AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Killing
Alternate Title: Bed of Fear
Director: Stanley Kubrick (Dir)
Release Date:   Jul 1956
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 19 May 1956
Production Date:   early Nov--late Nov 1955 at Kling Studios
Duration (in mins):   83-84
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Cast:   Sterling Hayden (Johnny Clay)  
    Coleen Gray (Fay)  
    Vince Edwards (Val Cannon)  
    Jay C. Flippen (Marvin Unger)  
    Ted DeCorsia (Randy Kennan)  
    Marie Windsor (Sherry Peatty)  
    Elisha Cook (George Peatty)  
    Joe Sawyer (Mike O'Reilly)  
    James Edwards (Track guard)  
    Timothy Carey (Nikki Arane)  
    Kola Kwariani (Maurice Oboukhoff)  
    Jay Adler (Leo)  
    Tito Vuolo (Joe Piano)  
    Dorothy Adams (Ruth O'Reilly)  
    Herbert Ellis (Brown, American Airlines clerk)  
    James Griffith (Grant, American Airlines supervisor)  
    Cecil Elliott    
    Joseph Turkel (Tiny)  
    Steve Mitchell    
    Mary Carroll    
    William Benedict (American Airlines ticket clerk)  
    Charles R. Cane (Plainclothes policeman)  
    Robert B. Williams (Plainclothes policeman)  
    Art Gilmore (Narrator )  

Summary: At a big city racetrack, bookkeeper Marvin Unger covertly gives bartender Mike O’Reilly a note detailing the time and place of a meeting later that night, then retrieves his small winnings from cashier George Peatty. A little earlier that same day, patrolman Randy Kennan meets with loan shark Leo and assures him that he will be able to repay his entire loan within two weeks. At Unger’s apartment that evening, ex-convict Johnny Clay, just released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for robbery, reunites with his girl friend Fay and promises her that his detailed plan for an upcoming heist will guarantee their future together. A little later, George arrives at his apartment where his beautiful but cynical wife Sherry nags him about their constant poverty. In anger, George reveals he may be coming into a large amount of money, then refuses to explain, prompting Sherry to complain that George does not trust her. After George departs for a meeting, Sherry meets her lover, Val Cannon, and confides that George finally confessed to being involved with a small gang of men who plan to rob the racetrack proceeds. At eight o’clock that evening, Johnny meets with Unger, O’Reilly, Kennan and George to finalize their roles for the robbery. Johnny estimates that the track take will be nearly two million dollars and reveals that two other trustworthy men will assist them. While the men express concern over the two unknown conspirators, Sherry is caught eavesdropping just outside the room. George hastily claims his wife must have suspected him of cheating and followed him. After ordering the men away, Johnny threatens Sherry, telling her that if she interferes in the robbery she will only prevent George from receiving his cut of the proceeds. Later that night at the Peattys’ apartment, George decides to withdraw from the plan, but Sherry convinces him that the money will rejuvenate their troubled marriage. Three days later, Johnny meets with burly, former wrestler Maurice Oboukhoff, who agrees to start a brawl at the racetrack bar just before the critical seventh race when the robbery will occur. The same day, Johnny hires sharpshooter Nikki Arane to shoot racehorse Red Lightning during the seventh race in order to heighten the planned pandemonium. Johnny then rents a motel room from Joe Piano, the father of his prison cellmate, and stores a machine gun there. The next morning, Sherry awakens early to find George already up and surmises this is the day of the planned heist. Before departing for work at the track that morning, O’Reilly bids farewell to his invalid wife and promises he will be able to provide better doctors for her soon. O’Reilly then stops at a bus station locker where he picks up the machine gun in a flower box that Johnny had placed there earlier, then continues on to the track. When Nikki drives onto the track grounds he is diverted by a guard, but convinces the man to let him park near the track. Some miles away, Kennan telephones headquarters to report a radio malfunction in his squad car, then drives on to the track. Just as the seventh race begins, Maurice, feigning drunkenness, starts a fight with O’Reilly at the bar and all of the building guards are summoned to quell the brawl. As planned, halfway into the race, Nikki shoots and kills Red Lightning, whose collapse causes several horses to go down and excites the crowd and track personnel. While trying to flee the parking lot, however, Nikki panics and is shot and killed by a guard. While the guards are busy trying to subdue Maurice, George lets Johnny into the back office. Wearing a disguise, Johnny takes the gun hidden in O’Reilly’s locker and holds up the accountants in the central office. After locking the men away, Johnny places the money, his disguise and the gun in a duffel bag, which he then throws out the window to Kennan, who is waiting below. A little later at a prearranged apartment, Unger, O’Reilly, Kennan and George are waiting for Johnny, who is bringing the money that Kennan has left at the motel, when Val and accomplice Tiny burst into the room and demand the track proceeds. When Val mocks George, revealing that he learned of the job from Sherry, George shoots him. Val squeezes his shotgun trigger before collapsing and the spray kills all of the other men and severely wounds George. Delayed by traffic, Johnny arrives at the apartment fifteen minutes late and sees the bleeding George stumble across the street to his car. Because the men had agreed that if anything went wrong, the one in possession of the money would keep it and divide it with the others at a later date, Johnny drives away with the money. George arrives home and confronts Sherry, who cautions him to leave before Val arrives. George denounces Sherry before shooting her, then dies from his wounds. After placing the bills in a large, old suitcase, Johnny discovers that the locks do not work but proceeds to meet Fay at the airport where he has pre-purchased tickets for a flight to Boston. Although Johnny insists he must be allowed to carry the bulky suitcase on board, the airline officials refuse and he reluctantly checks it. Johnny and Fay then go outside to watch the luggage being loaded onto the plane. Just then a small poodle runs onto the tarmac, forcing the luggage-cart driver to swerve. During the maneuver, Johnny's suitcase falls to the ground and breaks open, releasing all of the bills, which whirl through the air. Fay pulls the stunned Johnny away and they exists the terminal, but an airline official reports Johnny as the suitcase owner to two plainclothes policemen. As Fay desperately tries to hail a cab, the two policemen walk toward her and Johnny. 

Production Company: Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Stanley Kubrick (Dir)
  Milton Carter (Asst dir)
  Paul Feiner (Asst dir)
  Howard Joslin (2d asst dir)
Producer: James B. Harris (Prod)
  Alexander Singer (Assoc prod)
Writer: Stanley Kubrick (Scr)
  Jim Thompson (Dial)
Photography: Lucien Ballard (Dir of photog)
  Dick Tower (Cam op)
  Robert Hosler (2d asst cam)
  Paul Eagler (Process cam)
  Bobby Jones (Gaffer)
  Carl Gibson (Head grip)
  Lou Cortese (Best boy)
Art Direction: Ruth Sobotka (Art dir)
Film Editor: Betty Steinberg (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Harry Reif (Set dec)
  Carl Brainard (Asst set dec)
  Bud Pine (Const supv)
  Christopher Ebsen (Chief carpenter)
  Robert L. Stephen (Chief painter)
  Ray Zambel (Props)
Costumes: Jack Masters (Ward)
  Rudy Harrington (Women's ward)
  Beaumelle (Miss Windsor's cost)
Music: Gerald Fried (Mus comp and cond)
  Gilbert Marchant (Mus ed)
Sound: Earl Snyder (Sd)
  Joe Keener (Sd rec)
  Rex Upton (Sd eff ed)
Special Effects: Dave Koehler (Spec eff)
  Jack Rabin (Photog eff)
  Louis DeWitt (Photog eff)
Make Up: Robert Littlefield (Makeup)
  Lillian Shore (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Mary Gibsone (Scr supv)
  Marguerite Olson (Prod asst)
  Dave Lesser (Transportation)
  Joyce Hartman (Dir's asst)
  Clarence Eurist (Prod supv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White (New York, 1955).
Authors: Lionel White

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corp. 19/5/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP6735

PCA NO: 17836
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
Subjects (Major): Criminals
Subjects (Minor): Airports
  Loan sharks
  New York City

Note: Working titles for the film were Clean Break and Bed of Fear . The Var review erroneously reversed the order of actor Kola Kwariani with that of his character, "Maurice Oboukhoff". The film featured offscreen, voice-over narration by Art Gilmore throughout, presented in a mock documentary style. At various places throughout the film, the story unfolds out of chronological order, with the narrator establishing the time sequence, using phrases such as "forty-five minutes before." The film contained what reviewers called “rapid fire” shots, elements that some reviewers felt heightened the tension of the narrative.
       The race sequences were shot on location at Bay Meadows race track, outside of San Francisco, according to reviews. A 1962 HR item noted that Frank Sinatra was considering a remake of The Killing , to co-star members of “The Rat Pack.” Years earlier, according to modern sources, when producer James B. Harris approached author Lionel White's agents for the rights to the novel Clean Break , he was told that Sinatra was already negotiating for the book. When Sinatra hesitated, Harris secured the rights.
       Modern sources indicate that United Artists was concerned about the project having no viable star and suggested Victor Mature for the role of "Johnny Clay," but Harris and director Stanley Kubrick, working on his second feature production, refused. Harris approached Jack Palance without success. The same source indicates that although star Sterling Hayden approved of the film at a first screening, he later expressed concern that its unconventional structure had reduced the impact of his performance. Fearing a lawsuit by the actor, Kubrick re-edited the film in chronological order but noted that the narrative tension was lost and returned it to its original structure.
       The Killing is the first of three films on which Harris and Kubrick collaborated. The other productions were 1958 Paths of Glory (see below) and 1962 Lolita (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). Although The Killing performed poorly in general release and was not critically acclaimed, it has since gained a “cult” following with the development of Kubrick's career. Art director Ruth Sobotka was Kubrick’s wife from 1955--1961. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   26 May 1956.   
Daily Variety   18 May 56   p. 3.
Film Daily   6 Jun 56   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Nov 1955   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Nov 1955   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   18 May 56   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 1962.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   26 May 56   p. 913.
New York Times   21 May 56   p. 20.
Variety   23 May 56   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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