Key Witness (1960 film)

Key Witness is a black and white 1960 American neo-noir film[2] crime film directed by Phil Karlson and starring Jeffrey Hunter, Pat Crowley and Dennis Hopper.[3]

Key Witness
Directed byPhil Karlson
Produced byPandro S. Berman
Written byAlfred Brenner
Sidney Michaels
Based onnovel by Frank Kane
StarringJeffrey Hunter
Patricia Crowley
Dennis Hopper
Music byCharles Wolcott
CinematographyHarold E. Wellman
Edited byFerris Webster
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$810,000[1]


Fred Morrow, an average Los Angeles citizen, witnesses a gang murder when he stops in a cafe to use a telephone. Aware that he is the only witness against them, the gang members, led by young "Cowboy" Tomkins, seek out his identity and terrorize him and his family to keep him from testifying against them.

A police detective, Torno, fears he will lose his only witness, but Fred stands up to the gang, despite wife Ann's hysteria. Cowboy gives the Morrows until midnight to change their minds, he and gang members Ruby, Muggles and Apple throwing a rock through the family's window and slashing their car's tires.

Cowboy leads the cops on a car chase, but is caught. In court, though, Fred changes his testimony after learning Ann has been attacked by Ruby and their child held at gunpoint by Muggles. He later provokes Apple, who is black, into siding against Cowboy, who reveals his racist attitudes toward his accomplice. Torno takes the entire gang into custody, Apple agreeing to testify.



According to MGM records, the film earned $360,000 in the US and Canada and $450,000 in other countries, resulting in a loss of $496,000.[1].Reviews generally praised the film, although The Hollywood Reporter and Variety criticized its element of racism.[4]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; Ursini, James; Porfirio, Robert (2010). Film Noir: The Encyclopaedia. Overlook Duckworth (New York). ISBN 978-1-59020-144-2.
  3. Key Witness at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  4. "AFI Entry".
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