Crime Of Passion (1957)

Crime Of Passion (1957) is a cops in suburbia story of female subjugation by the American Dream, and the story of how one career woman in love regrets her decision to quit her job in the media and become a housewife.

Many of the favourite flavours of noir are evident in a curiously uncorrupted and happy cop shop whereas the subtle rot of suburban morality that is often unsubtly recorded in film noir is placed on a slow burn beneath the lot of this movie.

The men are the men and the women are the women in this vision of 1950s USA, and most especially of all this is a noir of suburbia, a tale of the middle classes and the stifling inability of the new American Dream to cope with any abnormality in the moral and gender relations of the day.

Barbara Stanwyck holds this together with ease, being a successful career woman driving to murder by a mundane and boring life in the suburbs where she must make shallow talk with other wives while the men play cards and demand sandwiches in the next room.

Streets of Frisco in Crime Of Passion (1957)

It's a dull life out there in mediocre bourgeoisie silent majority subtopia burbs, and the cops make it worse. What is cool is that Royal Dano plays Sterling Heyden's boss however, and it's just as well because it's a picture of powerhouse performances.

Jay Adler in Crime Of Passion (1957)

Raymond Burr seems to have changed weight and appearance quite substantially before settling into the final television Burr that most would know from Perry Mason, at which he was terribly good.

In the tumultuous evolution of film noir during the 1950s, the genre underwent a metamorphosis, departing from its entrenched roots in dark romanticism dictated by fate and the rigid tenets of hardboiled traditions. A perceptible shift occurred, steering noir towards a more cynical and existentially bleak exploration of crime and society. This transformative era ushered in films like The Brothers Rico and Nightfall, where the narratives transcended the confines of dimly lit urban landscapes that once defined the noir milieu.

Call the cops! Royal Dano and Sterling Hayden in Crime Of Passion (1957)

Gone were the stylized chiaroscuro lighting of the 1940s, replaced by the stark and realistic grays of daylight that permeated exceptional thrillers such as The Lineup. The genre, once confined to the shadows of night, now embraced the unforgiving gaze of daylight, exposing the gritty underbelly of crime and societal disillusionment. This evolution marked a departure from the fatalistic undertones of classic noir, delving into a more sobering examination of the human condition in a world increasingly defined by shades of gray.

In this enthralling widescreen monochrome crime saga, the solitary figure navigating a world steeped in complacency is a woman of unwavering resolve, embodied with gritty determination by the indomitable Barbara Stanwyck. While the film adheres to some familiar archetypes, it gradually unfolds unique narrative strands, transforming into a distinct tale of allure and ambition.

Sterling Hayden delivers a curiously pleasant a low-beat performance, surpassing in gentle mood his acclaimed role in Kubrick's The Killing during this period. The ensemble cast, which includes Raymond Burr and the unexpected presence of Fay Wray from the iconic King Kong (1933), adds depth to the cinematic landscape. 

The brisk pace is occasionally marred by redundancy in certain events, offering multiple instances to convey Stanwyck's ambition when a singular, potent example would suffice. Nevertheless, the writing, crafted by the late noir luminary Jo Eisinger, exhibits intelligence and occasional wit.

The film benefits from the brilliant cinematography of the legendary Joseph LaShelle, and director Gerd Oswald, while relatively obscure, weaves the narrative together seamlessly. This fortuitous convergence of talents, including Stanwyck, Hayden, LaShelle, Burr, and Eisinger, contributes to the film's resonance.

Dinner date with Barbara Stanwyck and Sterling Hayden in Crime Of Passion (1957)

A notable theme, and a catalyst for Stanwyck's transformative character shift midway through the narrative, revolves around the revelation of gender stereotypes. Eisinger skillfully exposes societal norms of the time, showcasing men engaging in ostensibly important card games while women, relegated to the adjacent room, exchange seemingly frivolous banter. This depiction, though progressive for its 1957 context, remains truthful, and Stanwyck's response, while dubious, echoes a role she portrayed in the classic "Baby Face" over two decades earlier, where success was sought through strategic liaisons.

Suburban dream house in Crime Of Passion (1957)

An admirable entry in the twilight of the noir/crime era, this film not only withstands the test of time but also stands as a testament to the enduring brilliance of its ensemble cast and crew.

Los Angeles City Hall in Crime Of Passion (1957)

Don't let the naysayers throw you off the scent, a bit of chatter that hits me harder than the searing critiques woven into the very fabric of this film's unapologetic societal expose. 

So we have some San Francisco and some Los Angeles in this movie. Stanwyck, she's the real McCoy, dealing out a performance that hits hard in this peculiar late-cycle noir. It's a deviation from the norm, opening with that classic noir flair, stitching up the initial shadows in under ten minutes, then sliding into an incisive and insightful melodrama. Social commentary, sharper than the edge of a switchblade, slicing through the veneer, leaving Fritz Lang's late noirs in the shadowy alley.

The women with the women in Crime Of Passion (1957)

Crime of Passion, it's a stark reminder, a splash of cold water on the face, exposing the rosy-hued "nostalgia" for those supposedly "happy family values" of the '50s as nothing more than a pipe dream, a wishful reverie. Watch as Stanwyck takes the plunge, descending with a languid pace into the abyss of middle-class mundanity and madness. She's no run-of-the-mill housewife; she's sharp, witty, and intelligent. 

Yet, she ties herself to a downright dreary and conventional cop husband, Sterling Hayden playing it nice and easy against the usual type.

The domestic scenery of Crime Of Passion (1957)

Raymond Burr in Crime Of Passion (1957)

San Fran Cabbie girls in Crime Of Passion (1957)

In the initial reel of Crime of Passion the celluloid canvas unfurls with a vivid portrayal of the ardently devoted lesbians of San Francisco, voraciously imbibing the sagacious counsel dispensed by the indomitable Barbara Stanwyck, a resolute advice columnist. Her Sapphic sagacity reverberates through the city, embraced even by the butch lady cabbies. A 17-year-old seeker of guidance, entangled in the complexities of love for a married man, elicits a wry suggestion from Stanwyck—urging her to abscond with the spouse.

The film's financiers could only allocate resources for a meagre selection of Los Angeles exteriors, but they proved to be noteworthy choices. The residence of the Popes is situated in Westwood, just to the east of UCLA, adorned with meandering streets lined by stately homes that have since skyrocketed in value, now commanding millions. 

In the 1970s, I would park in that locale, embarking on a half-mile hike up to the campus, and the streets retained an uncanny resemblance to the idyllic neighborhoods portrayed in 1950s TV shows like 'Leave it to Beaver,' a picturesque façade of middle-class life. Stanwyck and Hayden, in stark contrast, inhabit a densely packed housing tract where the glow of a drive-in movie theater beckons from down the block. These homes, once modestly priced and closely clustered, were regarded with indifference; today, in the labyrinth of Los Angeles real estate, they likely command an exorbitant premium.

Boxing match crowd in Crime Of Passion (1957)

In the realm of detectives, a cohort bound by marital vows and seemingly untainted by corruption, Commissioner Tony Pope (embodied by Burr) succumbs to compromising escapades. His transgressions involve an affair with the wife of one of his detectives and a woeful mismanagement of his subordinates. The rationale presented for his lapses hinges on the strains of his ailing wife's health, implying an impending retirement before total judgmental erosion.

Yet, the film endeavors to thrust the blame squarely onto Kathy, weaving a narrative where her sycophantic manoeuvres could conceivably lead to a dalliance of convenience. The intricate dance of interpersonal dynamics, stirred by Kathy's calculated ascent, might indeed spark an illicit liaison. Promotions could be dangled as a security blanket, an attempt to shroud the affair in the shadows. Kathy, playing her cards shrewdly, could then exit the stage with a calculated number of chips, as Pope cryptically suggests.

In the fabric of reality, Bill emerges as a commendable detective, though lacking the managerial mettle. His crisis-management toolkit hinges on steadfast determination and sleepless endurance. This self-awareness forms the bedrock of his stability. Conversely, the supposedly astute and sophisticated Kathy grapples with her inability to accept a man devoid of ambition – a curse bestowed upon her by the storytellers.

Crime Of Passion (1957)

Barbara Stanwyck and Sterling Hayden emerge as a compelling duo. Stanwyck, surpassing the age thresholds of her peers, sidesteps campiness in leading roles, her performance devoid of excess theatricality, except, perhaps, an overly liberal application of lipstick. 

Their chemistry unfolds with Hayden embodying a unique amalgamation – a sensitive brick-like figure of a man, a decent man comfortable in the confines of his job. It's plausible that a go-getter like Kathy Ferguson could fall prey to love's folly, propelling her well-intentioned but misguided quest to push him beyond his limits. Hayden's portrayal unveils exceptional scenes where his detective instincts guide him along an unforeseen path, leading inexorably back to the crucible of his own home.

Raymond Burr, the prolific actor known for his versatile roles, especially in film noir, appeared in approximately 30 film noirs during his career. His compelling performances and distinctive presence made him a sought-after actor in this genre.

Despite her disdain for the institution of marriage, Stanwyck succumbs swiftly to the charms of Sterling Hayden, a cop whose softer, more effeminate demeanor captivates her. The matrimonial union catapults Stanwyck into the stifling confines of suburbia, a veritable inferno where banal conversations orbit ceaselessly around television sets. A montage of vapid housewife chatter, encapsulated in a purgatorial panorama, accentuates the stifling mediocrity she confronts. Her vehement diatribe against the mundanity of domestic duties becomes a poignant resonance of a bygone era, a star from the '30s railing against the oppressive conformity of the '50s.

Amidst the veiled violence and visceral eruptions, Stanwyck's character emerges as a vessel of rebellion, a conduit expressing vehement discontent against the stifling norms. The film subtly positions the audience on her side, unraveling the potent reasons that propel her anger. In its often overlooked subversive narrative, "Crime of Passion" becomes a clandestine harbinger of feminist discourse, underscored by the commanding brilliance of Stanwyck's performance.

In the annals of cinema, this hidden gem stands as a quintessential Noir masterpiece from the labyrinthine tapestry of the 1950s. A rare breed, it abstains from condescension toward its audience—a breath of fresh air in a decade often marred by cinematic haughtiness. Its excellence lies not merely in the dialogue or the settings but in the verisimilitude it effortlessly weaves. Neither steeped in excessive glamor nor shrouded in dreariness, it strikes an exquisite balance.

The ensemble cast, featuring luminaries like Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, and Raymond Burr, delivers performances that border on cinematic alchemy. The Stanwyck-Hayden nexus proves particularly enthralling, emerging as one of the screen's most intriguing pairings. Hayden, the unsung virtuoso, commands the screen with an understated yet magnetic presence, infusing authenticity into every role. 

Stanwyck, a paragon of her craft, navigates her character's complexities with finesse, this role standing out as one of her most compelling. Despite dissenting voices asserting Stanwyck's ostensible incongruity with the role's age dynamics, it's precisely this facet that injects profundity. The casting coup lies in accentuating Stanwyck's dilemma through the lens of a "possible" age difference—an ingenious choice that transcends the banalities of conventional beauty.

Kathy Doyle: I hope all your socks have holes in them and I can sit for hours and hours darning them.

Bill Doyle: I um . . . I have other plans for you.

Raymond Burr, in a revelatory turn, embodies his slimy and contemptible character with an unsettling authenticity. One can't help but lament the trajectory of Burr's career, pigeonholed into perpetually reprising a singular character on the small screen.

Stuart Whitmore and Sterling Hayden in Crime Of Passion (1957)

The narrative, a grounded tapestry that avoids ludicrous flights of fancy, offers a riveting exploration of police dynamics. Yet, the true allure lies in the trilateral dynamics between Stanwyck, Hayden, and Burr. The symbiotic dance of emotions, as Stanwyck and Burr pine for each other, unfolds as a nuanced spectacle, resonating on myriad levels of cinematic complexity.

Barbara Stanwyck in film noir Crime Of Passion (1957)

Witness Stanwyck's unravelling, a slow burn through the nightmare society spins for women who yearn for anything beyond the stifling grasp of the conventional patriarchal routine. The LA police captain, the mouthpiece of the oppressive status quo, dishes out lines like he's dealing cards in a crooked poker game, telling Stanwyck she ought to be at home, slaving away on supper for her husband. It's a line that echoes through both the corridors of Stanwyck's conscience and the very heart of this film.

Sterling Hayden in film noir Crime Of Passion (1957)

Crime of Passion (1957)

MGM Home Entertainment

B&W / 1:66 letterboxed flat / 84 min. / Street Date December 2, 2003 / 14.95

Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr, Fay Wray, Virginia Grey, Royal Dano

Cinematography Joseph LaShelle

Art Direction Leslie Thomas

Original Music Paul Dunlap

Original Story and Screenplay by Jo Eisinger

Produced by Herman Cohen, Robert Goldstein

Directed by Gerd Oswald

No comments:

Post a Comment