AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Criss Cross
Director: Robert Siodmak (Dir)
Release Date:   Feb 1949
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: week of 19 Jan 1949
Production Date:   mid-Jun--late Jul 1948
Duration (in mins):   87-88
Duration (in feet):   7,880
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Burt Lancaster (Steve Thompson)  
    Yvonne De Carlo (Anna [Dundee])  
    Dan Duryea (Slim Dundee)  
    Stephen McNally ([Lt.] Pete Ramirez)  
    Esy Morales (Orchestra leader) and His Rhumba Band
    Tom Pedi (Vincent)  
    Percy Helton (Frank)  
    Alan Napier (Finchley)  
    Griff Barnett (Pop)  
    Meg Randall (Helen)  
    Richard Long (Slade Thompson)  
    Joan Miller (The lush)  
    Edna M. Holland (Mrs. Thompson)  
    John Doucette (Walt)  
    Marc Krah (Mort)  
    James O'Rear (Waxie)  
    John Skins Miller (Midget)  
    Robert Osterloh (Mr. Nelson)  
    Vincent Renno (Headwaiter)  
    Charles Wagenheim (Waiter)  
    Anthony Curtis (Dance partner)  
    Beatrice Roberts (Nurse)  
    Isabel Randolph (Nurse)  
    Stephen Roberts (Doctor)  
    Garry Owen (Johnny)  
    Kenneth Patterson (Bently, guard)  
    Gene Evans (O'Hearn, guard)  
    George Lynn (Andy)  
    Michael Cisney (Chester)  
    Robert Winkler (Clark)  
    Lee Tung Foo (Chinese cook)  
    Ann Staunton (Girl friend)  
    Jeraldine Jordan (Girl friend)  
    Kippee Valez (Girl friend)  
    Dolores Castle (Girl friend)  
    Vito Scotti (Track usher)  
    Diane Stewart (Girl)  
    Jean Bane (Girl)  
    Timmy Hawkins (Boy)  
    John Roy (Bartender)  

Summary: In the parking lot of the Round-Up bar in Los Angeles, Steve Thompson meets secretly with his married lover, Anna Dundee, and reassures her that their plan to run away together will not fail. Steve then fights with Anna's gangster husband Slim inside the bar, but police lieutenant Pete Ramirez, Steve's old friend, breaks it up. Steve refuses to press charges against Slim, who is supposedly leaving for Detroit the next day, and Pete, disgusted by Steve's destructive behavior, leaves. Unknown to Pete, Steve, Slim and his gang are plotting to rob an armored truck, which will be driven by Steve, who works for an armored car company, and staged the fight to fool Pete. The next morning, as Steve and Pop, a co-worker and family friend, leave on their scheduled payroll run, Steve recalls the events that led him to commit robbery: Eight months before, Steve returns to his home in Los Angeles after two years of drifting. Although he fights the urge to see Anna, to whom he had been briefly married, he starts dropping by the Round-Up, the bar they used to frequent together. Eventually, he and Anna reunite, and she chastises him for not contacting her sooner. Passion between the combative couple quickly reignites, and they begin seeing each other again. Steve's renewed romance distresses both his mother and Pete, who distrust the manipulative Anna. Pete is particularly concerned because he knows that Slim is also after Anna. Then one night, Steve learns that Anna has gone to Yuma to marry Slim. Although embittered, Steve cannot resist Anna when he later runs into her at Union Station. Slim has gone to Las Vegas, and Anna meets secretly with Steve, complaining that she is miserable. Anna shows Steve bruises on her back inflicted by the controlling, brutal Slim and tells Steve that she married Slim, who had been pursuing her since their divorce, only because Pete had threatened to send her to prison if she continued to see Steve. Later, a drunken Steve confronts Pete, who admits he threatened Anna, but warns his friend about crossing Slim. Steve continues to see Anna, but one day, she comes by his house and informs him that Slim has found out about their affair. At that moment, Steve discovers Slim and his thugs in his living room. Thinking fast, Steve tells Slim that he summoned Anna to his house in order to discuss his plan for an armored car robbery. After Steve convinces Slim that they can pull off the payroll heist, the first of its kind in many years, because he will be their "inside man," Slim gathers his men together and carefully plots every detail of the robbery. Part of the plan is to broadcast that Slim is leaving for Detroit on the same day as the proposed robbery and throw a going-away party at the Round-Up the night before. Back in the present, Steve drives his truck to the appointed spot, where Slim and his men fire tear gas at Steve and Pop. Pop then begins shooting at the robbers, who return fire, fatally wounding him. Enraged because Slim had agreed not to harm Pop, Steve shoots Slim and is himself badly wounded. Slim and his gang flee with the money before the police arrive, and Steve wakes up later in a hospital. Although Steve's family and the public believe that he is a hero, Pete has deduced Steve's involvement and warns him that Slim will be after him if Anna has disappeared. Panicked, Steve, who had arranged for Anna to meet him in a Palos Verdes cottage, asks Nelson, a man he believes is visiting his sick wife, to watch the door for him during the night. The next morning, Nelson reveals that he is Slim's hired killer and drags Steve from the hospital. As they are driving to see Slim, Steve bribes Nelson into taking him to Anna. As soon as Steve pays Nelson off, a terrified Anna starts to pack, telling Steve that he is not strong enough to go with her, and she is not tough enough to stand by him. Before she can escape, however, Slim, having anticipated that Steve would bribe Nelson, bursts in. As police cars close in, Slim shoots the couple dead. 

Production Company: Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Robert Siodmak (Dir)
  Fred Frank (Asst dir)
  Jack Hively (2d unit dir)
Producer: Michel Kraike (Prod)
Writer: Daniel Fuchs (Scr)
Photography: Frank Planer (Dir of photog)
  Dave Ragin (Cam op)
  Nord Kurland (Gaffer)
  Bert Anderson (Stills)
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun (Art dir)
  Boris Leven (Art dir)
Film Editor: Ted J. Kent (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Oliver Emert (Set dec)
Costumes: Yvonne Wood (Gowns)
Music: Miklos Rozsa (Mus)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Richard DeWeese (Sd)
Special Effects: David S. Horsley (Spec photog)
Make Up: Carmen Dirigo (Hairstylist)
  Gale McGarry (Hairstylist)
  Bud Westmore (Makeup)
  Ernest Young (Makeup)
Production Misc: Keith Weeks (Prod mgr)
  Connie Earl (Scr supv)
  Stanley Gulliver (Grip)
  Peter Zinner (Siodmak's personal asst)
Country: United States

Music: "Jungle Fantasy" by Esy Morales.
Composer: Esy Morales
Source Text: Based on the novel Criss Cross by Don Tracy (New York, 1934).
Authors: Don Tracy

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 6/12/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP2078

PCA NO: 13393
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Film noir
Subjects (Major): Femmes fatales
Subjects (Minor): Alcoholics
  Battered women
  Gunshot wounds
  Hired killers
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Mothers and sons
  Palos Verdes (CA)
  Police detectives
  Tear gas

Note: Voice-over narration, spoken by Burt Lancaster as his character "Steve Thompson," is heard intermittently throughout the last two-thirds of the picture. The order of the opening credits differs from the end credits. In the opening credits, Richard Long and Meg Randall are listed after Stephen McNally, and Esy Morales and His Rhumba Band are listed last. Early HR production charts include a "Miss X" in the cast, and later ones include Meg McClure. Publicity material indicates that while Universal was coming up with a stage name for newcomer Randall, whose real name was Gene Roberts, she was referred to as "Miss X." It is possible that Meg McClure was an early version of Randall's stage name. Actor Tony Curtis, who was unbilled on the film but at that time was known as Anthony or James Curtis, made his screen acting debut in the film, as did Puerto Rican band leader Morales.
       Contemporary news items provide the following information about the production: Universal purchased Don Tracy's novel from the estate of producer-writer Mark Hellinger. Criss Cross was to have been Hellinger's first production away from Universal, and the first of his Valley Studio company. Some news items commented that Criss Cross was to be shot in the same semi-documentary style as Hellinger's final picture, The Naked City (see entry below). Hellinger, who died in 1947, reportedly wanted Lancaster for the starring role, and the deal that Universal struck with Valley Studio included the actor's services. According to modern sources, both Lancaster and Siodmak were obligated to work on Criss Cross as part of their contracts with Hellinger's estate. Modern sources also note that Hellinger's original story idea had a racetrack setting. Anthony Veiller was announced as screenwriter in Mar 1948, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. Jules Schermer was the film's original producer; Michel Kraike took over the project shortly before the start of principal photography. H. B. Warner and Rene Touzet were listed as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Scenes were filmed in and around Los Angeles, including Union Station, Angel's Flight, Bunker Hill, Terminal Island and a Spring Street hotel. Explosives experts Nick Carmona and Del Crawford were injured during production when a smoke bomb exploded prematurely inside the special effects department.
       On 10 Oct 1949, the Hallmark Playhouse broadcast a radio adaptation of the story, also starring Burt Lancaster. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   22 Jan 1949.   
Daily Variety   18 Mar 1948.   
Daily Variety   12 Jan 49   p. 3.
Film Daily   12 Jan 49   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 48   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jun 48   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jun 48   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jul 48   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 48   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jul 48   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jul 48   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jan 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Mar 49   p. 6.
Los Angeles Times   20 Jan 1949.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   15 Jan 49   p. 4461.
New York Times   12 Mar 49   p. 10.
Variety   12 Jan 49   p. 8.

Display Movie Summary
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.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.