Criss Cross (1949)

87-88 mins | Film noir | 19 February 1949

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HISTORY

Voice-over narration, spoken by Burt Lancaster as his character "Steve Thompson," is heard intermittently throughout the last two-thirds of the picture. The order of the opening credits differs from the end credits. In the opening credits, Richard Long and Meg Randall are listed after Stephen McNally, and Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band are listed last. Early HR production charts include a "Miss X" in the cast, and later charts include Meg McClure. Publicity material indicates that while Universal was coming up with a stage name for newcomer Randall, whose real name was Gene Roberts, she was referred to as "Miss X." It is possible that Meg McClure was an early version of Randall's stage name. Actor Tony Curtis, who was unbilled on the film but at that time was known as Anthony or James Curtis, made his screen acting debut in the film, as did Puerto Rican band leader Morales.
       Contemporary news items provide the following information about the production: Universal purchased Don Tracy's novel from the estate of producer-writer Mark Hellinger. Criss Cross was to have been Hellinger's first production away from Universal, and the first of his Valley Studio company. Some news items commented that Criss Cross was to be shot in the same semi-documentary style as Hellinger's final picture, The Naked City (see entry). Hellinger, who died in 1947, reportedly wanted Lancaster for the starring role, and the deal that Universal struck with Valley Studio included the actor's services. According to modern sources, both Lancaster and Siodmak were obligated to work on Criss Cross as part of their contracts with ... More Less

Voice-over narration, spoken by Burt Lancaster as his character "Steve Thompson," is heard intermittently throughout the last two-thirds of the picture. The order of the opening credits differs from the end credits. In the opening credits, Richard Long and Meg Randall are listed after Stephen McNally, and Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band are listed last. Early HR production charts include a "Miss X" in the cast, and later charts include Meg McClure. Publicity material indicates that while Universal was coming up with a stage name for newcomer Randall, whose real name was Gene Roberts, she was referred to as "Miss X." It is possible that Meg McClure was an early version of Randall's stage name. Actor Tony Curtis, who was unbilled on the film but at that time was known as Anthony or James Curtis, made his screen acting debut in the film, as did Puerto Rican band leader Morales.
       Contemporary news items provide the following information about the production: Universal purchased Don Tracy's novel from the estate of producer-writer Mark Hellinger. Criss Cross was to have been Hellinger's first production away from Universal, and the first of his Valley Studio company. Some news items commented that Criss Cross was to be shot in the same semi-documentary style as Hellinger's final picture, The Naked City (see entry). Hellinger, who died in 1947, reportedly wanted Lancaster for the starring role, and the deal that Universal struck with Valley Studio included the actor's services. According to modern sources, both Lancaster and Siodmak were obligated to work on Criss Cross as part of their contracts with Hellinger's estate. Modern sources also note that Hellinger's original story idea had a racetrack setting. Anthony Veiller was announced as screenwriter in Mar 1948, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. Jules Schermer was the film's original producer; Michel Kraike took over the project shortly before the start of principal photography. H. B. Warner and bandleader Rene Touzet were listed as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. (Most likely, Touzet was replaced by Esy Morales.)        Scenes were filmed in and around Los Angeles, including Union Station, Terminal Island, and a Spring Street hotel. Several key scenes were shot in the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood of Bunker Hill, a run-down area of Victorian homes and boardinghouses. The opening scene, showing Lancaster's character getting off a streetcar and walking up a hill to his mother's house, was filmed at the corner of Temple and Hill streets, the northern end of what was called the Hill Street tunnel. The armored car robbery was planned at the Sunshine Apartments in the 400 block of W. Third Street, opposite the Angels Flight funicular railway, which is seen in the film.
       Explosives experts Nick Carmona and Del Crawford were injured during production when a smoke bomb exploded prematurely inside the special effects department.
       On 10 Oct 1949, the Hallmark Playhouse broadcast a radio adaptation of the story, also starring Burt Lancaster. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Jan 1949.
---
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1948.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jan 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Jan 49
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 48
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 48
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 48
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 48
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 48
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 49
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jan 1949.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Jan 49
p. 4461.
New York Times
12 Mar 49
p. 10.
Variety
12 Jan 49
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Siodmak's personal asst
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Criss Cross by Don Tracy (New York, 1934).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Jungle Fantasy" by Esy Morales.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 February 1949
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: week of 19 January 1949
Production Date:
mid June--late July 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 December 1948
Copyright Number:
LP2078
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87-88
Length(in feet):
7,880
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
13393
SYNOPSIS

In the parking lot of the Round-Up bar in Los Angeles, California, Steve Thompson meets secretly with his married lover, Anna Dundee, and reassures her that their plan to run away together will not fail. Steve then fights with Anna's gangster husband Slim inside the bar, but police lieutenant Pete Ramirez, Steve's old friend, breaks it up. Steve refuses to press charges against Slim, who is supposedly leaving for Detroit the next day, and Pete, disgusted by Steve's destructive behavior, leaves. Unknown to Pete, Steve, Slim and his gang are plotting to rob an armored truck, which will be driven by Steve, who works for an armored car company, and staged the fight to fool Pete. The next morning, as Steve and Pop, a co-worker and family friend, leave on their scheduled payroll run, Steve recalls the events that led him to commit robbery: Eight months before, Steve returns to his home in Los Angeles after two years of drifting. Although he fights the urge to see Anna, to whom he had been briefly married, he starts dropping by the Round-Up, the bar they used to frequent together. Eventually, he and Anna reunite, and she chastises him for not contacting her sooner. Passion between the combative couple quickly reignites, and they begin seeing each other again. Steve's renewed romance distresses both his mother and Pete, who distrust the manipulative Anna. Pete is particularly concerned because he knows that Slim is also after Anna. Then one night, Steve learns that Anna has gone to Yuma to marry Slim. Although embittered, Steve cannot resist Anna when he later runs into her ... +


In the parking lot of the Round-Up bar in Los Angeles, California, Steve Thompson meets secretly with his married lover, Anna Dundee, and reassures her that their plan to run away together will not fail. Steve then fights with Anna's gangster husband Slim inside the bar, but police lieutenant Pete Ramirez, Steve's old friend, breaks it up. Steve refuses to press charges against Slim, who is supposedly leaving for Detroit the next day, and Pete, disgusted by Steve's destructive behavior, leaves. Unknown to Pete, Steve, Slim and his gang are plotting to rob an armored truck, which will be driven by Steve, who works for an armored car company, and staged the fight to fool Pete. The next morning, as Steve and Pop, a co-worker and family friend, leave on their scheduled payroll run, Steve recalls the events that led him to commit robbery: Eight months before, Steve returns to his home in Los Angeles after two years of drifting. Although he fights the urge to see Anna, to whom he had been briefly married, he starts dropping by the Round-Up, the bar they used to frequent together. Eventually, he and Anna reunite, and she chastises him for not contacting her sooner. Passion between the combative couple quickly reignites, and they begin seeing each other again. Steve's renewed romance distresses both his mother and Pete, who distrust the manipulative Anna. Pete is particularly concerned because he knows that Slim is also after Anna. Then one night, Steve learns that Anna has gone to Yuma to marry Slim. Although embittered, Steve cannot resist Anna when he later runs into her at Union Station. Slim has gone to Las Vegas, and Anna meets secretly with Steve, complaining that she is miserable. Anna shows Steve bruises on her back inflicted by the controlling, brutal Slim and tells Steve that she married Slim, who had been pursuing her since their divorce, only because Pete had threatened to send her to prison if she continued to see Steve. Later, a drunken Steve confronts Pete, who admits he threatened Anna, but warns his friend about crossing Slim. Steve continues to see Anna, but one day, she comes by his house and informs him that Slim has found out about their affair. At that moment, Steve discovers Slim and his thugs in his living room. Thinking fast, Steve tells Slim that he summoned Anna to his house in order to discuss his plan for an armored car robbery. After Steve convinces Slim that they can pull off the payroll heist, the first of its kind in many years, because he will be their "inside man," Slim gathers his men together and carefully plots every detail of the robbery. Part of the plan is to broadcast that Slim is leaving for Detroit on the same day as the proposed robbery and throw a going-away party at the Round-Up the night before. Back in the present, Steve drives his truck to the appointed spot, where Slim and his men fire tear gas at Steve and Pop. Pop then begins shooting at the robbers, who return fire, fatally wounding him. Enraged because Slim had agreed not to harm Pop, Steve shoots Slim and is himself badly wounded. Slim and his gang flee with the money before the police arrive, and Steve wakes up later in a hospital. Although Steve's family and the public believe that he is a hero, Pete has deduced Steve's involvement and warns him that Slim will be after him if Anna has disappeared. Panicked, Steve, who had arranged for Anna to meet him in a Palos Verdes cottage, asks Nelson, a man he believes is visiting his sick wife, to watch the door for him during the night. The next morning, Nelson reveals that he is Slim's hired killer and drags Steve from the hospital. As they are driving to see Slim, Steve bribes Nelson into taking him to Anna. As soon as Steve pays Nelson off, a terrified Anna starts to pack, telling Steve that he is not strong enough to go with her, and she is not tough enough to stand by him. Before she can escape, however, Slim, having anticipated that Steve would bribe Nelson, bursts in. As police cars close in, Slim shoots the couple dead. +

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

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