Human Desire (1954)

90 mins | Melodrama | September 1954

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writer:

Alfred Hayes

Producer:

Lewis J. Rachmil

Cinematographer:

Burnett Guffey

Production Designer:

Robert Peterson

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Human Beast . A Sep 1950 HR news item reveals that producers Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna originally purchased the rights to Émile Zola's novel La bête humaine ( The Human Beast ) for an estimated price of $5,000 from Raymond Hakim, who had produced a film version of the story in France in 1938, directed by Jean Renoir and starring Jean Gabin. An item in Louella Parsons' 9 Feb 1952 column in LAEx reveals that Wald was considering casting Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan and Paul Douglas, the three stars of Fritz Lang's Clash by Night (see above). The same item also notes Lang's involvement with the Wald production. In Dec 1952, DV announced that Columbia now owned the property and production was going ahead under Lewis J. Rachmil, with Maxwell Shane serving as writer-director. Shane's contribution to the finished film, if any, has not been determined.
       According to a Sep 1953 LAT news item, Rita Hayworth was to have starred in the film, but withdrew from the project after her marriage to singer Dick Haymes. The same item and a Sep 1953 HR item indicate that Olivia de Havilland was to replace Hayworth. HR notes that upon de Havilland's withdrawal, Columbia contacted independent producer David O. Selznick for a possible loanout of Jennifer Jones. According to Sep 1953 HR news items, Human Desire was to be Columbia's first CinemaScope release and was to be shot in Canada. The film was not shot in ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Human Beast . A Sep 1950 HR news item reveals that producers Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna originally purchased the rights to Émile Zola's novel La bête humaine ( The Human Beast ) for an estimated price of $5,000 from Raymond Hakim, who had produced a film version of the story in France in 1938, directed by Jean Renoir and starring Jean Gabin. An item in Louella Parsons' 9 Feb 1952 column in LAEx reveals that Wald was considering casting Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan and Paul Douglas, the three stars of Fritz Lang's Clash by Night (see above). The same item also notes Lang's involvement with the Wald production. In Dec 1952, DV announced that Columbia now owned the property and production was going ahead under Lewis J. Rachmil, with Maxwell Shane serving as writer-director. Shane's contribution to the finished film, if any, has not been determined.
       According to a Sep 1953 LAT news item, Rita Hayworth was to have starred in the film, but withdrew from the project after her marriage to singer Dick Haymes. The same item and a Sep 1953 HR item indicate that Olivia de Havilland was to replace Hayworth. HR notes that upon de Havilland's withdrawal, Columbia contacted independent producer David O. Selznick for a possible loanout of Jennifer Jones. According to Sep 1953 HR news items, Human Desire was to be Columbia's first CinemaScope release and was to be shot in Canada. The film was not shot in CinemaScope, however. Although Aaron Stell is listed onscreen as the picture's editor, William A. Lyon is credited by the HR review and a Columbia billing sheet. In 1964, an Argentine production was filmed, entitled La bestia humano . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 Aug 1954.
---
Daily Variety
17 Dec 1952.
---
Daily Variety
6 Aug 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
6 Aug 54
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 53
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 54
p. 27.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 54
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
9 Feb 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Sep 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Aug 54
p. 98.
New York Times
7 Aug 54
p. 7.
Variety
11 Aug 54
p. 6.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Human Beast
Release Date:
September 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 6 August 1954
Production Date:
14 December 1953--25 January 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 August 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3988
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
90
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16878
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Jeff Warren, a returning Korean war veteran, resumes his job as railroad engineer with longtime friend Alec Simmons. Uncertain of his future, Jeff gratefully accepts Alec's invitation to reoccupy his room at the Simmons home, where he is cheerfully greeted by Alec's wife Vera and their daughter and Jeff's childhood friend Ellen. At the railroad yard, Alec introduces Jeff to Carl Buckley, the assistant yard master. A few days later Carl informs his wife Vicki that due to a fit of temper with his boss, he was fired. Vicki is supportive and assures Carl they can move or she can return to work. Carl refuses to consider either possibility, then pleads with Vicki to contact the powerful John Owens, her mother's former boss, to use his influence with the railroad line to have Carl reinstated. Vicki resists the suggestion, but under Carl's continued pressure, at last agrees. The following day Carl and Vicki take the train to the next town, where Vicki insists that she meet Owens alone. Vicki returns late and tells Carl that Owens has gotten him rehired, but Carl grows suspicious of her long visit and questions her harshly. When Vicki protests, Carl beats her, then forces her to write an intimate letter to Owens, asking to meet him the next day on the train. The following day, Carl and Vicki board Owens' train, as does Jeff. Once the train is underway, Carl drags Vicki to Owens' compartment, then knifes the older man to death. Afterward, Carl takes Vicki's letter from Owens' body and his wallet to make the attack appear to be motivated by robbery. As they are ... +


Jeff Warren, a returning Korean war veteran, resumes his job as railroad engineer with longtime friend Alec Simmons. Uncertain of his future, Jeff gratefully accepts Alec's invitation to reoccupy his room at the Simmons home, where he is cheerfully greeted by Alec's wife Vera and their daughter and Jeff's childhood friend Ellen. At the railroad yard, Alec introduces Jeff to Carl Buckley, the assistant yard master. A few days later Carl informs his wife Vicki that due to a fit of temper with his boss, he was fired. Vicki is supportive and assures Carl they can move or she can return to work. Carl refuses to consider either possibility, then pleads with Vicki to contact the powerful John Owens, her mother's former boss, to use his influence with the railroad line to have Carl reinstated. Vicki resists the suggestion, but under Carl's continued pressure, at last agrees. The following day Carl and Vicki take the train to the next town, where Vicki insists that she meet Owens alone. Vicki returns late and tells Carl that Owens has gotten him rehired, but Carl grows suspicious of her long visit and questions her harshly. When Vicki protests, Carl beats her, then forces her to write an intimate letter to Owens, asking to meet him the next day on the train. The following day, Carl and Vicki board Owens' train, as does Jeff. Once the train is underway, Carl drags Vicki to Owens' compartment, then knifes the older man to death. Afterward, Carl takes Vicki's letter from Owens' body and his wallet to make the attack appear to be motivated by robbery. As they are about to leave Owens' compartment, Carl notices Jeff smoking between rail cars and sends Vicki to distract him. Vicki lures Jeff to another compartment, where he tries to kiss her, before she flees back to Carl. Upon arriving at the station, Jeff is dismayed to run into Carl, who formally introduces him to his wife. During testimony at the inquest of Owens' murder, Jeff avoids identifying Vicki as the passenger he witnessed near Owens' compartment. Later, Jeff runs into a morose Vicki and drunken Carl at a bar and helps Vicki get her husband home. Vicki thanks Jeff for his testimony and explains that she went to Owens' compartment to ask him for help with Carl's job, but found him dead. Vicki then confides that Carl abuses her and shows him several welts on her shoulders. The next day Vicki and Carl quarrel over Owens' murder, and Carl refuses to return Vicki's letter. Several days later, Vicki calls Jeff and meets with him to bemoan her crumbling marriage. Jeff is sympathetic and the two begin an affair. A few days later Ellen come to the train yard to visit Jeff. She asks Jeff about his dating Vicki but he remains evasive and, hurt, Ellen leaves. On the train, Alec cautions Jeff about seeing a married woman. Several days later in a borrowed apartment, Jeff complains to Vicki about their covert meetings and suggests they go to the police about Carl. Vicki admits that she lied about Owens' murder and reveals the truth, ending with Carl blackmailing her with the letter. Jeff grows angry, declaring that Vicki has now made him an accomplice by confiding in him and asks her if Carl had reason to be jealous of Owens. Vicki describes how she and her mother lived with Owens when Vicki was a teenager and Carl became obsessed over it. Jeff remains dubious, but promises to stay with Vicki. One evening Vicki calls Jeff and upon meeting him, declares that Carl has been fired again and intends to sell the house and leave town. Startled, Jeff nevertheless demands Vicki stay and vows to get the letter from Carl. Vicki fears that Carl will kill them both should he discover their affair and makes a veiled suggestion that Jeff kill him. That night, Jeff finds Carl drunk in a bar and follows him across the yard, intending to murder him. Later he returns to Vicki and confesses he was unable to murder Carl and helped him to the hospital instead. Jeff asks Vicki again about Owens, and she angrily declares that the older man assaulted her when she was sixteen and once Carl learned this, it ruined their marriage. She accuses Jeff of harboring the same jealousies as Carl. Feeling that he has been used, Jeff breaks with Vicki but leaves her the letter, which he found in Carl's pocket. The next day before his regular run, Jeff contemplates Ellen's invitation to a dance as Vicki boards the train. Just as the train departs, Carl drunkenly stumbles into Vicki's compartment and demands to know where she is going. She informs him that she is leaving him and laughs when he pleads with her to stay and offers to destroy the letter. When Carl accuses her of having an affair with Jeff, she agrees, then admits she did allow Owens to seduce her to win Carl's job back. Hysterical, Carl strangles Vicki to death. Oblivious in the engine car, Jeff and Alec mend their friendship. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.