The Naked City

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THE NAKED CITY was produced by the legendary Mark Hellinger, who also narrates the noirish 96-minute crime drama, which was directed by Jules Dassin, written by Albert Maltz and Marvin Wald. They, their cast stocked with freshmen character actors, and the city beehive itself deliver a naturalistic, mostly location-shot piece that became the template for ‘police procedural’ tales, the clue-hunting, personality-specked sagas that have been solved by the thousands, mainly on TV, since this came out back in troubled 1948. *

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The dated script is just so-so, and the use of the omniscient narration no longer comes off well, but the lensing from the redoubtable William H. Daniels is still a commendable piece of work. He got an Oscar for it, as did Paul Weatherwax for his Film Editing. It was also nominated in the Story category. Audiences responded to the you-are-there shooting style and the pacing of the methodical case-making by lead detectives Barry Fitzgerald (wily old pro) and Don Taylor (eager young partner). It came in 38th place for the year, earning $6,300,000.

Who chloroformed the blonde beauty, then drowned her in a bathtub? Leads take the case in several directions, with the strongest impressions made by Howard Duff, in his second film, and classic brutal mug Ted de Corsia, in his third.

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Besides the breaks for Duff and de Corsia, in addition to starlets Dorothy Hart (her 4th picture)  and Anne Sargent (1st), the cast featured a slew of new, mostly New York faces that would become familiar over the ensuing decades: Arthur O’Connell, Tom Pedi (2nd film), Molly Picon, Kathleen Freeman (1st), Walter Burke (1st), Paul Ford (3rd), Bruce Gordon (1st), James Gregory (1st), John Marley (2nd), David Opatoshu (2nd), Nehemiah Persoff (1st) and John Randolph (1st)).

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* Something rotten had been gnawing inside the postwar health of the nation of 1948, witness the grit and grist of They Live By Night, Force Of Evil, Cry Of The City, Call Northside 777, The Street With No Name, Road House, Key Largo and—what a title!–-Kiss The Blood Off My Hands. 

Shortly after viewing a final cut, 44-year-old Mark Hellinger died of a heart attack.  Director Dassin, writer Maltz and actors Pedi and Randolph were all shortly Blacklisted over their lefty lean: a bad time to be a good guy. The film was later adapted as a TV series, which ran from 1958 to 1963. Lastly, as generations know (or knew) “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

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