AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Scarlet Street
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   28 Dec 1945
Production Date:   late Jul--late Sep 1945
Duration (in mins):   101-102
Duration (in feet):   9,344
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Cast:   Edward G. Robinson (Christopher Cross)  
    Joan Bennett (Katherine "Kitty" March)  
    Dan Duryea (Johnny)  
    Margaret Lindsay (Millie)  
    Rosalind Ivan (Adele Cross)  
    Jess Barker (Arthur Janeway)  
    Charles Kemper (Patcheye)  
    Anita Bolster (Mrs. Michaels)  
    Samuel S. Hinds (Charles Pringle)  
    Vladimir Sokoloff (Pop Lejon)  
    Arthur Loft (Dellarowe)  
    Russell Hicks (J. J. Hogarth)  
    Cyrus W. Kendall (Nick)  
    Fred Essler (Marchetti)  
    Edgar Dearing (Policeman)  
    Tom Dillon (Policeman)  
    Lee Phelps (Policeman)  
    Matt Willis (Policeman)  
    Robert Malcolm (Policeman)  
    William Hall (Policeman)  
    Ralph Dunn (Policeman)  
    Chuck Hamilton (Chauffeur)  
    Gus Glassmire (Employee)  
    Ralph Littlefield (Employee)  
    Sherry Hall (Employee)  
    Howard Mitchell (Katherine "Kitty" March)  
    Jack Statham (Employee)  
    Rodney Bell (Barney)  
    Henri De Soto (Waiter)  
    Milton Kibbee (Saunders)  
    Tom Daly (Penny)  
    George Meader (Holliday)  
    Lou Lubin (Tiny)  
    Clarence Muse (Ben)  
    John Barton (Hurdy gurdy man)  
    Emmett Vogan (Prosecutor)  
    Horace Murphy (Milkman)  
    Will Wright (Loan office manager)  
    Joe Devlin (Williams)  
    George Lloyd (Conway)  
    Syd Saylor (Crocker)  
    Dewey Robinson (Derelict)  
    Herbert Heywood (Bellboy)  
    Charles C. Wilson (Watchman)  
    Constance Purdy (Matron)  
    Fritz Leiber (Evangelist)  
    Wally Scott (Drunk)  
    Arthur Gould-Porter (Critic)  
    Boyd Irwin (Critic)  
    Richard Abbott (Critic)  
    Byron Foulger (Jones)  
    Thomas Jackson (Chief of detectives)  
    Edward Deane (Detective)  
    Dick Wessel (Detective)  
    Dick Curtis (Detective)  
    Richard Cramer (Principal keeper)  
    Rev. Neal Dodd (Priest)  
    Kerry Vaughn (Blonde girl)  
    Beatrice Roberts (Secretary)  

Summary: At a dinner celebrating twenty-five years of employment, cashier Christopher Cross is awarded an engraved watch by his boss, J. J. Hogarth, who later leaves the party with a stunning blonde, which impresses Chris. Walking home, Chris breaks up a violent quarrel between a man and a woman and, after the man flees, offers to escort the woman home. She introduces herself as Katherine "Kitty" March and asks Chris to buy her a drink first. Flattered and hoping to impress Kitty, Chris tells her that he is an artist and his modesty prompts her to suspect he is wealthy. The next day, Chris, who has been relegated by his shrewish wife Adele to practice his painting in the bathroom, grows depressed when she berates him for his lack of talent, and points out that her first husband died bravely as a detective. Frustrated, Chris sends Kitty a note asking to see her again. Kitty's idler boyfriend Johnny, the man who beat her, also believes Chris is rich and pressures Kitty to make a date with him. When they meet, Kitty claims she is an actress who finds it hard to make ends meet and asks Chris if she could pose for him, suggesting he rent a studio in which he could paint and she might live. When Chris admits he is married, Kitty feigns shock, but convinces him to rent the studio. Unsure how to provide the money for the studio, Chris considers stealing it from his employer, but asks Hogarth for a loan instead. Later at home, as Adele's nagging continues, Chris steals some of the security bonds left by her deceased first husband. Johnny helps Kitty select a lavish studio and demands she ask Chris for $1,000 more. When Chris unexpectedly visits the studio and finds Johnny with Kitty, she introduces him as a friend's boyfriend, but Chris's suspicions are aroused. Nevertheless, he brings several paintings to the studio and begins painting a portrait of Kitty. Later, Chris hesitates to provide Kitty with more money, but when she threatens to ask Johnny, Chris assures her he will get it for her and in desperation, begins stealing at work. Johnny, certain Chris is a famous artist, takes some of his paintings to a street vendor, who assesses them as amateurish, but offers to try and sell them. The next day, the vendor brings art critic Arthur Janeway to see Johnny, who tells him that Kitty did the paintings. Janeway declares the works highly original and when Kitty repeats some of Chris's phrases about art, the critic is impressed enough to offer to place the paintings with a prominent art dealer. Although Kitty is nervous, Johnny readily agrees. Sometime later, Adele spots the paintings with Kitty's signature in a dealer's window and accuses Chris of copying Kitty's work. Chris confronts Kitty about the paintings and she tearfully admits she had to sell them for money. Chris is pleased the paintings are selling and relieved to continue working in anonymity. At his office, a detective visits Chris, who fears his theft has been discovered, but the detective confesses to being Adele's first husband, Higgins. Higgins explains that he faked his own death and, now destitute, needs money to remain hidden. Chris, however, wants to pay Higgins to make a public return so he will be free of Adele. When Higgins hesitates, Chris tells him that Adele has the insurance money from his "death," which rightfully belongs to him. Chris arranges for Higgins to break in to the house that night to steal the insurance money, but traps him with Adele. Later, Chris visits Kitty and is dismayed to find her with Johnny. Overhearing Kitty declare her love for Johnny, Chris leaves, dejected. Kitty is relieved, but Johnny resents having lost their meal ticket and storms out. Chris returns, and although bewildered by Kitty's behavior, proposes. Kitty ridicules Chris's pathetic declaration and admits she has always loved Johnny. Outraged, Chris stabs Kitty to death with an icepick and slips away as Johnny comes back to the studio. The next day at work, an audit of the books reveals Chris's embezzlement. Hogarth is reluctant to prosecute and is sympathetic when Chris admits a woman was involved, but fires him. Johnny is arrested and tried for Kitty's murder, then is executed, while Chris remains silent. Guilt-ridden over the deaths of Kitty and Johnny, Chris attempts to hang himself, but is saved by neighbors. The haunted Chris takes to wandering the streets, trying to convince the police of his guilt, while the art gallery sells the "self portrait" of Kitty for an enormous fee. 

Production Company: Diana Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Fritz Lang Production
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
  Melville Shyer (Asst dir)
Producer: Fritz Lang (Prod)
Writer: Dudley Nichols (Scr)
Photography: Milton Krasner (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen (Art dir)
Film Editor: Arthur Hilton (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Carl Lawrence (Set dec)
Costumes: Travis Banton (Cost)
Music: H. J. Salter (Mus score)
Sound: Bernard B. Brown (Dir of sd)
  Glenn E. Anderson ([Sd] tech)
Special Effects: John P. Fulton (Spec photog)
Make Up: Jack P. Pierce (Makeup dir)
  Carmen Dirigo (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: John Decker (Paintings by)
Country: United States

Songs: "My Melancholy Baby," music by Ernie Burnett, lyrics by George A. Norton.
Composer: Ernie Burnett
  George A. Burnett
Source Text: Based on the novel La Chienne by Georges De La Fouchardiere (Paris, 1931) and the play of the same name in collaboration with André Mouëzy-Éon.
Authors: André Mouëzy-Éon
  Georges De La Fouchardiere

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 28/12/1945 dd/mm/yyyy LP30

PCA NO: 11276
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound

Genre: Film noir
Subjects (Major): Duplicity
  Painters (Of paintings)
Subjects (Minor): Art critics
  False arrests
  Femmes fatales
  Henpecked husbands
  Life insurance
  New York City

Note: Georges De La Fouchardiere's novel was published in America as The Poor Sap (New York, 1931). According to modern sources, director Ernst Lubitsch purchased the rights to De La Fouchardiere's novel, first, but was unable to produce a script acceptable to the PCA. By contrast, Dudley Nichols' script for Scarlet Street had little difficulty with the PCA. Scarlet Street was the first film produced by Diana Productions, an independent company established by producer Walter Wanger, his wife actress Joan Bennett and director Fritz Lang.
       Modern sources indicate that Austrian-American essayist Ludwig Bemelmans was brought in to work on an adaptation of La chienne for Wanger and Lang, but there is no confirmation of his contribution. Production notes indicate that the thirteen paintings in the film done by "Christopher Cross," including the portrait of Joan Bennett as "Kitty," were painted by artist John Decker. Several modern sources claim that conflict arouse between Lang and Wanger after Wanger took over the film in post-production and made several cuts based on Universal's marketing staff recommendations.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the film was banned by the state of New York for excessive violence and immorality, specifically the icepick murder of "Kitty." Wanger met with the New York censor, Dr. Irwin Conroe, and in late Jan 1946, with only minor editorial cuts (one of which reduced the number of ice pick stabs from seven to one), the film was approved. Similar eliminations were made in other states. In Feb 1946, Atlanta and Milwaukee banned the film. Universal Pictures and Diana Productions sued the city of Atlanta, claiming that the state censor did not have the authority to ban the film, and that only the entire state Board of Censors, who tied on their vote, could make such a decision. Georgia's lower court demurred judgment in Apr 1946, while the film was still in its first run. The city of Atlanta appealed to the state Supreme Court, who reversed the demurrer on a legal technicality in Sep 1946.
       Georges de la Fouchardiere's novel was first filmed in France in 1931. Titled La chienne , the picture was directed by Jean Renoir and starred Janie Mareze and Michel Simon. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   29 Dec 1945.   
Daily Variety   21 Dec 45   p. 3.
Film Daily   28 Dec 45   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 45   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Sep 45   p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 45   p. 3, 14
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jan 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jan 46   p.1.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jan 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jan 46   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 46   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Feb 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Feb 46   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 46   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 46   p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Feb 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Feb 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Feb 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Mar 46   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   9 Feb 1946.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   29 Sep 45   p. 2662.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   29 Dec 45   p. 2777.
New York Herald Tribune   7 Jan 1946.   
New York Times   13 Jan 1946.   
New York Times   15 Feb 46   p. 29.
Variety   2 Jan 46   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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