AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Asphalt Jungle
Director: John Huston (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1950
Production Date:   21 Oct--late Dec 1949
Duration (in mins):   112
Duration (in feet):   10,087
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Cast:   Sterling Hayden (Dix Handley)  
    Louis Calhern (Alonzo D. Emmerich)  
    Jean Hagen (Doll Conovan)  
    James Whitmore (Gus Minissi)  
    Sam Jaffe (Doc Erwin Riedenschneider)  
    John McIntire (Police Commissioner Hardy)  
    Marc Lawrence (Cobby)  
    Barry Kelley (Lt. Ditrich)  
    Anthony Caruso (Louis Ciavelli)  
    Teresa Celli (Maria Ciavelli)  
    Marilyn Monroe (Angela Phinlay)  
    William Davis (Timmons)  
    Dorothy Tree (May Emmerich)  
    Brad Dexter (Bob Brannom)  
    John Maxwell (Dr. Swanson)  
    Alex Gerry (Maxwell)  
    Thomas Browne Henry (James X. Connery)  
    James Seay (Janocek)  
    Don Haggerty (Andrews)  
    Henry Rowland (Franz Schurz)  
    Helene Stanley (Jeannie)  
    Raymond Roe (Tallboy)  
    Chuck Courtney (Red)  
    Ralph Dunn (Older officer)  
    Pat Flaherty (Younger officer)  
    Tim Ryan (Jack, police clerk)  
    Strother Martin (Karl Anton Smith)  
    Henry Corden (William Doldy)  
    Frank Cady (Night clerk)  
    Jack Shea (Sergeant)  
    Benny Burt (Driver)  
    Fred Graham (Truck driver)  
    David Hydes (Evans)  
    Saul Gorss (Private policeman)  
    John Cliff (Policeman)  
    Ray Teal (Policeman)  
    Gene Evans (Policeman)  
    Wesley Hopper (Policeman)  
    Jack Stoney (Policeman)  
    Joseph Darr Smith (Reporter)  
    Fred Marlowe (Reporter)  
    Harlan Warde (Reporter)  
    John Crawford (Reporter)  
    William Washington (Suspect)  
    Leah Wakefield (Fat girl)  
    Judith Wood (Fat woman)  
    Eloise Hardt (Vivian)  
    Patricia Miller (Thin girl)  
    Albert Morin (Eddie Donato)  
    Howard Mitchell (Secretary)  
    Ray Bennett (Detective)  
    George Lynn (Detective)  
    David Bond (Father Sortine)  
    Ralph Montgomery (Counterman)  
    William Haade (State policeman)  
    Jeff York (State policeman)  
    David Clarke (Atkinson, switchman)  
    Charles Sherlock (Gambler)  
    J. Lewis Smith (Gambler)  
    Harry Cody (Gambler)  
    Mack Chandler (Gambler)  
    J. J. Smith (Police broadcaster)  
    Harry G. Butcher (Police broadcaster)  
    Mary Anderson (Police broadcaster)  
    Ethel Lyons (Police broadcaster)  
    Jean Carter    
    Wilson Wood    
    Constance Weiler    
    Kerry O'Day    

Summary: When police track hoodlum and ex-convict Dix Handley to a café, Dix's friend, the owner, Gus Minissi, saves him from arrest by hiding his gun. Police Commissioner Hardy reprimands Lt. Ditrich for failing to catch Dix, whom they know has committed the crime, but, not realizing that Ditrich is a crooked cop, gives him one more chance by assigning him the task of trailing recently released convict Doc Erwin Reidenshneider. Meanwhile, Doc visits Cobby, a gambling bookie, with a proposition to make half a million dollars in return for a fifty thousand dollar loan from Cobby's contact, wealthy but corrupt lawyer Alonzo D. Emmerich. Later, Doll Conovan, a beautiful but lonely waitress, visits Dix and asks if she can stay with him for a few days, and Dix brusquely agrees. That night, Doc impresses Emmerich with his plan for a massive jewelry store robbery, and after closing the bargain by offering to act as both backer and bagman, Emmerich runs to his mistress, the young and gorgeous Angela Phinlay. The next morning before he leaves to meet Cobby, Dix talks with Doll about his past on his family's Kentucky farm and how much he longs to go back. At Cobby's, he meets Doc, who has heard that Emmerich has gone bankrupt spending all his money on Angela. At the same time, Emmerich admits to his private detective, Bob Brannom, that he is broke, prompting them to plan together to swindle Doc out of the stolen jewels. Emmerich asks Cobby to advance him the fifty thousand dollars, and on the night of the crime, manages to pull himself away from his lonely wife May to meet Brannom. Meanwhile, Doc, Dix, safe cracker Louis Ciavelli and driver Gus rob the store expertly, but when a watchman happens by, Dix hits him and fires his gun accidentally, wounding Louis. Gus, afraid to take Louis to a doctor, delivers him to his home, where his wife Maria cries helplessly watching him die. Dix and Doc go to Emmerich's as planned and realize he is trying to cheat them when Brannom pulls out his gun. Brannom and Dix end up shooting each other, and as Brannom dies, Doc advises a terrified Emmerich to ask the insurance company to pay for the return of the jewels, no questions asked, or else Dix will kill him. Soon after, Emmerich dumps Brannom in the river, and Dix and Doc escape to Doll's new apartment, where Dix refuses to see a doctor, though he is bleeding. Soon, the police find Brannom's body with a piece of Emmerich's stationery in his pocket, and though Emmerich uses Angela as his alibi, his story is quickly destroyed when a taxi driver tells Hardy that he once dropped Doc off at Cobby's, and Cobby confesses the whole scheme. Hardy then pushes a willing Angela to tell the truth about Emmerich, who immediately shoots himself. After Doc hears about the suicide, he says goodbye to Dix and leaves town. By lingering at a café outside of the city in order to leer at a young girl dancing, however, Doc gives the police just enough time to catch him. Meanwhile, the weakening Dix agrees to let Doll escape with him to Kentucky, barely making it to his family farm. As he dies in the pasture, Hardy speaks to the press about the pervasiveness of crime in the urban jungle. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Production Text: A John Huston Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: John Huston (Dir)
  Jack Greenwood (Asst dir)
  Frank Myers (Asst dir)
Producer: Arthur Hornblow Jr. (Prod)
Writer: Ben Maddow (Scr)
  John Huston (Scr)
Photography: Harold Rosson (Dir of photog)
  Robert Martin (Cam op)
  Andy McIntyre (Asst cam)
  S. C. Manatt (Stills)
  P. R. Keeler (Gaffer)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Randall Duell (Art dir)
Film Editor: George Boemler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Jack D. Moore (Assoc)
Costumes: Otto Kottke (Ward)
Music: Miklos Rozsa (Mus)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec supv)
  Robert B. Lee (Sd)
Make Up: Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
  Lew LaCava (Makeup)
  Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles des by)
  Elaine Ramsey (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Lee Katz (Prod mgr)
  John Banse (Scr supv)
  Lloyd Isabell (Grip)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Source Text: Based on the novel The Asphalt Jungle by W. R. Burnett (New York, 1949).
Authors: W. R. Burnett

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 25/4/1950 dd/mm/yyyy LP85 Yes

PCA NO: 14357
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
 
Subjects (Major): Friendship
  Greed
  Jewelry
  Murder
  Police corruption
  Robbery
 
Subjects (Minor): Alibi
  City-country contrast
  Duplicity
  Escapes
  Ex-convicts
  Farmers
  Gambling
  Hideouts
  Infidelity
  Lawyers
  Lechery
  Police commissioners
  Private detectives
  Romance
  Safes
  Suicide
  Taxicab drivers
  Wives
  Wounds and injuries

Note: Information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that W. R. Burnett's controversial story elicited few criticisms from the Breen Office, and that the only significant issue raised by the agency related to specifics in the handling of "Alonzo D. Emmerich's" suicide. At the request of the Breen Office, M-G-M rewrote the suicide scene to show that "Emmerich" was not in full command of his senses when he killed himself. The scene, as it was originally written, showed "Emmerich" completing a suicide note before he killed himself. In the revised scene, "Emmerich" is tormented by his decision and is unable to complete the note. Oct 1949 HR production charts list actor James Mitchell in the cast, but he did not appear in the film. Contemporary news items in DV indicate that Claudette Thornton tested for a role and that Emerson Treacy was cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. News items in DV in Oct 1949 indicate that some location filming took place or was set to take place in Lexington and Keenland, KY and in Cincinnatti, OH. A Feb 1950 DV news item noted that actor John Maxwell, who plays a doctor in the picture, "made such a hit with preview audiences" that M-G-M reshot a portion of the title credits to include his name. Maxwell had been listed among the bit actors on a CBCS bulletin dated Jan 1950. Actor Strother Martin made his feaure film debut in the film. The Asphalt Jungle , one of the first motion pictures to realistically show the criminal world from the criminal's viewpoint, is widely regarded by film critics as one of John Huston's best. The film received mostly favorable reviews in 1950, with particular praise given to Huston's direction and the performances of the leading actors. One of the film's detractors, however, was M-G-M production head Louis B. Mayer, who is quoted in a modern source as having once said, "That Asphalt Pavement thing is full of nasty, ugly people doing nasty things. I wouldn't walk across the room to see a thing like that." The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Huston for Best Direction, Sam Jaffe for Best Suporting Actor, Huston and Ben Maddow for Best Screenplay, and Harold Rosson for Best Black and White Cinematography. Jaffe also received the Cannes Award for Best Performance of the Year. Producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr., stars Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen, and novelist Burnett received "Edgar" Awards from the Mystery Writers of America for their work on the film, which was chosen as the outstanding mystery film of 1950. A biography of Huston indicates that Lola Albright was Huston's first choice for the part played by Marilyn Monroe, but that Albright was unavailable. In his autobiography, Huston noted that he consulted with Burnett several times during the development of the script, and that Burnett gave his approval of the final screenplay. The film was colorized by Turner Entertainment Co. in the late 1980s. In Jul 1989, Huston's heirs made an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a colorized version of the film from being broadcast on French television, but Huston's heirs lost their case in French court. The case pitted the country's longstanding legal protection of authors' rights against the legal standing of contracts signed in the United States between directors and studios. The colorized version was broadcast in 1989, but in 1994, the appeals court in Versailles reversed the 1989 ruling and fined Turner 400,000 francs (then about $74,000) for having broadcast the colorized version. M-G-M released three remakes of The Asphalt Jungle : the 1958 western, The Badlanders , directed by Delmer Daves and starring Alan Ladd and Ernest Borgnine; the 1963 British production, Cairo , directed by Wolf Rilla and starring George Sanders and Richard Johnson (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.0625); and the 1972 all-black cast film, Cool Breeze , written and directed by Barry Pollack and starring Thalmus Rasulala and Judy Pace. An ABC television series entitled The Asphalt Jungle ran from 2 Apr to 29 Sep 1961 and starred Jack Worden and Arch Johnson. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Aug 50   p. 271, 286.
Box Office   6 May 1950.   
Daily Variety   3 Oct 49   p. 4.
Daily Variety   12 Oct 49   p. 4.
Daily Variety   14 Oct 49   p. 3.
Daily Variety   27 Oct 49   p. 1.
Daily Variety   28 Oct 49   p. 10.
Daily Variety   28 Nov 49   p. 7.
Daily Variety   22 Feb 50   p. 2.
Daily Variety   5 May 50   p. 3.
Film Daily   5 Jun 50   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 49   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Dec 49   p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 50   p. 3, 8.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 1951.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   6 May 50   p. 29.
New York Times   9 Jun 50   p. 29.
Variety   10 May 50   p. 6.

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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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