The Prowler (1951)

91-92 mins | Film noir | 25 May 1951

Director:

Joseph Losey

Producer:

Sam Spiegel

Cinematographer:

Arthur Miller

Editor:

Paul Weatherwax

Production Designer:

Boris Leven
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HISTORY

The working titles for this film were Cost of Living and Cost of Loving . Before the opening credits, Evelyn Keyes, as her character "Susan Gilvray," is seen being startled by someone watching her from outside her bathroom window. The voice of radio announcer "William Gilvray" is heard intermittently throughout the film. Although not listed in the credits, Dalton Trumbo co-wrote the film's screenplay with credited writer Hugo Butler. Trumbo was jailed in 1947 for refusing to testify before HUAC and his credit on the film was officially restored by the WGA in 2000. A modern biography of Trumbo reveals that director Joseph Losey recorded and used Trumbo's voice for the voice of radio announcer "William Gilvray." Art director Boris Leven's surname was misspelled as "Levin" in the onscreen credits.
       According to a 9 Aug 1949 DV news item, the original story, "The Cost of Living," was bought for $50,000 by Sam Speigel and John Huston and was to be produced by Columbia. A 21 Sep 1949 LAEx article noted that Dorothy McGuire was interested in starring in the film. According to 1950 HR news items, "Tiny" Jones had a bit role in the film, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location in Calico Mines, CA, a ghost town near Barstow according to HR news items.
       Memos in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that PCA head Joseph I. Breen objected to the low moral tone of the film and insisted that details of ... More Less

The working titles for this film were Cost of Living and Cost of Loving . Before the opening credits, Evelyn Keyes, as her character "Susan Gilvray," is seen being startled by someone watching her from outside her bathroom window. The voice of radio announcer "William Gilvray" is heard intermittently throughout the film. Although not listed in the credits, Dalton Trumbo co-wrote the film's screenplay with credited writer Hugo Butler. Trumbo was jailed in 1947 for refusing to testify before HUAC and his credit on the film was officially restored by the WGA in 2000. A modern biography of Trumbo reveals that director Joseph Losey recorded and used Trumbo's voice for the voice of radio announcer "William Gilvray." Art director Boris Leven's surname was misspelled as "Levin" in the onscreen credits.
       According to a 9 Aug 1949 DV news item, the original story, "The Cost of Living," was bought for $50,000 by Sam Speigel and John Huston and was to be produced by Columbia. A 21 Sep 1949 LAEx article noted that Dorothy McGuire was interested in starring in the film. According to 1950 HR news items, "Tiny" Jones had a bit role in the film, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location in Calico Mines, CA, a ghost town near Barstow according to HR news items.
       Memos in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that PCA head Joseph I. Breen objected to the low moral tone of the film and insisted that details of the adulterous affair and the pregnancy be kept to a minimum in the script. On 10 Apr 1950, Breen accepted the script but was consulted throughout the production by assistant director Robert Aldrich on scenes in which moral tone was in question, including acceptable visible signs of the pregnancy.
       According to a 25 Jul 1951 Var news item, United Artists submitted ads to the PCA that included a picture of Evelyn Keyes draped in a towel. The ad was not approved by PCA, but the PCA did not have jurisdiction over independently owned theaters, and the Criterion Theatre in New York City used the ad. A 4 Jun 1951 LAT news item, as well as other contemporary reviews, warned viewers of the adulterous material and noted that the film presented censorship problems since the woman who commits adultery is not punished in the end. Keyes was borrowed from Columbia for the production.
       According to a BHC 6 Sep 1953 article, publicist Paul MacNamara contended that an improper contract existed between himself and Spiegel regarding "The Prowler," and MacNamara won $2,000 in a suit against Spiegel.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
BHC
6 Sep 1953.
---
Box Office
5 May 1951.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1949.
---
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1951
p. 6.
Film Daily
3 May 1951
p. 18.
Hollywood Citizen-News
4 Jun 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 1950
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1950
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1950
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1950
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1950
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1950
p. 4, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1951
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 1951
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4-6 Aug 2000.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
21 Sep 1949.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Jun 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Apr 1951
p. 817.
New York Times
2 Jul 1951
p. 16.
Newsweek
21 Mar 1951.
---
Variety
25 Apr 1951
p. 6.
Variety
25 July 1951.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Horizon Pictures
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
From an orig story by
From an orig story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward stylist
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus dir
SOUND
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Casting dir
SOURCES
SONGS
"Baby," music by Lyn Murray, lyrics by Dick Mack, sung by Bob Carroll.
PERFORMER
COMPOSERS
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Cost of Living
Cost of Loving
Release Date:
25 May 1951
Production Date:
began early April 1950 at Motion Picture Center Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Eagle Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 May 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1082
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91-92
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14587
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

One evening policemen Bud Crocker and Webb Garwood arrive at 1918 Orchid, Los Angeles, to follow up on the report of a prowler. The older, friendly Bud advises house owner and beautiful blonde Susan Gilvray to be careful but later that evening his partner, the younger flirtatious Webb, returns for a check-up call. While Susan and Webb listen to the radio and visit over coffee, Susan explains that she is alone because her wealthy, middle-aged husband John is the late night-disc jockey on the radio. Susan recognizes Webb as a once-famous high school basketball player from Indiana, where she grew up. Webb bitterly recounts his bad breaks since high school, but shares his dream of owning a motel court. Webb returns another evening to visit, and when he asks for a cigarette, Susan explains that her husband keeps both the cigarettes and her locked up. When Webb jimmies the desk drawer lock to retrieve a pack of cigarettes, he spies John's will and surreptitiously reads it. Webb grills Susan about the marriage, and she reluctantly answers that though John provides for her, he has not provided what she really wanted, a baby. Webb makes aggressive advances toward Susan, then one evening, using more subtle moves, finally seduces her, and an affair begins. As the affair develops, Webb threatens to leave Susan if she does not join him on his two-week vacation to Las Vegas. The next evening in Las Vegas, when Susan does not arrive on the appointed flight, Webb returns to Susan's house, where she explains that her husband suspects her of being unfaithful and has threatened to kill her. Webb leaves and after days of pining for ... +


One evening policemen Bud Crocker and Webb Garwood arrive at 1918 Orchid, Los Angeles, to follow up on the report of a prowler. The older, friendly Bud advises house owner and beautiful blonde Susan Gilvray to be careful but later that evening his partner, the younger flirtatious Webb, returns for a check-up call. While Susan and Webb listen to the radio and visit over coffee, Susan explains that she is alone because her wealthy, middle-aged husband John is the late night-disc jockey on the radio. Susan recognizes Webb as a once-famous high school basketball player from Indiana, where she grew up. Webb bitterly recounts his bad breaks since high school, but shares his dream of owning a motel court. Webb returns another evening to visit, and when he asks for a cigarette, Susan explains that her husband keeps both the cigarettes and her locked up. When Webb jimmies the desk drawer lock to retrieve a pack of cigarettes, he spies John's will and surreptitiously reads it. Webb grills Susan about the marriage, and she reluctantly answers that though John provides for her, he has not provided what she really wanted, a baby. Webb makes aggressive advances toward Susan, then one evening, using more subtle moves, finally seduces her, and an affair begins. As the affair develops, Webb threatens to leave Susan if she does not join him on his two-week vacation to Las Vegas. The next evening in Las Vegas, when Susan does not arrive on the appointed flight, Webb returns to Susan's house, where she explains that her husband suspects her of being unfaithful and has threatened to kill her. Webb leaves and after days of pining for him, Susan finally arrives late one night at his hotel room and admits that she asked John for a divorce. Webb coldly cuts the relationship off, and Susan agrees "the quicker the cut the less it hurts" and leaves. Back on the job after his vacation, Webb pretends to be an intruder at Susan's house one night and then returns later to answer the report of a prowler. John comes out of the house with a gun drawn, and Webb, spying him from behind a bush, shoots him in cold blood. At the trial, both Webb and Susan testify that they have not met each other before. Webb claims the shooting was a grave mistake and is acquitted. Later Webb cunningly tries to restore his relationship with Susan by asking gullible William Gilvray, John's brother, to intercede on his behalf and give Webb's life savings of $700 to Susan to help her out. William assures Webb that the money is not needed, and adds that John was not the best husband as he could not provide Susan with a child. Later at Susan's, Webb tells her he has left the police force and given up his gun because of the accident. Vulnerable and confused, Susan is more upset about her adulterous behavior than her husband's death. Webb says he would have killed her husband if it was the only way for them to be together, but begs her to believe it was an accident. She agrees that it was and they embrace. Soon after, the two marry and leave for their new home, a successful Las Vegas motel court that they now own. On the eve of their arrival, Susan happily announces that she is four months pregnant, but Webb is visibly perturbed, as the child is not John's and will reveal that they had slept together long before the trial. To avoid the publicity Webb takes Susan to the ghost town of Calico to have the baby in the utmost secrecy. One evening, as her labor pains begin, Susan becomes despondent upon hearing a recording of her husband's program. Webb leaves with a gun and forces kind Dr. James from a neighboring town to accompany him to Calico. James delivers a healthy baby girl, but then flees with the baby. Susan viciously accuses Webb of murdering her husband and premeditating the murder of the doctor. Furious that his plans are crumbling, Webb blurts that "some do it for a million, some do it for $62,000," the exact amount of John's bequeathal. After Susan's fears are confirmed, Webb frantically drives away to kill the doctor. Police cars approach, however, and Webb speeds back to the house, ditches the car and clambers up a dirt incline in an effort to escape. Two officers shoot him dead and Webb falls, rolling to the bottom of the incline as Susan looks on through a house window.

+

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

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