AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Private Hell 36
Director: Don Siegel (Dir)
Release Date:   Sep 1954
Production Date:   began early Jun 1954 at Republic Studios
Duration (in mins):   80-81
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Cast:   Ida Lupino (Lilli Marlowe)  
    Steve Cochran (Calhoun Bruner)  
    Howard Duff (Jack Farnham)  
    Dean Jagger (Captain Michaels)  
    Dorothy Malone (Francey Farnham)  
    Richard Deacon (Druggist)  
    Dabbs Greer (Bartender)  
    King Donovan (Drug store burglar)  
    Kenneth Patterson (Police lieutenant)  
    Chris O'Brien (Coroner)  
    Jerry Hausner (Night club boss)  
    George Dockstader (Man on the run)  
    Jimmy Hawkins (Delivery boy)  
    Bridget Duff (Farnhams' baby)  

Summary: In New York, a man is killed and robbed of $300,000 on his way to a bank night depository. A year later, as Los Angeles police detective Calhoun Bruner is walking home one night, he happens upon a drug store burglary in process, shoots one of the two burglars and arrests the other. The police then discover that some of the money the burglar took is "hot" and from the New York robbery, for which no arrests have been made. When Captain Michaels asks the drug store owner where a particular $50 bill came from, the druggist tells them that he received it, as payment for filling a prescription, from a bartender at a local night club. The next day, Cal and his colleague, Jack Farnham, interview the bartender, who tells them that he borrowed the bill from Lilli Marlowe, a singer who works at the club. Unfortunately, Lilli can only give a very vague description of the drunk who gave her the bill. After more bills show up at the Hollywood Race Track, Michaels asks Lilli to go on a stakeout with Cal and Jack in the hope that she may recognize the man. Although several days at the track prove fruitless, a romance develops between Cal and Lilli. On yet another day at the track, while checking cars leaving the parking lot, Lilli spots the man and Cal and Jack chase after him, but the fugitive's car crashes off the road and he is killed. In the wreck, Cal and Jack find a metal box full of money and Cal takes four wads of bills. Jack does not want to be involved in this theft and after the police investigators leave, tells Cal that they must return the cash, reminding him that it is marked money. However, Cal takes him to a trailer park where he has hidden the money in a small trailer, Number 36, which he has rented, and convinces Jack to go along with his plans. Later, Cal brings Lilli to dinner at Jack's house where she meets Jack's wife Francey and their infant daughter, but is puzzled by the tension between the men as Jack is drinking heavily and is filled with self-loathing. On their way home, Lilli tels Cal that she intends to work in Las Vegas for a while, but he convinces her that they are alike and she decides to stay. The next morning, Michaels tells Cal and Jack that $200,000 of the missing $300,000 was recovered at the accident scene, but he feels that the driver may have had a partner. Later, a man identifying himself as the partner phones Cal, after having seen his name and photo in a newspaper story about the investigation. He demands the money Cal took and blackmails both Cal and Jack. Although Cal and Lilli make plans to leave for Mexico to be married, Jack tells Cal that they they are not going to give the money to the partner but will turn it in to Michaels and come clean. Cal finally appears to agree and they head for the trailer. When Jack leaves the trailer with the cash in a paper sack, Cal attempts to shoot him but is interrupted by the voice of the partner, who accuses them of a double cross. Cal tells the man to shoot Jack, but when he fails to do so, Cal shoots Jack in the back. As he attempts another shot, Cal is shot and killed. Michaels emerges from the shadows, makes Jack comfortable and tells him that one of his men had impersonated the fictitious partner as he had suspected that they had taken the cash. 

Production Company: Filmakers Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Filmakers Releasing Organization, Inc.  
Director: Don Siegel (Dir)
  James Anderson (Asst dir)
  Leonard Kunody (Asst dir)
  David Peckinpah (Dial dir)
Producer: Collier Young (Prod)
  Robert Eggenweiler (Assoc prod)
Writer: Collier Young (Wrt for the screen by)
  Ida Lupino (Wrt for the screen by)
Photography: Burnett Guffey (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Walter Keller (Art dir)
Film Editor: Stanford Tischler (Supv film ed)
  Noel Coppleman (Asst film ed)
Set Decoration: Edward Boyle (Set dec)
Music: Leith Stevens (Mus comp and cond)
  Arthur Morton (Orch)
  Shorty Rogers (Orch)
Sound: Thomas Carmen (Sd)
  Howard Wilson (Sd)
Make Up: David Newell (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: James Anderson (Prod mgr)
  Thad H. Brown (Tech adv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Didn't You Know?" words and music by John Franco.
Composer: John Franco

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Filmakers Productions, Inc. 3/9/1954 dd/mm/yyyy LP5609

PCA NO: 17084
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound Recording
  b&w:
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
 
Subjects (Major): Investigations
  Police corruption
  Police detectives
  Robbery
  Singers
  Trailers
  Traps
 
Subjects (Minor): Automobile accidents
  Automobile chases
  Bartenders
  Drugstores
  Gambling
  Hollywood Park Racetrack (Inglewood, CA)
  Horseracing
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Murder
  Nightclubs
  Pharmacists

Note: A 3 Nov 1954 DV news item reported that it was possible that Edmond O'Brien would be cast opposite Ida Lupino and Howard Duff. Producer Collier Young was Lupino's ex-husband, but still a partner in their The Filmakers company. At the time of this film's production, Lupino was married to Howard Duff, and their infant daughter Bridget made a brief appearance in the film. Some reviewers were disturbed by the film's depiction of corruption among police officers. The HR reviewer complained that "the movies are in great danger of over-doing the crooked policeman cycle and, at a vital time, of creating a false and unfavorable impression of American law enforcement methods in foreign countries. This is the third film to be previewed on this subject in as many days." Private Hell marked the first feature film credit of director-screenwriter Sam Peckinpah (1925--1984). Peckinpah, whose full name was David Samuel Peckinpah, was credited as David Peckinpah on the film.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   11 Sep 1954.   
Daily Variety   31 Aug 54   p. 3.
Film Daily   1 Sep 54   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Aug 54   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   31 Aug 1954.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   4 Sep 54   p. 129.
New York Times   4 Sep 54   p. 6.
Variety   1 Sep 54   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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