AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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The Racket
Director: John Cromwell (Dir)
Release Date:   Nov 1951
Premiere Information:   Philadelphia, PA opening: 25 Oct 1951; Los Angeles opening: 9 Nov 1951
Production Date:   9 Apr--14 May 1951; addl scenes 18 Jun--22 Jun 1951
Duration (in mins):   89-90
Duration (in feet):   7,999
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Cast:   Robert Mitchum (Capt. Tom McQuigg)  
    Lizabeth Scott (Irene Hayes)  
    Robert Ryan [1909-1973] (Nick Scanlon)  
    William Talman (Bob Johnson)  
    Ray Collins (Mortimer X. Welsh)  
    Joyce MacKenzie (Mary McQuigg)  
    Robert Hutton (Dave Ames)  
    Virginia Huston (Lucy Johnson)  
    William Conrad (Sgt. Turk)  
    Walter Sande (Delaney)  
    Les Tremayne (Chief Harry Craig)  
    Don Porter (R. G. Connolly)  
    Walter Baldwin (Sullivan)  
    Brett King (Joe Scanlon)  
    Richard Karlan (Breeze Enright)  
    Tito Vuolo (Tony)  
    Howland Chamberlin (Roy Higgins)  
    Ralph Peters (Davis)  
    Iris Adrian (Sadie)  
    Jane Hazzard (Girl)  
    Claudia Constant (Girl)  
    Jack Shea (Night duty sergeant)  
    Mike Lally (Duty sergeant)  
    Howard Joslin (Sgt. Werker)  
    Bret Hamilton (Reporter)  
    Joey Ray (Reporter)  
    Eric Alden (Day duty sergeant)  
    Miles Shepard (Patrolman)  
    Hazel Keener (Secretary)  
    Dulcie Day (Secretary)  
    Steve Roberts (Schmidt)  
    Pat Flaherty (Clerk)  
    Duke Taylor (Policeman)  
    Milburn Stone (Foster)  
    Max Wagner (Durko)  
    Richard Reeves (Leo)  
    Johnny Day (Menig)  
    Don Beddoe (Mitchell)  
    Matthew Boulton (Simpson)  
    Don Dillaway (Harris)  
    Barry Brooks (Cameron)  
    George Sherwood (Douglas)  
    Jack Gargan (Lewis)  
    Herb Vigran (Headwaiter)  
    Bud Wolfe (Plainclothesman)  
    Ronald Lee (Elevator boy)  
    Dick Gordon (Pedestrian)  
    Allen Mathews (Pedestrian)  
    Ralph Montgomery (Pedestrian)  
    Al Murphy (Newsboy)  
    Bob Bice (Link operator)  
    Sally Yarnell (Link operator)  
    Jane Easton (Link operator)  
    Kate Belmont (Link operator)  
    Harriet Matthews (Librarian)  
    Curtis Jarrett (Radio car patrolman)  
    Art Dupuis (Radio policeman)  
    Harry Lauter (Radio policeman)  
    Ed Parker (Hood)  

Summary: During a meeting with the governor, Harry Craig, the lead investigator on the state's crime commission, reveals his suspicion that Assistant State's Attorney Roy Higgins is in league with a large syndicate run by a mysterious figure known only as "The Old Man." After the governor pledges to help the commission if it can come up with proof of Higgins' guilt, Craig and his cohorts prepare to confront Higgins with their accumulated evidence. Before Higgins' interrogation, however, Nick Scanlon, a vicious gangster who recently joined forces with The Old Man, orders his thug, Durko, to kill him. Driving away from the murder scene, Durko is recognized by police officer Bob Johnson, who then issues a wanted notice for the parolee. Johnson's efforts are commended by his precinct captain, Tom McQuigg, a tough policeman who has refused to be bribed by the powerful syndicate. Less than pleased with Johnson is Sgt. Turk, an investigator with the state's attorney office who is loyal to the syndicate, and judicial candidate Mortimer X. Welsh, the syndicate's replacement for Higgins. After McQuigg visits Nick, a childhood friend, and warns him not to cause trouble in his precinct, a bomb explodes outside McQuigg's house, unnerving his devoted wife Mary. Patrol officers spot a sedan near the scene and pursue the car until the two men inside crash and flee on foot. McQuigg corners one thug on a rooftop and fights with him until he accidentally falls to his death. Sure that the other suspect is Nick's younger brother Joe, McQuigg sends Johnson to the nightclub where Joe's girl friend, singer Irene Hayes, works. There, Johnson runs into cub reporter Dave Ames, an old Marine buddy who is infatuated with Irene. As Dave watches, Johnson arrests Joe for stealing the Rolls Royce he is driving. McQuigg then arrests Irene as a material witness. Nick, who dotes on his brother, pressures Welsh to get Joe released, and using his connections, Welsh arranges for a judge to issue a writ of habeas corpus . Irene, whom Nick hates, is not bailed out, however, and when Joe brushes her off, she screams that she is going to tell all. Based on Irene's statements about Joe's involvement in Higgins' death, McQuigg orders Joe re-arrested and keeps Irene jailed. Later, Johnson is visited at home by Dave and uses him to set a trap for Durko and another thug, who have been sent by Nick to murder Johnson. Dave leads the killers inside, where Johnson surprises and outdraws them. Nick, meanwhile, meets with R. G. Connolly, The Old Man's right-hand man, and expresses concern about Irene. Connolly, a businessman, tries to convince Nick not to resort to violence but allow the syndicate to handle the problem quietly. Nick, however, insists that his way, the old way, is best. Nick then walks into McQuigg's precinct and demands to see Irene. Deducing Nick's identity, Johnson insults the gangster and is shot. As he is leaving, Nick tussles with Dave, who delays him long enough for the police to initiate a pursuit. After Johnson, an expectant father, dies from his wound, the police force Nick's car to crash. As soon as Nick is arrested, Welsh and Turk produce a writ to free him, but McQuigg tears it up in disgust. McQuigg then reveals that both Irene and Dave are prepared to testify against Nick and produces the gun that killed Johnson, which is covered with Nick's fingerprints. Welsh calls The Old Man for orders, then nervously informs Nick that he must stay in jail until after the election. Furious, Nick declares that he will expose the syndicate and ruin Welsh and Turk. Thus trapped, Welsh and Turk decide to help the unguarded Nick flee, but McQuigg, having anticipated all their moves, stops him. As Nick makes a final, desperate escape attempt, Turk shoots and kills him. Later, after Turk and Welsh receive subpoenas from the Crime Commission, and Irene and Dave contemplate their future together, Mary drives an exhausted McQuigg home. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: An Edmund Grainger Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: John Cromwell (Dir)
  James Casey (Asst dir)
  Nicholas Ray (Dir of addl scenes)
  Edmund Grainger (Fill-in dir of addl scenes)
Producer: Howard Hughes (Pres)
  Edmund Grainger (Prod)
Writer: William Wister Haines (Scr)
  W. R. Burnett (Scr)
  Samuel Fuller (Contr wrt)
Photography: George E. Diskant (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Jack Okey (Art dir)
Film Editor: Sherman Todd (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  William Stevens (Set dec)
Costumes: Michael Woulfe (Gowns)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
Sound: Frank McWhorter (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
Make Up: Mel Berns (Makeup artist)
  Larry Germain (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Cliff P. Broughton (Prod supv)
  Art Siteman (Unit mgr)
  Lowell J. Farrell (Unit mgr addl scenes)
Stand In: Carey Loftin (Stunt double)
  Paul Baxley (Stunt double)
  Dale Van Sickle (Stunt double)
  John Daheim (Stunt double)
  Saul Gorss (Stunts)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening," music by Jimmy McHugh, lyrics by Harold Adamson.
Composer: Harold Adamson
  Jimmy McHugh
Source Text: Based on the play The Racket by Bartlett Cormack (New York, 22 Nov 1927).
Authors: Bartlett Cormack

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 25/10/1951 dd/mm/yyyy LP1310

PCA NO: 15253
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
Subjects (Major): Gangsters
  Political corruption
Subjects (Minor): Arrests
  Automobile chases
  Falls from heights

Note: According to a Mar 1951 HR news item, Senator Estes Kefauver, who at the time of this film's production was head of the Senate Crime Investigating Committee, pledged his cooperation on the making and presentation of the picture. The 1950-51 Crime Investigating Committee, also known as the Kefauver Committee, probed the workings of organized crime and proved that it existed on a national level, primarily in the form of two "families," a Chicago-Miami family headed by Tony Acardo, and a New York-Miami family headed by Joe Costello. The committee documented the paper trails of known gamblers, exposing their illegal interstate commerce through the sale of wire services. Although no hard, indictable evidence was collected, testimony before the committee revealed that these syndicates were also involved in legitimate businesses and attempted to control their competition through extortion and other strong-arm tactics. For more information about the Kefauver Committee, see the entry above for The Kefauver Crime Investigation .
       Reviewers noted that the committee's findings legitimized the film and helped it overcome censorship problems. According to information in the MPAA/PCA collection at the AMPAS Library, early drafts of The Racket faced strong opposition from PCA director Joseph I. Breen. In a 27 Nov 1950 letter to RKO executive Harold Melniker, Breen rejected the first draft as "thoroughly and completely unacceptable under the provisions of the Production Code." Breen described the script as "shocking" and a "new low in crime screen stories," and urged RKO not to pursue the project further. On 30 Nov 1950, however, Breen submitted to RKO a long list of suggestions on how to make the story acceptable. Objecting strenuously to the depiction of the film's "community" as "completely lawless," Breen recommended that violent scenes and moments, such as the burning of "Higgins'" body, be eliminated, and that judges and other public officials be characterized as honest, with few exceptions. In addition, Breen insisted that "Irene" not be portrayed as a prostitute. By mid-Dec 1950, Breen approved a revised version of the script, on condition that all references to prostitution, particularly comic ones, be removed, and that the ending make clear that "Turk" is to be punished for killing "Nick." In the final film, Irene is a portrayed as a legitimate entertainer, and both Turk and "Welsh" are served with subpoenas after Nick's death.
       HR news items add the following information about the production: In May 1950, Sam Fuller was assigned to work on the film's screenplay and was considered as a possible director. Shelley Winters was announced as the picture's female star in Jan 1951. Nicholas Ray directed added scenes in late Jun 1951, and during the filming, producer Edmund Grainger filled in as director for a day. Although a post-production news item announced that RKO composer Paul Sawtell was working on the production, he was not listed in the onscreen credits; his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources Howard Petrie and William Forrest to the cast. Production files contained at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library indicate that location shooting took place in North Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and the RKO Ranch in Encino, CA.
       The first screen version of Bartlett Cormack's play, the 1928 film The Racket , also was presented by Howard Hughes and was directed by Lewis Milestone. Thomas Meighan and Louis Wolheim starred in the earlier version, which focused on the exploits of a bootlegger (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   20 Oct 1951.   
Daily Variety   12 Oct 1951   p. 3.
Film Daily   18 Oct 1951   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 1950   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jan 1951   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 1951   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Apr 1951   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   11 May 1951   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   16 May 1951   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jun 1951   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Aug 1951   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Sep 1951   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 1951   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Oct 1951   p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   20 Oct 1951   p. 1065.
New York Times   13 Dec 1951   p. 44.
Variety   17 Oct 1951   p. 6.

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