Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

Kiss the Blood Off My Hands is a 1948 American film noir crime film directed by Norman Foster starring Burt Lancaster, Joan Fontaine and Robert Newton based on a novel of the same name by Gerald Bulter.[2][3] It was the first film made by Hecht and Lancaster's production company, Norma Productions.

Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNorman Foster
Produced byRichard Vernon
Screenplay byLeonardo Bercovici
Walter Bernstein
Based onThe novel Kiss the Blood Off My Hands
by Gerald Butler
StarringJoan Fontaine
Burt Lancaster
Robert Newton
Music byMiklós Rózsa
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byMilton Carruth
Norma Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 30, 1948 (1948-10-30) (United States)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.6 million (US rentals)[1]


Bill Saunders (Lancaster) is a former prisoner of war now living in England, whose experiences have left him unstable and violent. He gets into a bar fight in which he kills a man and then flees. He hides out with the assistance of a nurse, Jane Wharton (Joan Fontaine), who believes his story that the killing was an accident.

Saunders is involved in another fight—this time with a police officer. He ends up behind bars, but Jane, who is now in love with Saunders, gets him a job driving a truck delivering drugs for her medical clinic when he's released.

Meanwhile, hoodlum Harry Carter, who witnessed the earlier bar fight, threatens to expose Saunders to the police. In return for his silence, Carter demands that Saunders cooperate with a planned robbery of his next drug shipment.

When Saunders does do the delivery, Jane rides with him, forcing Saunders to make the delivery as planned to avoid getting Jane involved in the possibly dangerous theft. This betrayal of Carter puts the lives of Saunders and Jane in even greater danger.



Hecht and Lancaster purchased the rights to Bulter's novel in 1947,[2] however Lancaster postponed production in order to take a role in the 1948 adaptation of Arthur Miller's All My Sons.[4] According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film's title was to be changed from Kiss the Blood Off My Hands to the less graphic Blood on My Hands. A New York Times news item indicates that the PCA initially blocked the full title, but that decision was later overturned on appeal.[5]

During filming, Fontaine was absent for 12 days due to her pregnancy.[5]


Critical response

When the film was released The New York Times wrote: "Norman Foster has directed Kiss the Blood Off My Hands with keen appreciation for the story's emotional content and he has handled the scenes of violence with striking sharpness. The long chase that starts the film on its way, with Lancaster desperately racing through winding streets and alleyways of the London waterfront, vaulting fences and scrambling up on roofs, is high-tension excitement. Mr. Lancaster's performance is good, but he would do well to drop some of his tenseness and get more flexibility into his acting. Robert Newton, as a cockney schemer who witnessed the killing and attempts to blackmail Saunders, is somewhat flamboyant but still he gets over an effective characterization."[6]

Fan magazine Modern Screen listed in as their Picture of the Month, while referencing some controversy, stating: "But there are those who will hold that it should never have been released. Some will say that while it does point a moral ...yet at the same time it presents as the main character a contemptible rat who, since impersonated by the glamorous Mr. Lancaster, may well be sympathetically looked upon by many impressionable young spectators as an attractively ruthless and possibly model fellow."[7]

Radio Version

Joan Fontaine and Burt Lancaster recreated their roles for the Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on February 21 1949 under the title The Unafraid. Jay Novello who had a small role in the film, was also in the broadcast.[8]


  1. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  2. "Butler Novel 'Kiss Blood' As Lancaster-Hecht Indie". Hollywood Nite-Life. Hollywood Nite-Life, Inc. 1947. p. 292 via Internet Archive.
  3. Kiss the Blood Off My Hands on IMDb.
  4. Hollywood Vineyard. The Film Daily, trade magazine, Sept 8, 1947. Accessed: October 9, 2019.
  5. "Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-10-30.
  6. The New York Times, film review, "Lancaster Fights the World Again," October 30, 1948. Accessed: June 29, 2013.
  7. "Kiss the Blood off My Hands". Modern Screen. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  8. American Film Institute Catalog, "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," 1999.
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