The Naked Street (1955)

The Naked Street (1955) is a death penalty pregnancy and child loss crime corruption and extortion frame up film noir by Maxwell Shane starring Anne Bancroft, Anthony Quinn and Farley Granger.

If film noir naming conventions are to be adhered to, then The Naked Street (1955) trumps top in many delightful ways, composed as it is of that favourite noir naming trope — the street.

Lassie slapping noir is a stryle of street noir dirty with villainy and snarls, here delivered by back-handin' Anthony Quinn, some super indented toothy noir by numbers, a film of straight lines.

Studio noir with cool and low down fast action location shooting blended everyday realism with a sense of poetic melancholy. Films of noir often depicted characters living on the margins of society, facing disappointment, disillusionment, and fatalistic views of life.

The overall tone of poetic realism frequently evoked nostalgia and bitterness. These films were characterized by a heightened aestheticism that drew attention to their representational aspects.

Film noir, in the 1940s and 1950s, shared some thematic elements with poetic realism.

Street names and urban locations played a significant role in film noir titles. Both poetic realism and film noir often depicted the urban landscape. Streets, alleys, and dimly lit corners became symbolic of moral ambiguity and danger.

Street names anchored the stories in specific places, emphasizing realism. These were the gritty backdrops where crime, corruption, and intrigue unfolded.

Street names were used metaphorically. They represented crossroads, both literally and symbolically.

Characters faced moral dilemmas and choices. The streets became a reflection of their internal struggles.

For instance,  Sunset Boulevard (1950) not only refers to a famous street in Hollywood but also symbolizes the fading glory of its aging starlet protagonist.

Anthony Quinn and Anne Bancroft in The Naked Street (1955)

Poetic realism emerged during a time of political awareness. It was influenced by leftist ideologies, including the Popular Front group.

Film noir, although not explicitly left-wing, often explored societal issues. Its characters—unemployed working-class members or criminals—lived on the margins.

Street names in film noir titles hinted at the genre’s conventions and the urban experience. Both the poetic realism genre and the film noir style embraced visual styles. Film noir’s shadows, low-key lighting, and urban decay contributed to its aesthetic.

Street names reinforced the genre’s iconography. Dark alleys, rain-soaked streets, and flickering streetlights became synonymous with noir. Post-war anxieties and social changes influenced both poetic realism and film noir.

Street names symbolized the allure and dangers of the cityscape, reflecting the complexities of society.

Poetic realism had a significant impact on later film movements, including Italian neorealism and the French New Wave. Filmmakers like Luchino Visconti, who worked with poetic realist directors, later became influential in their own right.

The use of location signifiers persisted in film noir, leaving an indelible mark on cinematic history.

The poetic realism of the 1930s and the street-centric film noir titles of the 1940s and 1950s intersected through their shared exploration of urban life, moral dilemmas, and visual aesthetics.

Film noir often depicted the urban landscape, particularly the seedy underbelly of cities. Streets, alleys, and dimly lit corners became symbolic of the moral ambiguity and danger lurking in society.

By incorporating street names into titles, filmmakers emphasized the realism of their narratives. These streets were the gritty backdrops where crime, corruption, and intrigue unfolded.

Street names served as location signifiers. They anchored the stories in specific places, whether it was the mean streets of New York, the alleys of Los Angeles, or the foggy lanes of San Francisco.

Titles like The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and  Kiss of Death (1947) evoke a sense of place and set the tone for the film. Street names were often used metaphorically. They represented crossroads, both literally and symbolically.

Anne Bancroft in The Naked Street (1955)

Characters faced moral dilemmas, choices, and intersections in their lives. The streets became a reflection of their internal struggles.

For instance,  Sunset Boulevard (1950), this is an example that is used several times in this article, and a possible sign that AI was being used to write it, not only refers to a famous street in Hollywood but also symbolizes the fading glory of its aging starlet protagonist.

Film noir embraced a visual style characterized by shadows, low-key lighting, and urban decay. Streets, alleyways, and neon signs contributed to this aesthetic.

The use of street names in titles reinforced the genre’s iconography. Dark alleys, rain-soaked streets, and flickering streetlights became synonymous with noir.

Filmmakers and studios recognized that including street names in titles could attract audiences. These titles promised a blend of crime, intrigue, and urban drama. Audiences familiar with city life could relate to these references, and the titles hinted at the genre’s conventions.

Whit Bissell and James Flavin in The Naked Street (1955)

While Farley Granger makes for adorable noir, expressive of vulnerability and a different type of male from the war heroes and crime bitten lads of the urban jungle, he also plays much the same role in a few of his greatest noir outings. A lover, much adored by his female companions, Granger's characters are lost and at the mercy of the forces of fate above all else, and he is the slip of an angel in his tread, a forlorn Farley of a victim, every time.

Anthony Quinn is a great choice for contrast, in the case of The Naked Street (1955). In some manners of viewing, The Naked Street should have been one of the best noirs going, but as a production it is too late into the cycle, peddling a kind of classy 1940s vibe, in an era that had left that behind.

Anthony Quinn - neurotic gangster supreme in The Naked Street (1955)

The post-war era was marked by social changes, urbanization, and the rise of crime. Film noir tapped into these anxieties and explored the darker aspects of society. Street names became shorthand for the urban experience, capturing both its allure and its dangers.

In summary, the prevalence of street names in film noir titles during the 1940s and 1950s was a deliberate choice that enhanced the genre’s atmosphere, realism, and thematic depth.

Joe Turkel in The Naked Street (1955)

The whole street in the name of the film thing was big in noir in the Golden Age, even if that gold was in black and white and the street wasn't in the best part of town. But these are legion. We could stay up all night, rolling into the cigarette bitten dawn thinking of film titles with 'street' or similar references. Here is the quick list version:

  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • Street of Chance (1942)
  • Street of Women (1932)
  • Back Street (1941)
  • Scarlet Street (1945)
  • 13 East Street (1952)
  • Street of Shadows (1953)
  • Street of Sinners (1957)
  • Street of Darkness (1958)
  • The Street with No Name (1948)
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
  • Panic in the Streets (1950)
  • 99 River Street (1953)
  • Street of Missing Men (1939)
  • Street of Memories (1940)
  • Night Street (1929)
  • Street Corner (1948)
  • Street of No Return (1989)
  • Side Street (1950)
  • Pickup on South Street (1953)

Film noir is characterized by its moody and atmospheric visuals. But it is also a place to fully explore the psychogeographical criminal entertainment and thriller nexus, by hitting the streets, quiet literally. This is not to even portray these streets, as they usually are in the film noir style, for this is merely to evoke them by name. Powerful. 

To add to the charm in this one case of this excellent Maxwell Shane media and journalism electric chair frame-up noir, The Naked Street (1955), it feels for all the world like a film noir of 1945, and is an utter anomaly for 1955.

There is no fifties style to it, or any fifties undertones of corporate or larger social and political criminality, and yet as film noir with a blue collar neighbourhood setting, even the dingy rooms of The Naked Street are like their forties cousins all the way.

Anthony Quinn portrays Phil Regal, a tough racketeer. He's not a traditional villain but rather an antihero — a morally ambiguous figure who operates outside the law.

Farley Granger's character, Nicky Bradna, is caught in a web of deceit and manipulation. But he is his own tormenting web of wonderful acting work as he does the vain villain, playing on his lovely looks in a different manner.

His flaws and vulnerabilities make him a quintessential film noir protagonist.

The film opens with Phil Regal pulling strings to spare his pregnant, unmarried sister Rosalie's boyfriend, Nicky, from a death penalty sentence. Phil's motives are murky — perhaps loyalty, perhaps self-interest.

When Rosalie loses the baby and discovers Nicky's infidelity, Phil orchestrates Nicky's framing for murder. Nicky, aware of Phil's earlier intervention, threatens to expose him. Ultimately, Nicky faces execution, and Phil meets his demise while evading the police.

Bosley Crowther of  The New York Times was unimpressed, calling the film "dismal and uninspiring." However, he noted Anne Bancroft's character falling in love with a newspaper man as a bright spot.

The newspaper angle is a tricky one, and in a film that Bosley the Boss did not much care for there is a hell of a lot of action and angles. 

The Naked Street may not have achieved classic status, but its noir elements — dark visuals, morally complex characters, and fatalistic themes — immerse us in a vision that is something film noir wants to say again and again: look at this dismal mess.

Lee Van Cleef in The Naked Street (1955)

The heart of the movie lies in its performances, particularly those of gang boss Regal, portrayed by Quinn, and his innocent sister Rosalie, played by Bancroft. 

Despite Regal's ruthless demeanour in the criminal world, within his family, he exhibits a surprisingly protective nature. However, his demeanour changes drastically when Rosalie becomes involved with the unscrupulous Bradna, played by Granger, who not only impregnates her but also betrays Regal by philandering after being coerced into marriage. 

Regal goes to great lengths to support Bradna, even getting him out of a murder charge, only to feel deeply betrayed when Bradna's actions come to light, intensifying his anger and setting the stage for further conflict.

While the plot features some improbable twists, Quinn's performance is nothing short of mesmerizing, showcasing his talent honed in his recent work in the Italian classic La Strada (1954). Bancroft, already a captivating presence, adds depth to the film with her portrayal of Rosalie, hinting at the illustrious career that awaits her. 

Despite the film's modest visual presentation, the supporting cast, including emerging talents like Van Cleef and the amazing Peter Graves, as well as seasoned actors like Whit Bissell, and if you have not been following Whit Bissell on the film noir train then now is the time to start. And James Flavin, contributes to this movie's allure, in terms of its fairly wide ranging film noir cast.

Yes, so indeed Quinn delivers a compelling performance as the tough gangster, reminiscent of characters from pre-code Warner gangster films. Granger effectively portrays Bradna as a man caught in unfortunate circumstances, while Bancroft, despite her character's weaknesses, delivers a commendable performance. Peter Graves, in the role of a reporter, also shines in his portrayal.

Had the film been made five years earlier, it might have embraced a more straightforward noir style, devoid of the moralizing voice-over characteristic of the McCarthy Cold War era. Nevertheless, it remains a gritty and engaging piece of cinema, propelled by Quinn's standout performance, deserving more recognition than its relatively obscure status in Hollywood history, despite its provocative title.

In The Naked Street" gangster Phil Regal, portrayed by Anthony Quinn, learns that his sister Rosalie, played by Anne Bancroft, is pregnant by Nicky Bradna, a criminal on death row, portrayed by Farley Granger. Regal manipulates the witnesses to change their testimony, resulting in Bradna's release. However, Regal soon regrets his actions. 

While the film has received predominantly negative reviews, the stellar cast elevates the viewing experience and you know those reviewers may have got a thing or two wrong, or are not looking for the right kind of deep noir that you may be. Despite the film's flaws, the performances are captivating, drawing viewers into the narrative. So maybe the film has no flaws.

One major criticism of the film is its implausible plot, but again this is the plot and the implausibility is the writer's and director's own challenge, set by them to entertain you. Well, of course, particularly the manner in which Regal intervenes to save Bradna from death row. Additionally, the climax of the story lacks logical coherence in the eyes of some but to others the experience has made them smile, it can easily do that, can this superb cast. 

Another issue lies in the characterization of Rosalie, whose naivety and inconsistent morality detract from the overall enjoyment of the film. She does not act much like a woman who has lost a child, and the whole schtick with that is that the losing of the child is much worse on the man in the relationship, which is quite a shocker to see.

To be recommended indeed for anyone searching out scenes of abominable blazing awful patriarchy in the movies, The Naked Street (1955) does in fact have such a scene for your collection, and for your analysis and certain condemnation, and the scene takes place between Anne Bancroft and Farley Granger.

The Naked Street is presented as a flashback narrated by investigative journalist Peter Graves, who not only uncovers the story but also finds romance along the way.  This makes The Naked Street as solid an example as class might like in their noir adventures, given the flashback structure, the topic of media and journalism, and of course the ultimate filmic film noir kiss-off, the framing of the story. Framing is a big deal in noir.

At its core, the film revolves around Anthony Quinn's portrayal of a tough and protective gangster, reminiscent of Paul Muni's character in Scarface" who is fiercely devoted to his sister, played by Anne Bancroft. When Bancroft's character becomes pregnant by local troublemaker Farley Granger, who is on death row for murder, Quinn's character goes to extreme and illegal lengths to free him. If it ain't their mother it's their sister. The insanely protective male gangster is quite the trope.

However, once Granger and Bancroft are wed, Quinn's character treats Granger with disdain, mirroring the dynamics between Sonny Corleone and Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather. Despite Granger's attempts to reform, Quinn's character harbours a deep-seated hatred towards him, leading to a tragic conclusion for both.

Anthony Quinn delivers a commanding performance, showcasing his versatility as an actor, while his character's animosity towards Granger's character drives the narrative forward. Granger's role echoes his previous performances, particularly in Edge Of Doom, adding layers of irony to the story's resolution. 

Additionally, notable performances by James Flavin as a criminal defense attorney and Lee Van Cleef as an unwitting participant in Quinn's schemes enrich the film's ensemble cast.

The film's exploration of moral dilemmas within the criminal underworld, particularly Regal's concern for his sister's reputation, adds depth to the narrative. Despite its flaws, "The Naked Street" offers entertainment value, thanks to its talented cast and intriguing exploration of moral complexities in a gangster's world.

Jeanne Cooper in The Naked Street (1955)

The Naked Street - Wikipedia.

Naked Street, The (1955): B-Crime Film Noir, starring Farley Granger ....

The Naked Street (1955) - FilmAffinity.

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