Year: 1947

Director: Robert Wise

Cast: Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long

Sam Wild is a man who is inexplicably confident and is willing to trample over anyone in his way to get where he is going. His confidence ends up taking him places, despite being a nobody. He is impulsive and dangerous. Women want him and wise men stay out of his way. When he encounters Helen Trent, played by Claire Trevor, she begins to fall for him, despite her engagement to a successful man who means stability and comfort for her, which she claims to desperately desire.

There is a difference between characters making poor choices and characters making choices that are contrived to further the story.

At times this film teeters on the line between the two. There are too many moments that seem contrived and hard to swallow, including some of the actions of Sam Wild. His character comes across as sensational at times. This is Hollywood trying to be shocking, and not being as convincing as I would like.

Had they ironed out the script a little I think this film could have been so much more.

There are some memorable performances by some great actors in it however.

Elisha Cook Jr. plays Sam’s best friend and the relationship between the two is interesting to watch and analyze. His devotion becomes more and more interesting. It seems Sam’s confidence is attractive to everyone, and even breeds devotion from those like his friend who would be better off not associating with such an impulsive man. Keep your eyes peeled for the interaction between these two.

Esther Howard is also fun to watch as an old woman who amuses herself vicariously through the escapades of young women she befriends, especially one Laury Palmer who ends up dead after she is spotted by her boyfriend with another man.

This movie is worth seeing but mostly forgettable. Despite my relative indifference towards the film I can understand those who really enjoy it and unlike some films that don’t overly impress me I wouldn’t want to discourage people from seeing it. I think some of the ideas behind the film are quite intriguing in fact, I just didn’t feel they were executed as well as I would have liked.

Seinfeld fans will remember Lawrence Tierney, who plays Sam Wild, as Elaine’s intimidating father. It seems Lawrence Tierney had a face for intimidation. He is intimidating in this film as well, and is just wild enough (his last name can’t be a coincidence) that he should be feared and avoided.

By Greg Dickson

Year: 1947

Director: Edward Dmytryck

Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame

Crossfire starts with a fight seen only in shadows on the wall. A man is killed but you don’t know who, and you don’t know who the murderer is. Crossfire is filmed as a fairly standard murder mystery, someone is murdered and the wrong person is blamed. As the investigation continues the real killer is eventually identified and caught. Seems pretty standard, right? As the story unfolds you will see that the real story here is one of bigotry and religious intolerance. A topic that was never attempted before (Gentleman’s Agreement was released later the same year).

Captain Finlay, (Robert Young) is investigating the murder of Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene) a Jew who met up with the wrong people. The suspects are soldiers just returned from the war. Among them are Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and George Cooper. As the story unfolds with each soldier telling his version of the story it slowly becomes clear as to who the killer is. But that is not the point as you will know by now.

The film was done on a low budget because no one felt there was an audience for this kind of picture. In the end, the film not only made money but was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, (Edward Dmytryk), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Ryan) and Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame).

Dmytryk has said that he used the film noir style because it was cheap and they had no budget, and noir required less lighting. True story or not, the use of low lighting, dark streets, cheap hotels and shadows created a noir classic.

Robert Young holds his own amongst some heavyweight company, but its Robert Ryan who provides a classic performance as the sadistic bigot Montgomery. Ryan, of course would go on to play a long assorted list of vicious characters in his career. Interesting enough Robert Mitchum is given a supporting role in this film even though by now he was a star. Crossfire was produced by RKO Pictures who Mitchum was under contract to and probably was forced to do the film, even if the role was not the lead. Gloria Grahame is on screen for only six to eight minutes but gives a tremendous performance as a dance hall girl, who spends time with Mitchell (George Cooper) the soldier who is at first incorrectly identified as the killer. From what I have read, Grahame, who has an abusive husband on screen, was going through a similar situation in real life and that may have led to some added authenticity that otherwise might have been missing.
Either way she is fantastic as usual. In the short, that accompanies the film on the DVD, it’s mentioned that Dmytryk used different lens when filming Robert Ryan. In the beginning, he used a standard 50mm lens showing Ryan’s character as normal. Later on he used a 40mm and still later, a 35mm and finally a 25mm on Ryan so he could reflect the distorted craziness of Ryan’s character, Montgomery. Crossfire is a film not to be missed.

By John Greco