Cry of the City

Cry of the City is a 1948 black-and-white film noir directed by Robert Siodmak based on the novel by Henry Edward Helseth, The Chair for Martin Rome. The screenwriter Ben Hecht worked on the film's script, but is not credited. The film was partly shot on location in New York City.[1]

Cry of the City
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Siodmak
Produced bySol C. Siegel
Screenplay byRichard Murphy
Ben Hecht
Based onThe Chair for Martin Rome
1947 novel
by Henry Edward Helseth
StarringVictor Mature
Richard Conte
Fred Clark
Shelley Winters
Music byAlfred Newman
CinematographyLloyd Ahern
Edited byHarmon Jones
Distributed byTwentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
Release date
  • September 29, 1948 (1948-09-29) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States

Siodmak later said "I thought it was good but it's not really my kind of film: I hate locations - there's so much you can't control."[2]


Martin Rome (Richard Conte), a hardened criminal, is recuperating in a hospital from a shootout where he killed a police officer. At the hospital, he is secretly visited by his fiancée, Teena Ricante (played by 15-year old Debra Paget). A shady lawyer arrives in Rome's room. Niles (Berry Kroeger), is representing another crook who is being held for a jewel robbery during which a woman was tortured and murdered. Niles attempts to coerce Rome into confessing to this robbery, supposedly in exchange for a deal which would see him escape the electric chair. Niles threatens to harm Teena, Rome reacts by trying to strangle the lawyer. Later, in order to protect Teena from both Niles and the police, who are searching for her in relation to the robbery, Rome charms his nurse, Miss Pruett (Betty Garde), into providing the girl a hiding place: Pruett's own apartment.

After being transferred to the prison's hospital ward, Rome secures the help of a trustee (Walter Baldwin), to help him escape. He goes to Niles' office and demands money to allow he and Teena to get away. When Rome forces the lawyer to open the safe, he discovers the stolen jewels and makes Niles confess that the woman accomplice in the murder/robbery was a surly, heavy-set masseuse named Rose Givens (Hope Emerson). When Niles goes for a gun, Rome knifes him to death and takes the jewels, concealing them in a locker in a subway station.

Rome is being pursued by police lieutenant Candella (Victor Mature), and his partner, Lieutenant Collins (Fred Clark). Candella knows Rome's family well, having grown up in the neighborhood. Rome, feverish from his bullet wounds and exceedingly tired, goes to his parents' apartment seeking his mother's help. His teenage brother, Tony, himself skirts the law assisting the brother he worships. Their mother tells Rome he must leave; while she is preparing him some food, Candella shows up. He suspects Rome is hiding in the apartment and tells the woman, whom he calls 'Mama', he must search. Rome and Tony appear; Rome holds a gun on Candella, Tony makes sure the coast is clear and Rome escapes. Afterwards, Candella tells Tony to sit down for a talk.

Rome uses an old girlfriend, Brenda (Shelley Winters), to track down Rose Givens' address. His injuries are causing him to weaken so badly that she enlists an unlicensed foreign doctor to attend to him in her car. The doctor administers enough care, for $200, to temporarily revive Rome. Brenda finally drops him off at Rose Givens' address. There, Rome makes a deal with Rose to give her the jewels for "five-thousand dollars, a car, a way out of the country and a good night's sleep".

Candella becomes more obsessive about his pursuit of Rome. He and his partner stay up all night considering the case. The next morning at the station, the two talk to the trustee from the prison, the man who was in charge of the hospital ward when Rome escaped, and a group of foreign doctors. The doctor who treated Rome is among them and, when Candella discovers the $200 in the man's wallet, he confesses.

Meanwhile, Rose has set out to secure the funds and to make the travel arrangements for Rome. He telephones Candella at the police station to inform them that Rose will be on the subway platform retrieving the jewels from the locker. He makes the mistake of assuming he would be in possession of the money and the tickets before she opens the locker, but Rose makes it clear she will not hand those over until she has the jewels. As she takes them from the locker, she is apprehended. She struggles and manages to fire her gun, aiming for Rome; instead she hits Candella in the shoulder.

Candella flees the hospital and goes to Miss Pruett's apartment, knowing that she is the only one who could know where Teena is. Pruett tells him that Rome summoned Teena to meet him at a church. Outside the church, Rome meets Tony and, because he did not receive the money from Rose, orders the boy to go home, steal their parents' savings and return with it as fast as possible. Tony cannot bring himself to do this and seems to have decided to break with his brother's criminality.

Inside the church, Teena informs Rome she will not go away with him. As he tries to smooth-talk Teena into changing her mind, Candella arrives and fills the girl in on all the human wreckage Rome has left behind him. Teena leaves.

As the two men leave the church, Rome takes advantage of Candella's gunshot wound and makes to escape along the street. Candella shoots and kills him. In the aftermath, Tony breaks down and cries after helping Candella into a police car. The police lieutenant consoles the boy.



Director Robert Siodmak was loaned from Universal for this motion picture.[3] Filming took place on location in New York originally under the title Law and Martin Rome.[4]


Critical response

At the time the film was released, The New York Times praised Cry of the City as "taut and grimly realistic". The review praised the performances as "thoroughly effective", and said that "Victor Mature, an actor once suspected of limited talents, turns in a thoroughly satisfying job as the sincere and kindly cop, who not only knows his business but the kind of people he is tracking down."[5]

The staff at Variety magazine liked the film and wrote, "The hard-hitting suspense of the chase formula is given topnotch presentation in Cry of the City. It's an exciting motion picture, credibly put together to wring out every bit of strong action and tension inherent in such a plot. Robert Siodmak's penchant for shaping melodramatic excitement that gets through to an audience is realistically carried out in this one."[6]

The film has been highly praised by modern critics, and is viewed as an important example of the film noir genre. The Time Out Film Guide praises the realistic look and feel of the city: "Rarely has the cruel, lived-in squalor of the city been presented in such telling detail, both in the vivid portrayal of ghetto life and in the astonishing parade of corruption uncovered in the night (a slug-like shyster; a monstrous, sadistic masseuse; a sleazy refugee abortionist, etc)."[7]

Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton writing in A Panorama of American Film Noir 1941–1953 comments that director Siodmak had better noir efforts but the film does have one lasting image, "Siodmak will rediscover neither the brilliance of The Killers nor the 'finish' of Criss Cross in the over-rushed, too uneven, Cry of the City: for all that, one will remember the figure of a forever famished masseuse, a real 'phallic woman' who, with a flick of the wrists, has a 'tough guy' at her mercy."

In Film Noir: The Dark Side of the Screen, Foster Hirsch said that Siodmak's characters "are nurtured by their obsessions". The Candela character, "as Colin McArthur notes in Underworld USA, 'hunts his quarry with an almost metaphysical hatred'."

Hirsch describes Rome's innocence in the jewel robbery, despite his criminal background, as an "ironic variation on the wrong man theme" of some film noir movies. "Branded for a crime he did not commit, the Conte character becomes a true criminal, enmeshed in a web from which there is no escape."


The musical score of the film is Alfred Newman's Street Scene, which had debuted in a 1931 movie of the same name and became iconic in big-city gangster pictures produced during that era.



  • A Panorama of American Film Noir 1941–1953 by Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton
  • Film Noir: The Dark Side of the Screen by Foster Hirsch (Da Capo Press, 1983)


  1. Cry of the City on IMDb
  2. Encounter with Siodmak Taylor, Russell. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 28, Iss. 3, (Summer 1959): 180.
  3. DRAMA AND FILM: Italy Movie Mecca; Al Capone 'Lives' Anew Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 Nov 1947: A5.
  4. BY WAY OF REPORT: The Homestretch – One Ten – Other Matters By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 21 Mar 1948: X5.
  5. The New York Times. Film review, September 30, 1948.
  6. Variety magazine, film review, September 29, 1948.
  7. Time Out Film Guide film review, 2010.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.