AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Pickup on South Street
Alternate Title: Blaze of Glory
Director: Samuel Fuller (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1953
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 29 May 1953; New York opening: 17 Jun 1953
Production Date:   18 Sep--16 Oct 1952; retakes mid-Nov 1952
Duration (in mins):   80-81 or 83
Duration (in feet):   7,225
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Richard Widmark (Skip McCoy)  
    Jean Peters (Candy)  
    Thelma Ritter (Moe)  
    Murvyn Vye (Capt. Dan Tiger)  
    Richard Kiley (Joey)  
    Willis B. Bouchey (Zara)  
    Milburn Stone (Winoki)  
    Henry Slate (MacGregor)  
    Jerry O'Sullivan (Enyart)  
    Harry Carter (Dietrich)  
    George E. Stone (Clerk at police station)  
    George Eldredge (Fenton)  
    Stuart Randall (Police commissioner)  
    Frank Kumagi (Lum)  
    Victor Perry (Lightning Louie)  
    Maurice Samuels (Peddler)  
    Parley Baer (Peddler)  
    Jay Loftin (Librarian)  
    Virginia Carroll (Nurse)  
    Roger Moore (Mr. Victor)  
    Clancy Cooper (Lean man)  
    John Gallaudet (Lt. Campion)  
    Wilson Wood (Driver)  
    Ray Montgomery (FBI man)  
    Ray Stevens (FBI man)  
    Ralph Moody (Captain)  
    George Berkely (Customer)  
    Emmett Lynn (Sandwich man)  

Summary: One afternoon, FBI agents Zara and Enyart are following an attractive woman named Candy as she takes the subway in New York City. Unknown to Candy, her wallet is stolen by a "cannon," a pickpocket who targets women, and when she realizes that her wallet is gone, she calls her former boyfriend, Joey. With Enyart following her, she returns to Joey's apartment, where Joey upbraids her for losing the microfilm that she was supposed to deliver to a mysterious higher-up in Joey's organization. Although Candy believes that Joey is selling chemical formulas to a rival firm, he is actually a Communist who is passing on secret government information to an overseas Communist ring. Candy has made several drops for Joey and does not understand why he is so upset about this one, which he had promised would be her last. Joey insists that Candy, an ex-prostitute, use her street connections to locate the pickpocket who accosted her and retrieve the microfilm. Meanwhile, Zara approaches police captain Dan Tiger and explains that the FBI has been following Candy for six months in order to catch the ringleader of the Communist organization. Tiger then summons Moe, a necktie peddler who often sells him information about the underworld. After grilling Zara about the pickpocket's mannerisms, Moe gives Tiger eight names, and Tiger immediately picks out Skip McCoy, a "three-time loser" who was recently released from prison. Moe then tells Tiger that Skip is living in a rundown shack on the waterfront, and Tiger, who bears a grudge against Skip because of his insolence, sends policemen Winoki and MacGregor to arrest him. Skip, who did steal Candy's wallet and has found the microfilm inside, hides it and taunts Tiger about their rivalry. Although Skip protests his innocence, Zara reveals that he is an eyewitness and informs Skip about what he has stolen. Not trusting Tiger's promise that the theft charges will be dropped if he returns the film, Skip scoffs at Zara's appeal to his patriotism and leaves. Skip then uses the microfilm reader at the New York Public Library to scan the film and deduces that it is of a chemical formula. Meanwhile, Candy locates Moe and pays her for Skip's address. When Skip returns home, he finds Candy searching his possessions and knocks her unconscious, then steals her money before reviving her. While fighting the sexual attraction they feel for each other, Candy and Skip flirt and quarrel, and Skip tells her that he knows what the film is and demands money for it. As Candy returns to Joey, Tiger enters Skip's shack and offers to whitewash his criminal record in exchange for the film. Skip orders Tiger to leave, while at Joey's apartment, Joey's desperation grows and he gives Candy $500 with which to bribe Skip. Candy, who has fallen in love with Skip, confronts him, and Skip admits that as a three-time felon, he will be jailed for life if he is convicted again. Hoping to secure his future with a "big score," Skip demands that Candy's "Commie" friends pay him $25,000, and Candy, not understanding what Skip means, meets Joey in his boss's office. There, Candy is astonished when Joey confirms that he and his cohorts are Communists, and becomes agitated when Joey's boss gives him a pistol and orders him to deliver the microfilm the following evening. Desperate to protect Skip, Candy gives Joey a false address, then tells Moe that she honestly did not know about Joey's politics. Moe promises Candy that she will not inform Joey of Skip's whereabouts, and then finds Skip herself, to warn him about Joey. Skip brushes asides Moe's reprimands about dealing with Communists, and also her assertion that Candy loves him. When Moe returns home, she finds Joey waiting for her, and after she refuses to inform on Skip, Joey shoots her. The police attempt to arrest Skip for the murder, but Enyart, who has been following the pickpocket, vouches for his innocence, and Skip claims Moe's body so that she will not be buried in Potter's Field. When Skip returns to his shack, he finds a distraught Candy waiting for him, and he soothingly tells her that Moe's death is not her fault. When Skip then demands the money, Candy knocks him unconscious and steals the microfilm. Hoping to clear Skip's name, Candy takes the film to Tiger and Zara, telling them that Skip directed her to do so. Although he is doubtful about Skip's intentions, Zara asks Candy to help them by giving the film to Joey, who they can then follow to the ringleader. Later, Joey goes to Candy's apartment, and when he discovers that a frame of the film is missing, he beats Candy and shoots her. Finding Skip's address in Candy's purse, Joey eludes the police, and later, when Skip visits Candy in the hospital, she tells him that she betrayed him because she would "rather have a live pickpocket than a dead traitor." Finally realizing that he loves Candy, Skip kisses her, then goes home to wait for Joey. Soon after, Joey and his cohort, Fenton, arrive to search for the missing frame of film, although Fenton sends Joey ahead to the airport to make the delivery while he tries to find Skip. Skip follows Joey to the airport, where he catches Joey making the delivery. After slugging the ringleader, Skip chases Joey through the streets into the subway, whre he beats him mercilessly. Later, in Tiger's office, the police captain grudingly releases Skip, and both Skip and Candy laugh at Tiger's assertion that he will be arrested again within thirty days. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Samuel Fuller (Dir)
  Ad Schaumer (Asst dir)
Producer: Jules Schermer (Prod)
Writer: Samuel Fuller (Scr)
  Dwight Taylor (From a story by)
Photography: Joe MacDonald (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  George Patrick (Art dir)
Film Editor: Nick DeMaggio (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Al Orenbach (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
  Travilla (Cost des)
Music: Leigh Harline (Mus)
  Lionel Newman (Mus dir)
  Edward Powell (Orch)
Sound: Winston H. Leverett (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Mam'selle," music by Edmund Goulding, lyrics by Mack Gordon.
Composer: Mack Gordon
  Edmund Goulding

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 27/5/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP2680

PCA NO: 16197
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:

 
Genre: Film noir
 
Subjects (Major): Communists
  Criminals--Rehabilitation
  Espionage
  Pickpockets
  Police
  United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation
 
Subjects (Minor): Chases
  Conscience
  Ex-convicts
  Extortion
  Fistfights
  Hideouts
  Informers
  Libraries and librarians
  Microfilm
  Murder
  New York City
  Patriotism
  Peddlers and peddling
  Romance
  Subways
  Waterfronts

Note: The working title of this film was Blaze of Glory . According to a Feb 1952 HR news item, Fred Kohlmar was originally set to produce the picture. Sep 1952 HR news items reported that Shelley Winters was originally set for the role of "Candy," but due to her pregnancy, was to be replaced by Betty Grable. Grable refused the role, however, and was placed on suspension by Twentieth Century-Fox. An 11 Sep 1952 HR news item noted that Grable "felt she was not adapted for the straight dramatic role," while a modern source adds that Grable believed the role would not be received well by her fans. A 12 Sep 1952 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column speculated that Anne Baxter and Linda Darnell, as well as Jean Peters, were under consideration to play Candy. Although HR news items include Stacy Harris and Bud Wolf in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
       According to the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, a 23 Aug 1952 version of the screenplay was deemed unacceptable "by reason of excessive brutality and sadistic beatings, both of men and women." A 5 Sep 1952 screenplay was also rejected due to the "brutal beating" of "Candy" by "Joey." The screenplay was approved later in Sep, however. Although a "Rambling Reporter" item on 19 Nov 1952 asserted that the studio was forced to shoot retakes because "the scene wherein Jean Peters and Dick [Richard] Kiley frisk each other for loot was too frisky for the Breen office," no mention of retakes was found in the PCA file.
       Thelma Ritter received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress, and Samuel Fuller was awarded the Bronze Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his direction of the picture. On 21 Jun 1954, Ritter co-starred with Terry Moore and Stephen McNally in a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of the story. According to a Jun 1982 item in Village Voice , Pickup on South Street was retitled Porte de la Drouge for release in France and was re-edited "to tell a story about drug smugglers" in order "not to offend the French Communist Party." Twentieth Century-Fox remade the picture in 1967 as The Cape Town Affair , which was directed by Robert D. Webb and starred Claire Trevor, James Brolin and Jacqueline Bisset. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   16 May 1953.   
Daily Variety   13 May 53   p. 3.
Film Daily   29 May 53   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Sep 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Sep 52   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Sep 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 52   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 52   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Sep 52   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Oct 52   p. 6, 11.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Oct 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 52   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Nov 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   13 May 53   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jan 1954   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Dec 1954   p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily   18 May 1953.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 May 53   p. 1837.
Los Angeles Times   30 May 1953.   
New York Times   18 Jun 53   p. 38.
Newsweek   22 Jun 1953.   
Time   29 Jun 1953.   
Village Voice   15 Jun 1982.   
Variety   13 May 53   p. 20.

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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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