Crossfire (1947)

86 mins | Drama | 15 August 1947

Director:

Edward Dmytryk

Writer:

John Paxton

Producer:

Adrian Scott

Cinematographer:

J. Roy Hunt

Editor:

Harry Gerstad

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Alfred Herman

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were The Brick Foxhole and Cradle of Fear . In Richard Brooks's novel, the character "Montgomery" kills "Samuels" not because he is a Jew, but because he is a homosexual. PCA director Joseph I. Breen described the novel in a 17 Jul 1945 letter to RKO executive William Gordon, contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, as "thoroughly and completely unacceptable, on a dozen or more counts." In Feb 1947, however, after screenwriter John Paxton had completely eliminated the homosexual plot line from the story, Breen endorsed the project, but cautioned that the final film should contain "no suggestion of a 'pansy' characterization about Samuels or his relationship with the soldiers."
       Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: In Mar 1946, Dick Powell, who had previously starred in two successful Edward Dmytryk/Adrian Scott/John Paxton pictures, Murder My Sweet (See Entry) and Cornered (See Entry), was announced as the film's probable star. Robert Young eventually agreed to do the picture on condition that it be shot on a twenty-four day schedule, which it eventually was. RKO borrowed Gloria Grahame from M-G-M for the production.
       A Mar 1947 NYT article described Crossfire as one of the first Hollywood films of the 1940s to "face questions of racial and religious prejudice with more forthright courage than audiences have been accustomed to expect." While RKO was producing Crossfire , Twentieth Century-Fox was making Gentleman's Agreement (see below), another story about antisemitism. RKO raced to beat the much "ballyhooed" Fox picture to the theaters, ... More Less

The working titles of this film were The Brick Foxhole and Cradle of Fear . In Richard Brooks's novel, the character "Montgomery" kills "Samuels" not because he is a Jew, but because he is a homosexual. PCA director Joseph I. Breen described the novel in a 17 Jul 1945 letter to RKO executive William Gordon, contained in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, as "thoroughly and completely unacceptable, on a dozen or more counts." In Feb 1947, however, after screenwriter John Paxton had completely eliminated the homosexual plot line from the story, Breen endorsed the project, but cautioned that the final film should contain "no suggestion of a 'pansy' characterization about Samuels or his relationship with the soldiers."
       Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: In Mar 1946, Dick Powell, who had previously starred in two successful Edward Dmytryk/Adrian Scott/John Paxton pictures, Murder My Sweet (See Entry) and Cornered (See Entry), was announced as the film's probable star. Robert Young eventually agreed to do the picture on condition that it be shot on a twenty-four day schedule, which it eventually was. RKO borrowed Gloria Grahame from M-G-M for the production.
       A Mar 1947 NYT article described Crossfire as one of the first Hollywood films of the 1940s to "face questions of racial and religious prejudice with more forthright courage than audiences have been accustomed to expect." While RKO was producing Crossfire , Twentieth Century-Fox was making Gentleman's Agreement (see below), another story about antisemitism. RKO raced to beat the much "ballyhooed" Fox picture to the theaters, releasing Crossfire several months before Gentleman's Agreement . In Jul 1947, RKO screened Crossfire for representatives of various Los Angeles religious groups. In addition, several surveys, which were designed to gauge the audience's prejudices, were conducted before and after screenings of the film. Crossfire received both praise and criticism for its depiction of antisemitism in America and was the subject of many editorials. Some Jewish leaders protested Montgomery's extreme brand of antisemitism, which they felt could be too easily dismissed by the audience.
       Crossfire was Dmytryk's and Scott's last film for RKO. In Oct 1947, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) called the filmmakers as "unfriendly" witnesses before their Congressional hearings. HUAC, which was formed by Congress in 1938 to investigate a variety of political extremists, had dedicated itself solely to exposing Communist and left-wing activities after World War II, and, in late 1947, turned its attention specifically to the film industry. Scott and Dmytryk became the first two members of the infamous "Hollywood Ten," a group of producers, writers and directors who were indicted for contempt of Congress when they refused to state whether they were or had been Communists. Other members of the Hollywood Ten included screenwriters Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner, Jr., Samuel Ornitz and Albert Maltz and producer-director Herbert Biberman. In Apr 1948, the Hollywood Ten were tried at the Federal Court in Washington, D.C. and were convicted of contempt of Congress. All ten served prison terms and, for many years, were blacklisted from the film industry. Some, including others who were implicated in later years, continued to write using pseudonyms.
       In Jan 1948, Dmytryk, whose contract at RKO was dropped after the indictment, sued the studio for $1,783,425, claiming anguish, loss of salary, screen fame and artistic reputation as well as personal humiliation due to his firing. The disposition of that lawsuit has not been discovered. In Sep 1950, however, the imprisoned Dmytryk broke his silence, stating that he was once a member of the Communist Party, and was released early from jail. When Dmytryk testified a second time for HUAC in 1951, he implicated others, including Scott, as Communists, and thereby removed himself from Hollywood's blacklist. His next American-made film was the 1952 picture Mutiny . Scott, however, continued to be blacklisted and never produced another picture.
       Because of its modest $589,000 budget, Crossfire was touted as a model "sleeper" hit. According to modern sources, it grossed $1,270,000 and was RKO's biggest hit of 1947. Crossfire received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, but lost to Gentleman's Agreement . It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Ryan), Best Supporting Actress (Grahame), Best Director and Best Screenplay (Adaptation). In Sep 1947, Crossfire was named Best Social Film at Cannes. In Dec 1947, Ebony magazine, an African-American publication, gave the film its annual award for "improving interracial understanding." More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Jun 1947.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1947.
---
Film Daily
27 Jun 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 46
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 47
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 47
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 48
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 50
p. 8.
Independent Film Journal
15 Mar 47
p. 41.
Life
30 Jun 47
pp. 71-73.
Los Angeles Daily News
4 Dec 1947.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
9 Mar 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Jun 47
p. 3701.
New York Times
16 Mar 1947.
---
New York Times
6 Jul 1947.
---
New York Times
23 Jul 47
p. 19.
New York Times
25 Jan 1948.
---
Variety
25 Jun 47
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Brick Foxhole by Richard Brooks (New York, 1945).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Brick Foxhole
Cradle of Fear
Release Date:
15 August 1947
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 22 July 1947
Production Date:
4 March--28 March 1947
retakes 31 March and 22 April 1947
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
22 July 1947
Copyright Number:
LP1194
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
86
Length(in feet):
7,696
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
12325
SYNOPSIS

In a dark Washington, D.C. apartment, two men beat up another man and leave him for dead. A short time later, police captain Finlay, who has been called to the murder scene, questions Miss Lewis, the woman who discovered the body. Miss Lewis tells Finlay that, earlier in the evening, she and the victim, Joseph Samuels, were drinking in a bar with a trio of recently discharged soldiers, one of whom Samuels then invited to his apartment. After Miss Lewis states that she left Samuels alone with the soldier, returning only after Samuels failed to answer his phone, army sergeant Montgomery appears at the door, looking for Corp. Arthur "Mitch" Mitchell. Montgomery claims that he and another friend, Floyd Bowers, were with Mitch in Samuels' apartment, but that Mitch left abruptly, promising to return soon. As he has found the corporal's wallet in the apartment, Finlay determines to locate Mitch and brings his best friend, Sgt. Felix Keeley, in for questioning. While maintaining his friend's innocence, Keeley tells Finlay that Mitch, a painter, is suffering from post-war depression and is estranged from his wife Mary. Finlay then re-questions Montgomery, a former policeman, who describes Samuels as a draft-dodging "Jewboy." Montgomery repeats that, after following Mitch to Samuels' apartment, he and Bowers left shortly after Mitch. Concerned for Mitch, Keeley sends all of the servicemen in their hotel to search for him. With his friends's help, the corporal manages to elude some M.P's, and flees to a movie theater with Keeley. Mitch then tells Keeley his version of that night's events: After Samuels takes Mitch to his apartment, Montgomery bursts in with ... +


In a dark Washington, D.C. apartment, two men beat up another man and leave him for dead. A short time later, police captain Finlay, who has been called to the murder scene, questions Miss Lewis, the woman who discovered the body. Miss Lewis tells Finlay that, earlier in the evening, she and the victim, Joseph Samuels, were drinking in a bar with a trio of recently discharged soldiers, one of whom Samuels then invited to his apartment. After Miss Lewis states that she left Samuels alone with the soldier, returning only after Samuels failed to answer his phone, army sergeant Montgomery appears at the door, looking for Corp. Arthur "Mitch" Mitchell. Montgomery claims that he and another friend, Floyd Bowers, were with Mitch in Samuels' apartment, but that Mitch left abruptly, promising to return soon. As he has found the corporal's wallet in the apartment, Finlay determines to locate Mitch and brings his best friend, Sgt. Felix Keeley, in for questioning. While maintaining his friend's innocence, Keeley tells Finlay that Mitch, a painter, is suffering from post-war depression and is estranged from his wife Mary. Finlay then re-questions Montgomery, a former policeman, who describes Samuels as a draft-dodging "Jewboy." Montgomery repeats that, after following Mitch to Samuels' apartment, he and Bowers left shortly after Mitch. Concerned for Mitch, Keeley sends all of the servicemen in their hotel to search for him. With his friends's help, the corporal manages to elude some M.P's, and flees to a movie theater with Keeley. Mitch then tells Keeley his version of that night's events: After Samuels takes Mitch to his apartment, Montgomery bursts in with Floyd and picks a fight with Samuels. Suddenly ill, Mitch leaves Samuels' and meets a sympathetic taxi dancer named Ginny Tremaine, who invites him to wait for her at her place. There Mitch runs into an odd man, who claims at first to be Ginny's husband, then insists he is not. Unnerved by the man, Mitch leaves and staggers back to the hotel. Back in the theater, Keeley informs Mitch that Mary is in town, anxious to see him, then hears that Floyd has been found hiding out in Maryland. Before the police can question Floyd, Montgomery appears at his door, demanding that they "get their story straight." A nervous Floyd agrees to corroborate Montgomery's story to the police and promises not to speak to anyone about the incident. When Keeley and another soldier, Bill Williams, come knocking, Montgomery hides and eavesdrops as Floyd reveals that he called his friend Leroy, who was in the bar briefly with Mitch and Samuels. After Keeley and Bill leave, an enraged Montgomery beats and strangles Floyd, leaving him for dead. Later, Finlay questions Keeley about Floyd's murder and learns about Ginny. Keeley then meets with Mary and directs her to the movie theater where Mitch is still hiding. After reuniting with her confused husband, Mary offers to question the taxi dancer on his behalf and goes with Finlay to Ginny's apartment. Neither Ginny nor the strange man, however, can provide a convincing alibi for Mitch. Frustrated, Finlay re-interrogates Montgomery, who unwittingly exposes himself as the killer when he displays his hatred of Jews and thereby supplies a motive for the crime. Delivering a passionate speech on the evils of antisemitism, Finlay then convinces a frightened Leroy, who has been found by Keeley, to participate in a plot to trap Montgomery. In a men's room, Leroy tells Montgomery that he has just spoken with Floyd and that Floyd is demanding blackmail money from him. After Leroy gives him an address for Floyd, which lists the correct building but the wrong apartment number, Montgomery sneaks into Floyd's apartment. There he is startled to run into Finlay, who calmly points out that the only way that Montgomery could have known which apartment belonged to Floyd was if he had been there earlier. In a panic, Montgomery runs out of the building, but is shot dead in the street by Finlay. +

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

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