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While "Gentleman's Agreement" exposed anti-Semitic bigotry among New York's sophisticated cocktail set, RKO's "Crossfire" tackled the topic from a Middle American perspective as Robert Ryan gave one of his most stirring performances as a soldier returning to America from war filled with hatred. "Crossfire" was one of the greatest low budget achievements in film history, earning five Academy Award nominations. Director Edward Dmytryk turned out a gem on a $550,000 budget. It was shot in 20 days. Dmytryk shot 140 scenes distributed out over a 6 1/2 hour daily schedule, a pace of 20 scenes per day. The film noir classic was based on the novel "The Brick Foxhole" written by ex-Marine Richard Brooks, who would later became a film writer, and finally the great director of classics such as "Elmer Gantry" and "In Cold Blood." Brooks' novel differed from the film in one basic area. In the book Montgomery, the hateful killer, murdered a homosexual, while also revealing a hatred for Jews. In the movie he was revealed as a former police officer from St. Louis who detested Jews, killing kindly Sam Levene, who invited him into his Washington, D.C. residence for a drink. The film encompasses one very busy night in our nation's capital, in which Robert Mitchum, playing a worldwise, cool-headed sergeant, helps police detective Robert Young to solve the case. Mitchum is determined from the outset to clear George A. Cooper, the vulnerable young soldier on whom Ryan seeks to pin the crime, taking advantage of the fact that Cooper had been drinking and cannot initially adequately account for his time during the time period of the crime.Read more ›
In one of the first films to expose the issue of anti-Semitism in post WWII America, Edward Dmytryk's 1946 film Crossfire, brings forth the dangerous venality of ethnic hatred to an unsuspecting screen audience. A hit at the box office and a winner of several humanitarian awards, Crossfire is most remembered by Robert Ryan's portrayal of a twisted, menacing, racist who vilifies Jews. Ryan as the callous G.I. Montgomery, created a screen presence that would secure him numerous roles as Hollywood's most notorious racist. In reality, Robert Ryan was actually a champion of civil liberties and an agressive campaigner for equality of rights among minority groups. Although scriptwriter John Paxton and RKO producer Adrian Scott were nervous about the film's public reaction; credit should be given to the creative team of Dmytryk, Paxton, and Scott for collaborating on a film dealing with a controversial topic that was buried in American society. While other major studies such as Warner Brothers, Paramount, and MGM refrained from social "message films" minor studio RKO showed resilience in forging an avenue for future social commentary films such as Gentleman's Agreement, and Bad Day At Black Rock. The film's storyline is pure noir; an innocent man is accused of murder and a midnight to dawn investigation of the true killer ensues. Robert Mitchum plays G.I. Keeley, who aids in the murder investigation. George Cooper is Finlay, the naive, innocent, soldier on the run. Gloria Grahame recieved an Academy Award nomination for her brief appearance as a prostitute, and like Robert Ryan solidified a position in future urban noir films. Crossfire is one of those films that has largely been forgotten by film buffs. Do not let this one slip by you.
The first big movie to deal directly with anti-Semitism - it beat "Gentleman's Agreement" to the screen by a couple of months - CROSSFIRE brackets its message of tolerance with a brace of murders. The movie opens and closes with scenes of freshly minted corpses, the first one sparks the narrative, the second neutralizes evil.
All of which is accomplished in deep shadows on cheap sets. There's a short, 9-minute featurette bundled on the dvd entitled "Hate is like a gun." (DON'T watch it before you watch the movie for the first time; it gives away most of the major plot points.) The featurette contains archive footage of director Edward Dmytryk discussing CROSSFIRE. Made on a limited budget for RKO, Dmytryk recounts how he wanted to flip-flop the normal economics of a movie, so he decided to spend the bulk of the budget on actors and proportionately less on lighting, sets, etc. I was tempted to write `at the expense of...' but the shadowy, seedy look serves the movie admirably. The three Bobs this approach allowed Dmytryk to afford - Young, Mitchum, and Ryan - would have been more than worth the sacrifice, though.
Sam Levene plays Joseph Samuels who will be brutally beaten to death simply because, the movie will soon explain, he was Jewish. Samuels was last seen at a hotel bar, drinking with a group of soldiers who are about to be mustered out. He invites a lonely, despondent and seemingly disoriented soldier - George Cooper as Cpl. Arthur Mitchell - to his room. They're joined by a couple of other soldiers, including characters played by Steve Brodie and Robert Ryan , and before the night is through Samuels will be dead and Cpl. Mitchell will be missing and eagerly sought by police Captain Finlay (Robert Young) in connection with the murder.Read more ›
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