The Scarlet Hour

The Scarlet Hour is a 1956 American crime drama film directed and produced by Michael Curtiz, previously director of such noted films as Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy and White Christmas.

The Scarlet Hour
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Produced byMichael Curtiz
Screenplay byJohn Meredyth Lucas
Alford Van Ronkel
Frank Tashlin
Based on"The Kiss Off"
by Frank Tashlin
StarringCarol Ohmart
Tom Tryon
Jody Lawrance
Music byLeith Stevens
CinematographyLionel Lindon
Edited byEverett Douglas
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 1956 (1956-04) (U.S.)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film stars Carol Ohmart, Tom Tryon and Jody Lawrance. The screenplay was based on the story "The Kiss Off" by Frank Tashlin. The song "Never Let Me Go", written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, is performed by Nat King Cole. UCLA has an original 16 mm copy of the film in its Film and Television Archive.

A 35mm studio archive print was screen at the Noir City festival in Seattle in February 2019. (Source: Seattle International Film Festival program)


E. V. Marshall, known to all as "Marsh," works for wealthy real-estate businessman Ralph Nevins and is having a romantic affair with Ralph's unhappy wife, Paulie. He asks her to get a divorce, but Paulie grew up impoverished and refuses to do without her husband's money.

One night they overhear thieves planning a jewelry robbery of the home of a doctor named Lynbury. They do not go to the police, concerned that Ralph might learn they were together. When she returns home later, however, Paulie is physically assaulted by her angry husband.

Suspicious of her behavior, Ralph tells his secretary Kathy Stevens that he's planning to take his wife on a vacation and permit Marsh to run the company in his absence. Ralph then follows Paulie when she sees Marsh. Now willing to do anything to get away from her husband, Paulie pleads with Marsh to rob the jewels from the thieves as they leave Dr. Lynbury's house.

At the scene of the crime, where Marsh successfully steals the gems from the thieves who have robbed Dr. Lynbury's home, Ralph catches Marsh and Paulie in the act and Paulie shoots him. Gunfire from the thieves makes Marsh believe they were the ones who shot Ralph.

As the police investigate, Kathy discovers that Ralph has secretly made a recording, explaining his suspicions about his wife. Kathy is in love with Marsh, who decides to go to the police and confess. It turns out, meanwhile, that Dr. Lynbury has masterminded the burglary of his own home, looking to collect insurance money after having replaced his wife's jewels with worthless fakes. Police eventually place Lynbury under arrest and Paulie as well, with Marsh's cooperation.



The film received mixed reviews from critics. The Times wrote, “It is a very drab hour and a half, in the company of actors who have not yet established their reputations and are unlikely to achieve them as a result of this movie. The story combines a rather unsavory triangle with a jewel robbery and the director Mr. Curtiz has achieved a certain amount of suspense but little else.”[1]

David Bongard of the Herald Express wrote that "Carol Ohmart is the sultry boss's wife. She has an amazing physical resemblance, in some angles, to Barbara Stanwyck. Obviously she's Curtiz's Galatea in the acting field. If the material weren't so childish and over-dramatic, she might have made a bull's-eye with this. She soon might be capable of the stuff of a Stanwyck or a Bette Davis."[2]

Critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a lukewarm review, referring to it as a "sluggish study of marital discord leading to murder."

In an interview with New York Magazine, Elaine Stritch referred to it as being her worst film, primarily due to her limited role; she said, "The part was so terrible it looked like I was visiting the set: I had nothing to say. I just kept running into places saying, ‘Hi!’ The worst.". In People magazine, she said "The first film I did [The Scarlet Hour] was shown in a Greenwich Village art house as a laughable exercise in how not to make a movie."[3]


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