I Wake Up Screaming

I Wake Up Screaming (originally titled Hot Spot) is a 1941 film noir.[2] It is based on the novel of the same name by Steve Fisher, who co-wrote the screenplay with Dwight Taylor. The film stars Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis, and features one of Grable's few dramatic roles.

I Wake Up Screaming
Theatrical release poster
Directed byH. Bruce Humberstone
Produced byMilton Sperling
Screenplay byDwight Taylor
Steve Fisher
Based onI Wake Up Screaming
1941 novel
by Steve Fisher
StarringBetty Grable
Victor Mature
Carole Landis
Laird Cregar
Music byCyril J. Mockridge
CinematographyEdward Cronjager
Edited byRobert L. Simpson
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 14, 1941 (1941-11-14) (United States)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,491,500[1]


A young promoter, Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), is having dinner with two friends, ex-actor Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray) and gossip columnist Larry Evans (Allyn Joslyn), when he decides on a whim and a dare to turn their waitress, Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis), into a star. Vicki shares an apartment with her sister Jill (Betty Grable) who works as a secretary. After a whirlwind promotion Vicki begins a quick rise to fame and she secretly signs a contract with a producer in Hollywood. She only tells Frankie that she is leaving the day before her scheduled departure for Hollywood. But the next day her sister Jill comes home to find Vicki dead and Frankie standing over the body.

Frankie Christopher is accused of the murder of Vicky Lynn and grilled by the police. An obsessive police officer, Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar), pushes Frankie hard and tells the captain that he knows that Frankie is the killer because he says that Frankie was angry that Vicki was leaving him after all that he had done for her. Frankie is released but Cornell keeps following him and threatening him.

Frankie hides out with Jill's help and they both begin to fall in love. With Jill's help Frankie manages to find the real killer, Harry Williams (Elisha Cook, Jr.), a young man who worked in the sisters' apartment building. He convinces two police detectives that Cornell was trying to frame him for the murder. They go to Cornell's apartment where they find the walls plastered with posters of Vicki and Frankie realizes that Cornell was in love with Vicki and blamed him for taking her from him.



The movie was originally known as I Wake Up Screaming. Its title was then changed to Hot Spot. It was the first film Mature made under his contract with 20th Century Fox. Mature, Carole Landis and Alice Faye were meant to star.[3] Faye was replaced by Betty Grable. The title was eventually changed back to I Wake Up Screaming although it was released in some markets as Hot Spot.

The film was remade in 1953 as Vicki.[2]


Box Office

The film earned a profit of $574,100.[1]

Critical response

Film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a favorable review, writing, "Veteran Fox studio director H. Bruce Humberstone (Charlie Chan at the Opera/Sun Valley Serenade), whose films ranged from Charlie Chan to Tarzan, puts forth his best effort in this thrilling film noir. I Wake Up Screaming was remade in 1953 as Vicki. Dwight Taylor bases his screenplay on the book by pulp writer Steve Fisher. In a jarring move that works in an odd way, 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' is the soundtrack that can be heard throughout. This early film noir, shot in a naturalistic style, showed how dark photography can increase a brooding mood and make the film more tense ... The conclusion is filled with plot twists and surprise character revelations, as the marvelously sinister performance by Laird Cregar as the sicko detective dominates the screen."[4]


The film's score was made up of "Over the Rainbow" and the theme from the 1931 film Street Scene, written by Alfred Newman.[5]


  1. Mank, Gregory William (2018). Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy. McFarland.
  2. Mayer, Geoff and Brian McDonnell. Encyclopedia of film noir (2007: Greenwood Publishing Company). page 226. ISBN 978-0-313-33306-4
  3. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Goldwyn to Film the Life of Lou Gehrig -- Picture Listed for Release Next Year DANCE HALL' HERE FRIDAY Carole Landis and Romero in Roxy Feature -- 'Stars Look Down' Opens July 23 By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 15 July 1941: 22.
  4. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 20, 2004. Accessed: July 10, 2013.
  5. Beck, Jay and Tony Grajeda. Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound (2008: University of Illinois Press). page 114. ISBN 0-252-07532-3
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