The Captive City (1952)

90-91 mins | Drama | 11 April 1952

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Tightrope . A written foreword credited to Senator Estes Kefauver reads: "Ordinarily, Americans don't think much about the existence of organized crime. They know vaguely that it is there, and they let it go at that, unless prodded by some unusual circumstances." Kefauver also appears at the end of the film, stating that the real-life editor on whom the character of "Jim" was based was not killed, and as a result of his courage, the administration in his town became honest. Kefauver cautioned that local crime is never harmless and must be stamped out quickly by townspeople.
       In a May 1952 LADN article, written by Robert Wise, the director stated that after hearing about Senator Kefauver's committee against organized crime, he located a newspaper series by journalist Alvin Josephy, Jr. about a local syndicate and persuaded Josephy to work with Karl Kamb to turn the articles into the screenplay for The Captive City . Wise reported that, while shooting the film in Reno, NV, he was watched by "underworld hoods." For more information about the Kefauver hearings, please see the entry below for the 1951 Twentieth Century-Fox documentary The Kefauver Crime Investigation .
       As noted by the onscreen credits, the film was photographed with the Hoge lenses, an invention by Ralph Hoge and Gregg Toland which, according to a Mar 1952 NYT news item, enabled the director to shoot a clear, deep-focus shot with little light.
       The Captive City was the first release of Aspen Productions, a company owned by Wise and Mark Robson. In Mar 1952, DV reported that ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Tightrope . A written foreword credited to Senator Estes Kefauver reads: "Ordinarily, Americans don't think much about the existence of organized crime. They know vaguely that it is there, and they let it go at that, unless prodded by some unusual circumstances." Kefauver also appears at the end of the film, stating that the real-life editor on whom the character of "Jim" was based was not killed, and as a result of his courage, the administration in his town became honest. Kefauver cautioned that local crime is never harmless and must be stamped out quickly by townspeople.
       In a May 1952 LADN article, written by Robert Wise, the director stated that after hearing about Senator Kefauver's committee against organized crime, he located a newspaper series by journalist Alvin Josephy, Jr. about a local syndicate and persuaded Josephy to work with Karl Kamb to turn the articles into the screenplay for The Captive City . Wise reported that, while shooting the film in Reno, NV, he was watched by "underworld hoods." For more information about the Kefauver hearings, please see the entry below for the 1951 Twentieth Century-Fox documentary The Kefauver Crime Investigation .
       As noted by the onscreen credits, the film was photographed with the Hoge lenses, an invention by Ralph Hoge and Gregg Toland which, according to a Mar 1952 NYT news item, enabled the director to shoot a clear, deep-focus shot with little light.
       The Captive City was the first release of Aspen Productions, a company owned by Wise and Mark Robson. In Mar 1952, DV reported that the company had signed John Forsythe to a five-picture contract. Joan Camden made her feature film debut in the picture. According to an Apr 1952 Var item, The Captive City was previewed by crime reporters, editors, public prosecutors and citizens' committees. LAEx stated in May 1952 that the film's Los Angeles opening coincided with the opening of the Hollywood Park Racetrack and the attendant visit by Kefauver. On 18 Nov 1954, Gig Young and Betsy Palmer starred in a Lux Video Theatre version of the story. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Apr 1952.
---
Daily Variety
11 Mar 1952.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
31 Mar 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 1951
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 51
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
8 May 1952.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Mar 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Mar 52
p. 1297.
New York Times
27 Mar 52
p. 34.
New York Times
30 Mar 1952.
---
Variety
26 Mar 52
p. 6.
Variety
9 Apr 1952.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus dir
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the dir
Casting dir
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Tightrope
Release Date:
11 April 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 March 1952
Production Date:
20 September--mid October 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Aspen Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 April 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1670
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Lenses/Prints
Hoge Lenses
Duration(in mins):
90-91
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15779
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Newspaper editor Jim T. Austin and his wife Marge race into a Midwestern police station to escape the gangsters following them, and beg the sergeant to help them reach the capital safely. When the sergeant cannot hail the captain, Jim begins to record his story on a police tape machine: Weeks earlier, in a nearby mid-sized town, Jim is contacted by investigator Clyde Nelson, who insists they meet in secret at the local library. There, Nelson reveals that when he investigated an alimony suit brought by Margaret Sirak against her ex-husband, insurance magnate Murray Sirak, he uncovered what appeared to be a massive gambling ring run by Sirak and involving police chief Gillette. The police then began a campaign of threats against Nelson, from issuing traffic tickets to tapping his phones to following him. Recently, his investigator's license has been revoked, and Nelson, who fears for his life, urges Jim to break the story of police corruption in his newspaper. Jim is doubtful, but when he sees policemen outside the library, his curiosity is piqued. He visits Gillette, who assures him that Nelson is unstable and that they have been tailing him only to make sure he does not spread any more rumors. Jim is reassured until a few weeks later when he gets an urgent call from the investigator, who begs Jim to meet him. Jim refuses, but when he later hears that Nelson has been killed in a hit-and-run accident, he races to the morgue. There, Mrs. Nelson tells him that a car with Florida license plates had been following them for days, and blames Sirak for her husband's death. Over the next days, Jim runs a ... +


Newspaper editor Jim T. Austin and his wife Marge race into a Midwestern police station to escape the gangsters following them, and beg the sergeant to help them reach the capital safely. When the sergeant cannot hail the captain, Jim begins to record his story on a police tape machine: Weeks earlier, in a nearby mid-sized town, Jim is contacted by investigator Clyde Nelson, who insists they meet in secret at the local library. There, Nelson reveals that when he investigated an alimony suit brought by Margaret Sirak against her ex-husband, insurance magnate Murray Sirak, he uncovered what appeared to be a massive gambling ring run by Sirak and involving police chief Gillette. The police then began a campaign of threats against Nelson, from issuing traffic tickets to tapping his phones to following him. Recently, his investigator's license has been revoked, and Nelson, who fears for his life, urges Jim to break the story of police corruption in his newspaper. Jim is doubtful, but when he sees policemen outside the library, his curiosity is piqued. He visits Gillette, who assures him that Nelson is unstable and that they have been tailing him only to make sure he does not spread any more rumors. Jim is reassured until a few weeks later when he gets an urgent call from the investigator, who begs Jim to meet him. Jim refuses, but when he later hears that Nelson has been killed in a hit-and-run accident, he races to the morgue. There, Mrs. Nelson tells him that a car with Florida license plates had been following them for days, and blames Sirak for her husband's death. Over the next days, Jim runs a series of editorials questioning why the police are not investigating Nelson's death more thoroughly. When Gillette chastises him, Jim responds that he will look into the death himself, and visits laundress Margaret. She refuses to answer his questions, so he searches Nelson's office and discovers a note written by Margaret listing all the bookies in the area. Although he receives no information from the bookies he contacts, he begins to notice a police cruiser following him. Jim then visits the warehouse of the last bookie on the list and finds a familiar-looking man running a business in the back. Looking through press clippings, Jim realizes that the man is actually powerful mob gangster Dominick Fabretti. Jim stations young reporter Phil Harding at the warehouse to report on Fabretti's actions, and when Phil finally sees the gangster come out, he contacts Jim. The two take a photograph of Fabretti, and after the eager reporter develops it that evening, he is savagely beaten by gangsters, who also steal the film. Later, Sirak visits Jim at his office and offers him a bribe to stop investigating. Jim's partner, Don Carey, hears Jim turn Sirak down and urges him not to try to reform the world. Soon, Jim notices a car with a Florida license plate parked outside his house, and realizes his phone has been tapped. In addition, the paper's advertisers, many of them bookies on the side, cancel their ads and threaten to retaliate. At home, just as Marge tells Jim that she cannot continue to live in fear, Margaret appears. She sobs drunkenly that her ex-husband was forced to go into business with mobsters, and when Nelson found out, the gang had him killed. She agrees to Jim's request to sign a deposition, but the next day, she does not show up at the lawyer's office, and Jim finds her dead in her apartment. The police rule her death a suicide, and although Jim writes a scathing editorial against them, Don refuses to print it because there is no proof of murder. Quitting in anger, Jim confronts Gillette, who accompanies him to the warehouse. They find it already cleaned out, however, and the police chief tells Jim that they are powerless to stop mobster involvement in bookmaking. Jim then turns to Reverend Nash and the other local ministers. Although they are alarmed at the extent of the problem, they decide that the corruption is too widespread to stop. That night, Jim is sitting in his darkened office drinking dejectedly when he sees a memo from Senator Estes Kefauver about the Special State Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, and realizes that he must get to the committee in the capital at once. Although Sirak shows up and offers one last opportunity to take money in return for stopping his search, Jim refuses, and he and Marge leave at midnight for the capital. On the way, however, they see the Florida car trailing them and are forced to flee to the nearest police station. There, Jim finishes his story just as policemen arrive to escort him to the capital. Although a threatening note is slipped to him as he is in the doorway of the committee, Jim bravely enters the room. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.