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Crime of Passion (1957)

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, more...
Director: Gerd Oswald, Gerd Oswald
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: MGM
Genre: Film Noir, Crime
Running Time: 86 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    see additional details...

Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) is a cynical newspaper columnist in San Francisco, handling women's advice -- by chance one day, the paper's City Editor assigns her to cover the woman's angle on the arrival of a pair of L.A. police detectives, Capt. Manny Alidos (oyal Dano) and Lt. Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden), on the hunt for a woman murder suspect known to be hiding somewhere in the city. They're both pretty button-down types and seem like fish-out-of-water in the more easy-going Frisco, and Kathy quickly clashes with them both, especially when her column appealing to the missing suspect as a woman yields serious dual results -- not only does Kathy boost her profile and readership, but the missing suspect makes contact and is ultimately brought in; in the process, Kathy goes from journalistic back-bencher to media star. That would be the end of the issue, except that Kathy and Bill have become attracted to each other amid their clashes, parries, and thrusts, and decide to get married -- she spurns the offer of a job in New York to move to Los Angeles and settle down to the life of a wife and homemaker. But that proves impossible -- Kathy quickly chafes at what she regards as the empty vacuous chatter of her fellow detective wives' lives and social interactions, and also her place in their pecking order as determined by their husbands' ranks and assignments; and Bill just doesn't rate high enough. Her own life suddenly cut off from career and ambition, and an ability to act on either, she becomes fixated on Bill's career and advancing it and him as a substitute. She contrives to cross paths socially with Alice Pope (Fay Wray), the wife of Inspector Tony Pope (Raymond Burr), who is both the head of an elite detective unit and the top man in her husband's division, and is soon not only getting Bill invited to parties with Pope and the police commissioner, but also cutting her husband's boss Manny Alidos and his wife Sara (Virginia Grey), to whom she's taken a special dislike, out of those same events. It's not quite enough, however, and Kathy starts socializing on her own with Pope, on Bill's behalf, and the two soon have their own relationship. Bill is still too much of a nice guy, and not careerist enough or assertive enough -- until she feigns distress at receiving poison-pen letters accusing her of having an affair with Pope, and blames Manny and Sara. This drives Bill to confront and assault Alidos, leading to a hearing in Pope's office where the chief of the division -- now very much beholden to Bill for Kathy's sake -- comes down on Bill's side; when the smoke clears, Manny is bounced back into uniform and Bill is made acting captain and put in charge of the homicide unit that Alidos formerly headed. Bill is on his way, and so is Kathy and Pope's relationship. But Pope proves to be a distressingly honorable and loyal man -- when his wife's health takes a turn for the worse, he decides to put in for retirement, and Kathy wants him to recommend Bill as his replacement. He considers it but decides that regardless of what he's done outside of his marriage, the department is too important to compromise the detective division, and that Bill just doesn't have what it takes to head it. Kathy is in too deep to her strategy to back off, and also feels betrayed by Pope -- now pushed over the edge, she contrives to threaten him with a gun, and is prepared to make good on her threat. Ironically enough, Bill may get his shot yet at heading the division, as he's head of homicide and takes personal charge the biggest case the department has seen in years -- bringing in Tony Pope's killer. The only question is if and how he can put together the clues and pieces of the puzzle leading back to Kathy. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Odd, sometimes annoying, completely worthwhile by rarcher February 16, 2004 - 3:05 PM PST
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Crime of Passion is a swan song of sorts for Stanwyck, who's a bit mature here to play your average leading lady. Thankfully, she's not asked to - her Kathy Doyle is an (admittedly cliche) hard-hitting journalist who's smitten late in life by good ol' cop Sterling Hayden, and gives up her career to become a housewife.

The life she thought she wanted smothers her; some of the best scenes in the movie depict Stanwyck gamely trying to socialize with the insipid wives of her husband's co-workers. It's clear that she needs something to focus her energies, and quick - or she's going to lose it!

The film makes the audience work to figure out what Kathy's up to. Is she stalking the wife of her husband's superior? Making a play for the superior himself (Raymond Burr, in a juicy and sinister bit role), who's obviously a far better intellectual counterpart than her husband? But no --- SPOILER --- she's simply trying to live her ambitions vicariously through her unambitious husband, a goal that results in murder.

Crime of Passion's far from perfect. A very strange early scene seems to focus on an unfunny sandwich delivery boy who's never seen again. The chemistry between Stanwyck and Hayden is virtually nonexistent. But the film excels in depicting a larger-than-life example of 50's protofeminism, with its heroine chastised for her own ambitions and dogged by small-minded gossip. It's well worth watching.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.62)
8 Votes
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