99 River Street

99 River Street is a 1953 film noir directed by Phil Karlson and starring John Payne and Evelyn Keyes. It also features Brad Dexter, Frank Faylen, and Peggie Castle. The screenplay is by Robert Smith, based on a short story by George Zuckerman. The film was produced by Edward Small, with cinematography by Franz Planer.[2]

99 River Street
theatrical release poster
Directed byPhil Karlson
Produced byEdward Small
Screenplay byRobert Smith
Story byGeorge Zuckerman
Based on"Crosstown" (short story, in Cosmopolitan, October 1945) by George Zuckerman
StarringJohn Payne
Evelyn Keyes
Music byArthur Lange
Emil Newman
CinematographyFranz Planer
Edited byBuddy Small
World Films (Edward Small Productions)
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • August 21, 1953 (1953-08-21) (LA)
  • October 2, 1953 (1953-10-02) (NYC)
  • October 3, 1953 (1953-10-03) (US)
Running time
82-83 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States


Ernie Driscoll is a former boxer who, after sustaining an injury in the ring severe enough to force him to give up prize fighting, is a New York taxi driver.

His wife, Pauline, unhappy living a hard-up life, is having an affair with the much better-heeled Victor Rawlins, who happens to be a thief. An arrangement Rawlins made, to be paid for a batch of diamonds he has stolen, falls through; his fence indicates it is the presence of Pauline that has impeded the deal. In an effort to rekindle it, Rawlins kills Pauline and attempts to frame Driscoll for the murder.

With the help of a female acquaintance, Driscoll tries to track down Rawlins before the criminal leaves the country.


Source: [1]

Cast notes:

  • In 1961, John Payne's acting career was interrupted when he was hit by a car while crossing Madison Avenue in New York City. Although he survived the accident thanks to surgical intervention and lengthy rehabilitation, his film and television appearances after his attempted comeback were sporadic, and ended in the 1970s.[3]
  • Peggie Castle's acting career began in 1950 when she along with Piper Laurie, Barbara Bates, Mona Freeman and Barbara Payton was touted as one of that year's "Baby Stars".[3]


The rights to George Zuckerman's short story "Crosstown" were originally purchased by producer Albert Zugsmith, who sold them to Edward Small. Actress Linda Darnell was Small's first choice to play the female lead played in the film by Evelyn Keyes.[1] The film was originally known as Crosstown.[4] The name was changed two months before the film's release.[5]


The New York Times film critic gave the film a negative review, writing that the film "...is one of those tasteless melodramas peopled with unpleasant hoods, two-timing blondes and lots of sequences of what purports to be everyday life in the underworld. In this stale rehash, John Payne is a cabbie seething with dreams of what he might have been in the boxing world ... To say that this film is offensive would be kind; to point out that it induces an irritated boredom would be accurate. The defendants in this artistic felony are Robert Smith, the scenarist, and Phil Karlson, the director. It is interesting to ponder how Mr. Karlson managed to slip some objectionable scenes past the production code. Maybe it was just artistic license."[6]

Modern critics gave the film positive reviews[7], Dave Kehr writing that "Phil Karlson directed this low-budget independent film noir in 1953, and it's an example of the kind of humble brilliance that often emerged from the American genre cinema."[8]

Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Rosenbaum cited it in some lists of best and favourite movies that they have submitted over the years[9].


  1. 99 River Street at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. 99 River Street on IMDb.
  3. Muller, Eddie (April 7, 2019) Outro to the Turner Classic Movies presentation
  4. Staff (March 13, 1953) review Los Angeles Times
  5. Muller, Eddie (April 7, 2019) Intro to the Turner Classic Movies presentation
  6. Staff (October 3, 1953) "Melodrama of Murder" The New York Times Accessed:July 6, 2013
  7. Rotten Tomatoes Accessed:September 27, 2019
  8. 99 River Street | Chicago Reader Chicago Reader Accessed:September 27, 2019
  9. theyshootpictures.com Accessed:September 27, 2019
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