sidney Kingsley, has classical unity, as it takes place all in one day - which happens to be the final day of McLeod's life. He is the central detective in the story, and we see him early enjoying a moment of joy with his wife Mary Eleanor Parker . But once he is in the precinct he is all business, involved in three cases: the arrest of two burglars responsible for nine burglaries; the arrest of a young man who is actually clean-cut for embezzling from his employer, and the completion after a year of a serious abortion case against one Karl Scneider George Macready , a former doctor now a New Jersey farmer. Schneider has been responsible for at least one patient's death in the past, and another of his patients is currently in Bellevue Hospital in critical condition. Since Schneider has been lucky so far, McCleod is furious and keeps pushing the envelope to get him. As it turns out Schneider happens to have information on McCleod's household - which his attorney threatens to reveal to the press. The precinct commander Horace MacMahon is forced to get to the bottom of this mystery.There is no compassion whatsoever from Douglas to any criminals. He explains that when he was starting out he arrested two young punks, but took pity on them and let them go. Three days later, one killed a store owner in a robbery. Douglas says he won't make that mistake again. He never seems to notice that the other punk was not apparently in the robbery - murder, and presumably could have turned over a new leaf.So he won't give a break to the young embezzler, who stole from his employer to try to wine and dine an old girlfriend who no longer wants to know him - even though the money can be replaced. McCleod's partner Brody William Bendix is more gentle the young man reminds him of Bendix's dead son . But McLeod won't change.Then comes the shocker - Macmahon discovers the secret that Parker and Gerald Mohr Parker's old boyfriend have concealed - which Macready would have been equally willing to conceal if Douglas had not persecuted him. It destroys the peace of mind and Douglas's home-life in two shattering moments in the movie.As for the pair of burglars, one of them is a total simpleton, but the brains of the outfit Joseph Weismann in a great over-the-top part is far more colorful...and more deadly. In fact, Weismann and Douglass are perfectly balanced for the conclusion of the movie: literally they settle each other's hash with a couple of shots.A first class direction job by William Wyler, and the cast with good performances in support by Luis van Rooten, Lee Grant her first film part , and Gladys George . And a really good, if stagy, conclusion to a fine film.
I'm 55 years old and I watched this film for the first time tonight, and ... well the title says it: Powerful, claustrophobic, intense, this is definitely 100 minutes you won't regret; and it could only ever have been done in black-and-white.Kirk Douglas is given reign to do what he does best without ever quite going overboard as he was apt to do later on and he's wonderfully supported by a cast that act out of their skins; particularly Horace McMahon, who I'd never heard of before watching this, but I'll be looking out for now, and a very young Lee Grant - probably more <more>
familiar to most as catch-all guest star of many 70's TV shows - who is almost unrecognisable in her role as the shoplifter/onlooker.Bendix, Parker, Wiseman, O'Donnell, Mohr... there are too many to list, but each plays their part to the hilt, and the result is a film-noir tale of the highest order. Yes, it has the feel of a play, and it might be difficult for younger viewers to understand the mores of the time; but it suspended my disbelief almost from the first frame and held it to the last.This is ensemble acting at its best, and if, like me, you somehow missed it along the way: go get a copy.
Brilliant. A Classic Story of a Detective Squad Room. (by Kirasjeri)
Yes, it is a successful screen adaptation, and even though it is mostly in the one detective squad room of the police precinct in Manhattan, it never seems static. The reason this film is so magnificent and I do NOT consider it Film Noir - it is a police drama and psychology study of the breakdown of the main character, Douglas is the superb cast of New York actors even in bit roles. Scene after scene is absorbing and the characters affecting: George MacReady as the object of Douglas' hate; William Bendix is wonderful as usual as the older detective, and when he mentions the deth of his <more>
son on the USS Juneau in the Pacific in 1942 we feel his pain; Joseph Wiseman later famous as "Dr No" and Lee Grant soon to be blacklisted are especially good. Even Burt Mustin is there as the janitor at the start of his twenty-five year career playing beloved old men. Let us not forget the lovely Eleanor Parker, a big star in the Fifties who gave some wonderful performances see "Interrupted Melody" . Horace McMahon is the detective lieutenant, a role he'd make famous in the TV series "Naked City", a classic of the 1950's. Make no mistake about it, "Detective Story" is the precursor to the all the TV cop shows, certainly in format, even more so than the excellent movie from three years before, "Naked City" see review , upon which the TV show was named.Best of all is Kirk Douglas as a tortured soul and complex detective who all but cracks up by the end of the movie. The inner torment and decline of his character is very well done. And don't tell me Douglas "overacted" in his movies in the Fifties; his intensity was always welcome and appropriate.Sadly, "Detective Story" - for reasons that defy understanding - is no longer on video. If you see it on TV, GRAB IT!
Abortion, Virtue, and Higher Love--a serious masterpiece (by secondtake)
Detective Story 1951Virtue and abortion don't mix well--more like matter and antimatter than oil and water-- and in "Detective Story," virtue is as flexible and pretty as a cinder block, and abortion is as covert and murderous as, well, as an abortion at its worst, back when it was an illegal, horrifying ordeal. In this adapted theater piece, we expect the leading players to be scarred, or dead, and they are, though tender love does blossom and save one young couple. "Detective Story," it turns out, goes way beyond being a detective story.Virtue? Kirk Douglas has more <more>
than a man can handle. At first this seems only to make him a terrific detective for a post-War New York Police Department, but he ends up being mostly terrifying. Yes, he is tireless and experienced and clever. He knows when to be ruthless and when to be kind, he has a nose for evil, and he is a good guy with the other detectives. We admire him. But the pieces start to fall askew. When he interferes with the kindness of a colleague played with great sympathy by William Bendix , insisting on prosecuting a young man when even the victim doesn't want to, we see a heartless man, and a reckless one, with a damning instinct. And we know he has to either die or see the light and change. In the end he does both.Abortion? Two decades before the 1970 repeal of abortion laws in New York State, it's an unsanctioned death, a criminal malpractice, and it is presented as a horrifying personal and social tragedy, a kind of sin. It appears from all angles--the abortion doctor with his canny lawyer, the detective's wife and her boyfriend from the past, the one who got her pregnant, and eventually the detective, who came after the fact but is the one most harmed by it, thanks to his blind stubbornness. The woman, the detective's wife played by Eleanor Parker has buried the memory, almost, and in the scene where she has to finally tell her husband about it, the detective's world is too black and white to cope. Suddenly she's a tramp, and does he protest that he was a virgin when he married her? Hardly. I'm sure he wasn't. Does it even matter that she got pregnant with this earlier man who at one point is in the room , and that she aborted the child described as an induced stillbirth ? No, all that matters to Douglas is that she had sex with someone before him. Voila! In his eyes she is now mere filth.But she is not filth, and we all know it. She begs him, explains to him, cries for him, but he doesn't see the virtue in her. She, in turn, sees the blackness in his brain and realizes, in a compact epiphany, that he will never change. And so when she says she's leaving him forever, he believes her. This final collision between his unbending rules of propriety--in crime and in love equally--with the pliable, reasonable realities around him, is his ruin.This is all messy, deep, troubling stuff. Stir it up at a brisk pace, shoot it using sharp, stark camera-work, and you have a really tight, first rate, significant film. It has slipped under the radar as a masterpiece for several reasons, including, maybe, an excessive perfection that starts to feel slick--an odd trap for a filmmaker to need to avoid, but one often facing William Wyler, one of the slickest and most stylelessly perfect of directors. The shooting barely leaves the suite of offices--there is that brief ride in the paddy wagon--but it doesn't need to. Even the beautiful moment in the cab, where Douglas shows his most human side to his very human wife, they remain parked right outside the station. It's not an action film. In fact, it's not really a crime film, nor a film noir despite the gloom, and the date on it . It's about man's inability to see beyond himself. His obsessive virtue, with no heart, is a capital offense, because he becomes stupid. He forgets to dodge the bullet.This is also a movie about a justice higher than law. The detective's wife, who has broken the law, is herself broken by events, but she leaves the movie a free woman, resolved and strong. The abortion doctor is to be booked the next morning, and with luck he'll be jailed. Bendix, who shows the highest virtue of anyone in the movie, survives--he's the one who says a prayer over the dead detective's body, dead because Douglas cannot survive the blackness in his brain. A key ongoing sideplot is resolved just after Douglas is shot. Bleeding and in mortal pain, he releases an unlikely first offender who he earlier wanted to prosecute. This feelgood last act is not left to the good Bendix, but to Douglas, who gets to see the light before the lights go out. The young criminal's real savior in the long run, however, is pure true love, and we buy into that more easily, especially in the form of Cathy O'Donnell, who sure knows how to be pure and in love, just see "They Live by Night" from three years earlier. So when the movie ends we are done with stark, fast penetration and desperation. The precinct is in emotional shambles. But a corner has been turned, and in the gorgeous parting shot, we are taken to the street at night, from above, and the young couple and their shadows meld back into the swarm of real world, our world.
Before coming to the screen, Sidney Kingsley's Detective Story ran in the 1949-1950 season on Broadway for 581 performances. It's hard to believe because Kirk Douglas is so right for the part, but on Broadway the role of uptight police detective Jim McLeod was played by Ralph Bellamy.Lee Grant, Michael Strong, Joseph Wiseman, and Horace McMahon are the four that came over from the original Broadway cast. These and the others that William Wyler cast for the film, fill their parts almost to perfection. But this one is really Kirk Douglas's show.Kirk essays the part of a modern <more>
Inspector Javert in playing McLeod. Remember that in Les Miserables, Javert was also the son of a criminal and feels he has a burden to live down. Like Javert, McLeod has this maniacal attitude towards the criminal element. The world however is not black and white as McLeod discovers to his thorough destruction. I have no doubt that Sidney Kingsley was influenced by Victor Hugo's classic in writing this play.Note a lot of the Irish names among the squad, note also the fact that this is 1951 and the attitude about abortion was a whole lot different back then. Douglas's pet peeve is back alley abortion provider George MacReady. Many women died from the hands of such folk as MacReady, this was before Roe vs. Wade. MacReady is also harboring one dirty big secret about someone very close to Douglas. In his black and white world, the revelation of it breaks Douglas.Eleanor Parker is Douglas's loving wife who is showed to be less than perfect and neither her or Kirk can deal with his rage. William Bendix in one of his best screen parts, plays Douglas's veteran partner who's tough and compassionate.Lee Grant as the mousy little shoplifter got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her screen debut. Unfortunately she fell afoul of the blacklist and didn't make it back to the screen for over fifteen years. After that her parts were anything, but what you see here.Joseph Wiseman plays the psychotic burglar and you won't forget his character rages either. But Douglas is wound so tight in his role, it's anyone's guess who is the bigger psycho.Detective Story is a realistic look at an NYPD squad back in the days before Miranda. It serves as the model for other police dramas right up to and including NYPD Blue. It's one of Kirk Douglas's best developed characters on screen. Reason enough to see it.
Kirk Douglas is very effective as a police detective with an surprise connection to someone he encounters on the job. Mr. Douglas' performance is outstanding; and, the supporting players all move around him like a finely tuned clock. Of them, I thought William Bendix was superb, very natural - everyone is fine, in fact, as directed by William Wyler. Of the little stories, I liked the young couple - the thief and girlfriend.I had to go to see the IMDb comments to find out what was happening in the film - I really couldn't understand some of the dialog Since the film deals with <more>
"issues" considered too delicate to really talk about in a movie, you have to really pay attention. To reveal more would spoil the film - but, its weakness is that it couldn't really be totally "realistic" due to the era when it was produced. Observe, for example, the amount of profanity uttered in that precinct! The strongest word used is "tramp"."Detective Story" does manage to bring its characters and story to the viewer, and scores points for realism despite some likely censorship . Keeping that in mind, it's an essential character study. ********* Detective Story 11/6/51 William Wyler ~ Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Lee Grant
This top-notch police story rises far above the norm for its type. A true example of ensemble acting, the film incorporates many well-known character actors all putting in first-rate work, led by the superb efforts of Kirk Douglas and William Bendix, the latter in what may be his best screen role. This may be one of the earliest examples of the "typical day" genre, in which multiple story lines occurring in a single day in a certain locale are melded into a whole a genre exemplified by the "Hill Street Blues" and "Barney Miller" of tv . An excellent script and <more>
good direction, aided by interesting characters, keep the dramatic tension moving along briskly to the searing conclusion. This is not your run-of-the-mill police story, and is definitely worth a see.
Wyler's picture never gives the impression on of being a filmed play (by Nazi_Fighter_David)
Adapted from a Broadway play, "Detective Story" is in the Grand Hotel genre; two of the New York actors here made their film debutsJoseph Wiseman, as the insane, homicidal burglar, and Lee Grant, as the gay and spirited Brooklynese shoplifter "Detective Story" is not so much a tale of detection but a focusing on the life and character of just one detective, James McLeod Kirk Douglas .McLeod is no ordinary detective, he is a fanatic, dedicated to the law and excessively brutal in dealing with criminals He is particularly upset about abortionists, and it gradually <more>
becomes apparent that this is a psychological block in his mind Some tragic happening in his past has caused him to look upon abortionists in a pathological light, and the abortionist in this film, played by George Macready with his patent brand of quiet, sinister refinement, has a hard time in the hands of McLeod The abortion angle of the original play was taken to the screen, partly because of censorship, and partly because the close-up, immediacy of the camera requires rage to be clearly more explained than on the stage Therefore, the film abortionist is also the manipulator of an adoption ring and a farm for unwed mothers Whenever he appears at the precinct the abortionist is accompanied by his lawyer, although he might also have hired a bodyguard, since the fist-swinging McLeod is not above encircling his suspects As the story progresses, the reasons for McLeod's vicious temper and his hatred for crime are revealed as deriving from his love-hate attitude toward his father, a man of crooked tendencies His mania makes life hard for his gentle wife Mary Eleanor Parker to whom he is nevertheless greatly attached Detective McLeod is understandably shattered when he discovers that his wife was once herself the subject of an abortion, and that the man who performed the illegal operation was the abortionist now at his mercy, Karl Schneider George Macready ."Detective Story" is light on plot line but rich in its different cast of characters It is, in fact, a series of character studies, one major and many minor Kirk Douglas carries the burden of McLeod and makes the tormented policeman painfully believableit is almost a nonstop, swirling performance Around him Wyler arranges an expert team of actors: William Bendix as a tough but warm-hearted veteran cop; Horace McMahon as the precinct lieutenant who tolerates the frenzy of McLeod because he realizes he is doing his job honest1y and well; Eleanor Parker as the wife, driven to near-distraction by her husband; and several weirdly amusing criminal types, of whom those played by Wiseman and Lee Grant are shining examples, all of them moving through the dirty, oppressive atmosphere of a police station on any given work day
Great film; rare successful stage adaptation (by Jaime N. Christley)
William Wyler, who won three Oscars for Best Director "Mrs. Miniver", "The Best Years of Our Lives", "Ben-Hur" , and been nominated a record 12 times between 1937 and 1966, is not often thought of as one of our "great" directors. Truly, he was. Here, with the filmization of Sidney Kingsley's stage play about a NYC police station, focusing on the amazingly bad day which has been happening to Detective Kirk Douglas, Wyler shows his skill and diversity.Kirk Douglas is the vision of a crumbling spirit disguised by toughness and authority. He towers <more>
over a stellar cast, including Eleanor Parker as his wife, William Bendix as one of the other officers in the precinct, and Lee Grant as an inexperienced shoplifter. The one actor who truly stands out from the rest is Joseph Wiseman, who is simply a spark plug made up as an actor, giving an astounding recreation of his stage role as an on-edge, cheap suit-wearing thief. He displays the physical dexterity of James Cagney in the physique of a beanstalk, and proves to be more dangerous than any other movie crook we'd seen in the past.In one of the great Oscar follies of our time and there were many , the 1952 voters neglected to nominate Douglas as Best Actor, or Wiseman in a supporting slot. Nominations were given out for Wyler's direction, the screenplay, and for Parker and Grant, lead and supporting actresses respectively. None for Best Picture, the other nominations were passed over in favor of "A Place in the Sun" and "A Streetcar Named Desire". And who was picked for Best Picture? Well, staying true to AMPAS's mission of picking only the most harmless movie of the year "Driving Miss Daisy", "Chariots of Fire", "Shakespeare in Love" , instead of the best, they picked "An American in Paris", which will be remembered by film historians as merely a rehearsal for "Singin' in the Rain". Oh, well.