M (1951)

87-88 or 90 mins | Drama | March 1951

Director:

Joseph Losey

Producer:

Seymour Nebenzal

Cinematographer:

Ernest Laszlo

Editor:

Edward Mann

Production Designer:

Martin Obzina

Production Company:

Superior Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

According to HR news items, United Artists was initially listed as the distribution company for the film. Other HR news items indicate that Muriel Maddox, Marjorie Nelson, Sammy Pierce and John Merrick were added to the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. J. Roy Hunt was originally set as the film's director of photography, but left the production for another assignment. According to DV, the state of Ohio rejected the film, banning all theatrical screenings; Superior Films appealed the ruling all the way to U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome of the case has not been determined, but information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that Ohio approved the film without cuts in 1954. This film and Twentieth Century-Fox's Fourteen Hours (see entry) were actor Howard DaSilva's last films before being blacklisted. DaSilva worked on the stage from 1953 on, but did not return to motion pictures until 1963. Facing the blacklist, director Joseph Losey left the United States and continued to work in Europe. Several other actors, including Karen Morley and Luther Adler, suffered career setbacks because of their political views.
       Although not mentioned in the onscreen credits, this film is a remake of a 1931 German picture also titled M, whose producer, Seymour Nebenzal, also produced this version. The original was written by Thea von Harbou, directed by her husband Fritz Lang, and starred actor Peter Lorre. Character names from the original were Anglicized for the U.S. version.
       An opening credit reads: "Made at Motion Picture Center Studios, Hollywood, California, U.S.A.," but ...

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According to HR news items, United Artists was initially listed as the distribution company for the film. Other HR news items indicate that Muriel Maddox, Marjorie Nelson, Sammy Pierce and John Merrick were added to the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. J. Roy Hunt was originally set as the film's director of photography, but left the production for another assignment. According to DV, the state of Ohio rejected the film, banning all theatrical screenings; Superior Films appealed the ruling all the way to U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome of the case has not been determined, but information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that Ohio approved the film without cuts in 1954. This film and Twentieth Century-Fox's Fourteen Hours (see entry) were actor Howard DaSilva's last films before being blacklisted. DaSilva worked on the stage from 1953 on, but did not return to motion pictures until 1963. Facing the blacklist, director Joseph Losey left the United States and continued to work in Europe. Several other actors, including Karen Morley and Luther Adler, suffered career setbacks because of their political views.
       Although not mentioned in the onscreen credits, this film is a remake of a 1931 German picture also titled M, whose producer, Seymour Nebenzal, also produced this version. The original was written by Thea von Harbou, directed by her husband Fritz Lang, and starred actor Peter Lorre. Character names from the original were Anglicized for the U.S. version.
       An opening credit reads: "Made at Motion Picture Center Studios, Hollywood, California, U.S.A.," but most of the film was shot in downtown Los Angeles in the nineteenth-century Bunker Hill neighborhood and inside the 1893 Bradbury Building at Broadway and W. Third Street, according to Jim Dawson’s landmark Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill: Pulp Fiction’s Mean Streets and Film Noir’s Ground Zero (2012). The story opened on Angels Flight, a funicular located at Third and Hill streets at that time. Carnival scenes were shot at Ocean Park in Santa Monica, CA.
       Associate producer Harold Nebenzal gave the AFI viewer a newly restored copy of M in 2016.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Mar 1951
---
Daily Variety
5 Mar 1951
p. 3
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1953
---
Film Daily
5 Mar 1951
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1950
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1950
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1950
p. 12
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 1950
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1950
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1950
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1950
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1950
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1951
p. 3
Los Angeles Daily News
14 Jun 1950
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Mar 1951
pp. 741-42
New York Times
11 Jun 1951
p. 20
Variety
7 Mar 1951
p. 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Columbia Pictures Corporation Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst to the dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Ray Robinson
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus comp
Orch cond
SOUND
Leon Becker
Sd
Mac Dalgleish
Sd re-rec
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod layout
Scr supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1951
Production Date:
5 Jun--7 Jul 1950
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Superior Pictures
7 March 1951
LP885
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87-88 or 90
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14732
SYNOPSIS

In a large city, a series of violent murders of young girls terrorizes citizens and baffles police. A nervous young man, Martin Harrow, stalks several children and soon focuses his attention on a little girl playing alone at a neighborhood carnival. Martin buys a balloon from a blind street vendor, then walks away with the child, whistling a peculiar tune. Later, after the child's body is discovered, police chief Regan makes a television announcement disclosing that evidence collected in the case indicates the same modus operandi found in previous killings, death by strangulation and the shoes of the victim taken. After the police warn the public to take extreme caution and report all suspicious behavior, many people overreact and harass several innocent men. At police headquarters, the mayor demands an arrest from Regan and the head of homicide, Carney, both of whom are stymied by lack of evidence. In frustration, Carney orders raids across the city, hoping to uncover a lead. At one bar, washed out attorney Daniel Langley evades serious questioning by the police and reports to his current employer, underworld boss Charlie Marshall. Equally frustrated that the endless raids are disrupting his illegal activities, Marshall and his cohorts begin their own citywide search for the culprit, whom they dub "M" for murderer. At police headquarters, a psychologist runs a profile on the killer, suggesting that he is possibly a paranoid schizophrenic with some childhood trauma. As the police detectives begin investigating single men with a history of mental illness, ...

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In a large city, a series of violent murders of young girls terrorizes citizens and baffles police. A nervous young man, Martin Harrow, stalks several children and soon focuses his attention on a little girl playing alone at a neighborhood carnival. Martin buys a balloon from a blind street vendor, then walks away with the child, whistling a peculiar tune. Later, after the child's body is discovered, police chief Regan makes a television announcement disclosing that evidence collected in the case indicates the same modus operandi found in previous killings, death by strangulation and the shoes of the victim taken. After the police warn the public to take extreme caution and report all suspicious behavior, many people overreact and harass several innocent men. At police headquarters, the mayor demands an arrest from Regan and the head of homicide, Carney, both of whom are stymied by lack of evidence. In frustration, Carney orders raids across the city, hoping to uncover a lead. At one bar, washed out attorney Daniel Langley evades serious questioning by the police and reports to his current employer, underworld boss Charlie Marshall. Equally frustrated that the endless raids are disrupting his illegal activities, Marshall and his cohorts begin their own citywide search for the culprit, whom they dub "M" for murderer. At police headquarters, a psychologist runs a profile on the killer, suggesting that he is possibly a paranoid schizophrenic with some childhood trauma. As the police detectives begin investigating single men with a history of mental illness, they come upon Martin's boardinghouse and, claiming to be from the Health Department, search his room in his absence. They find nothing out of the ordinary except a lamp with a shoelace tied to the switch. Upon reporting to Carney, the detectives mention the shoelace and abruptly decide to return to the boardinghouse. Examining Martin's closet they find no shoes missing a lace, but after further investigation discover a false panel in the floor, beneath which are a collection of little girls's shoes. Meanwhile, at the carnival, Martin lures another little girl with a balloon. When he departs playing a small pipe, the vendor recalls the unusual tune and summons help. A young man, part of Marshall's extensive street network, follows Martin and finds the opportunity to mark the letter "M" on his coat with coal as a signal to others on the streets. Word of Martin's identity spreads through the streets quickly, and several men follow him as he leads the little girl through the city. With the discovery of the shoes, Carney and the police also begin an intense search for Martin. Realizing he is being trailed, Martin takes the little girl into the Bradbury building, where he evades his hunters by hiding on the top floor. When the building security guard inadvertently locks him and the girl in a room, Martin panics and struggles frantically to break out. Marshall is informed that "M" has been cornered and orders several of his gang to the building, where they torture the guard to find out Martin's location. Marshall arrives and the search continues, eventually setting off the security alarm. When Martin's frantic pounding is heard, Marshall's men break into the room, release the child and carry Martin away as the police arrive below. Two of Marshall's men are captured, and they reveal Marshall's hideout, an underground garage, where a crowd soon gathers for a mock trial of Martin. The balloon vendor is brought in as a witness, and when Marshall tells the crowd Martin should be turned over to the police, they adamantly refuse, wanting to punish him themselves. Marshall encourages a drunken Langley to defend Martin, who eventually testifies for himself. Martin claims that his mother taught him that men were born evil and cruel and he believed he was saving children from them. He pleads to be punished for his actions, but when Langley accuses Marshall and his gang of their own criminality, Marshall shoots him. As the crowd descends upon Martin, the police arrive, arrest Marshall and take Martin, still pleading to be punished.

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

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