Chicago Confidential (1957)

Chicago Confidential (1957) is a crime syndicate hard-boiled DA film noir thriller directed by Sidney Salkow, starring Brian Keith, Beverly Garland and Dick Foran. 

It is based on the 1950 book Chicago: Confidential! by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer.

Chicago Confidential was the first film produced for Edward Small by Robert E. Kent, who had been a writer and story supervisor at Columbia. Small and Kent went on to make many movies together.

The movie is known for its crime-drama narrative and is set against the backdrop of organized crime in Chicago.

The story revolves around a crusading attorney named Jim Fremont, played by Brian Keith. Fremont is determined to take down the organized crime syndicate that controls various aspects of Chicago's business and political landscape. The narrative unfolds as Fremont gathers evidence to expose the corruption within the city.

Chicago Confidential falls within the film noir genre, characterized by its dark and moody atmosphere, shadowy cinematography, and themes of crime and corruption. The film explores the underbelly of Chicago, where crime and politics intersect, and the protagonist faces challenges in his quest for justice.

Sidney Salkow directed the film. While Salkow is not as widely recognized as some other noir directors, he had a prolific career directing films across various genres.

"Chicago Confidential" received a mixed reception. It's not as well-known or celebrated as some other film noirs from the same era, but it has gained some recognition among fans of the genre.

The film is part of the larger body of film noir, contributing to the exploration of crime and corruption prevalent in post-war American cinema. While not a standout or highly influential film, it remains of interest to those studying or appreciating the film noir genre.

If you are interested in the film, you may want to watch it to explore the visual style, narrative elements, and performances that contribute to its place within the film noir tradition.

The use of the word confidential in film noir titles can be attributed to several factors. While not every film noir includes this word in its title, it was a popular choice for certain films in the genre. Here are a few reasons why:

The term confidential suggests secrecy and hidden information, adding an element of intrigue and mystery to the title. Film noir often explores themes of crime, corruption, and hidden motives, and using "confidential" in the title sets the tone for a narrative filled with secrets.

Film noir frequently delves into the dark and corrupt aspects of society, including organized crime, political corruption, and moral ambiguity. The use of "confidential" in titles hints at the exposure of hidden, illicit activities or confidential information related to criminal enterprises.

Brian Keith exhibits his natural ease before the cameras as Fremont. The actor had good parts in THE VIOLENT MEN, 5 AGAINST THE HOUSE, and THE PARENT TRAP, but that one role that would’ve put him on top always eluded him. Keith fared better on the small screen, starring in Sam Peckinpah’s seminal THE WESTERNER, the popular but saccharine sitcom FAMILY AFFAIR, and the comedy-actioner HARDCASTLE AND MCCORMICK. He became a respected character actor in the 70’s and 80’s with films like THE WIND AND THE LION (as Teddy Roosevelt), THE MOUNTAIN MEN, and SHARKEY’S MACHINE.

Beverly Garland (Laura) was the 1950's Queen of the ‘B’ Girls (as in ‘B’ movies, not the other kind!), a fan favorite for her quickies with Roger Corman (SWAMP WOMEN, GUNSLINGER, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, NOT OFTHIS EARTH) and the silly horror THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE.  Bev really puts her all into the role, like she’s auditioning for juicier parts. It didn’t happen, but she certainly proves here she’s not just another pretty face, and later did get some good roles in both PRETTY POISON and AIRPORT 1975.

What folks typically don’t like in film (i.e. the carbon-copied stereotypical mobsters and women of the night) is what makes all of this work for me.  It’s all seedy underbelly, and only the servants of truth like Chicago’s finest (ahem) have what it takes to walk toe-to-toe with gangsters.  As a side passion, I tend to lose myself in vintage crime novels, and so much of Bernard Gordon’s screenplay (adapted from a book of the same name by Lee Mortimer and Jack Lait) feels authentic to that world.  (In fact, I just ordered myself a used copy of the novel based on some reviews.)  It might be imperfect based on a certain measurement, but it’s pitch perfect for those of us who appreciate a little ‘hard-boiled’ prose in our regular literary diets, so I found the flick inspired.
Yes, it’s imperfect.  Yes, it isn’t hard to see why it’s a bit of a forgotten film.  Yes, it’s dated.
But it’s damn good law.  And I approve.

The smoky streets of post-war America were cloaked in shadows, and the men in fedoras prowled like predators, navigating the murky alleys with a world-weary swagger. In those days, the surveillance game was a dance of whispers and clandestine maneuvers. The gumshoes on the beat relied on grit and intuition, not fancy gadgets and electronic eyes.

The patrol car, a metallic stallion galloping through the noir-soaked streets, was the high-tech wonder of the era, equipped with radio waves that crackled with every dispatch. The two-way radio was the lifeline for the lawmen, a lifeline tethered to the sordid tales unfolding on the city's fringes.

Yet, as the city's pulse quickened, and crime slithered into the darkness like a venomous serpent, the detectives yearned for a technological edge. They dreamt of a world where the eyes in the sky could pierce through the smog of deception, where electronic ears could eavesdrop on the conspiratorial whispers that echoed in the backrooms of corruption.

The police department's arsenal boasted more rust than chrome. Wiretaps, bugs the size of beetles, and surveillance photos taken with cameras as subtle as a sledgehammer. The buzz of a tapped line and the click of a hidden shutter were the symphony of justice in the concrete jungle.

For tracking the shady characters, the detectives leaned heavily on shoe leather, informants with weathered faces, and the occasional good cop with a crooked streak. In those noir-lit nights, it was about reading the shadows, not scanning pixels on a screen.

Alas police gadgets were still in their infancy in 1957, and the smoke-filled rooms of power were immune to the electric gaze of progress. The noir knights battled not against circuits and screens but against the human frailties that hid behind the cigarette haze.

The city slept, but the shadows never did. In those gritty streets, where the siren's wail was the only lullaby, the men in trench coats knew that the surveillance game was a dance with shadows, and technology was but a glint in the distant eyes of tomorrow.

Elisha Cook Jr in Chicago Confidential (1957)

Many film noirs feature private investigators or detectives as central characters. The use of "confidential" in the title may evoke the idea of confidential files, investigations, and the uncovering of hidden truths, aligning with the detective genre within film noir.

During the classic film noir era, which is generally considered to be the 1940s and 1950s, certain words and themes became popular in film titles due to their marketability. Confidential may have been seen as a catchy and intriguing word that could attract audiences interested in the suspenseful and mysterious elements of film noir.

The use of confidential in film noir titles was a stylistic choice that conveyed secrecy, mystery, and often tied into the thematic elements of crime and corruption prevalent in the genre.

Chicago: Confidential! is a non-fiction book co-authored by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer, first published in 1950. The book is an exposé that delves into the criminal underworld and corruption in Chicago during the mid-20th century. It provides an in-depth look at organized crime, political corruption, and illicit activities in the city.

Chicago: Confidential! explores the activities of organized crime syndicates in Chicago, detailing their influence over various aspects of the city, including businesses, politics, and law enforcement.

The book delves into the nexus between organized crime figures and politicians. It discusses instances of corruption within the political system and how criminal elements sought to control and manipulate those in power.

The authors present a series of scandalous revelations and anecdotes, providing readers with a sensationalized view of the underbelly of Chicago. This includes stories of illegal gambling, prostitution, and other illicit activities.

Chicago: Confidential! (1957) had an impact on public opinion and contributed to the public's fascination with crime and corruption in major American cities. The exposé style of the book aimed to shock and captivate readers with sensationalized accounts of the city's darker side.

The book was not without its controversies. Some critics questioned the accuracy of the claims made by the authors, while others saw it as a sensationalized piece of journalism that might have exaggerated or misrepresented certain aspects of Chicago's reality.

And yeah, books of this nature, often referred to as "true crime" or exposés, were popular during the mid-20th century. They provided readers with a voyeuristic glimpse into the criminal underworld and were sometimes criticized for their sensationalized approach. "Chicago: Confidential!" is one such example that aimed to capitalize on public interest in crime and expose the hidden aspects of Chicago's society during that era.

Yes, Chicago is a city that has been featured in a significant number of Hollywood films, especially during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The city's distinctive urban landscape, architecture, and cultural elements have provided filmmakers with a rich backdrop for various genres of films. Here are some notable examples:

Chicago is often associated with the film noir genre, characterized by its dark and atmospheric storytelling. Classic film noirs like The Big Heat (1953) and Call Northside 777 (1948) are set in Chicago, capturing the city's urban grit and crime-ridden atmosphere.

These films showcase the city's urban atmosphere, dark alleys, and often involve crime and corruption. Here are twelve significant film noirs set in Chicago:

Call Northside 777 (1948): A crime drama based on a true story, starring James Stewart as a journalist investigating a wrongful conviction in Chicago.

The Big Heat (1953): Directed by Fritz Lang, this film noir features Glenn Ford as a police detective seeking justice in the face of corruption and violence.

The Killing (1956): While primarily set in Los Angeles, Stanley Kubrick's classic heist film has significant portions taking place in Chicago.

Chicago Deadline (1949): A crime drama starring Alan Ladd as a newspaper reporter investigating a murder in Chicago.

Road House (1948): Ida Lupino stars in this noir about a night club owner caught in the middle of a battle between the local crime syndicate and the authorities.

Raw Deal (1948): A film noir directed by Anthony Mann that includes scenes set in Chicago, with the story revolving around an escaped convict seeking revenge.

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955): Starring Frank Sinatra, this film explores the dark world of drug addiction in Chicago.

Thieves' Highway (1949): While the main plot involves the trucking industry, parts of the film are set in Chicago.

"He Walked by Night" (1948): A police procedural film about the hunt for a cop killer in Los Angeles, with some scenes set in Chicago.

"City That Never Sleeps" (1953): A crime drama with an unusual narrative structure, set against the backdrop of Chicago at night.

"Roadblock" (1951): A film noir about a insurance investigator involved in a heist, with some scenes set in Chicago.

"Criss Cross" (1949): Although the primary setting is Los Angeles, the film has significant scenes set in Chicago. It's a classic noir with a tale of betrayal and crime.

These films showcase the diverse ways Chicago has been portrayed in film noir, capturing its gritty urban landscapes and the complex interplay of crime and justice. Keep in mind that the classification of films as film noir can sometimes be subjective, and opinions on the most significant or best examples may vary.


Brian Keith as Jim Fremont

Beverly Garland as Laura Barton

Dick Foran as Police Captain Malloy

Douglas Kennedy as Paul Dixon

Paul Langton as Ed Remley

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