CRY OF THE CITY—top quality film noir from 1948, based on Henry Edward Helseth’s novel “The Chair For Martin Rome”, cuts its own slice off the trope of two guys from “the neighborhood”, one went to crime, the other the law, with paths crossing as justice deems they must. The big city milieu (New York once again) kicks in from the start: the familiar music heard over the credits is composer Alfred Newman’s “Street Scene”, originally done for the 1931 film of that name, and often reused for other urban-set dramas. Robert Siodmak directed, the script was the work of Richard Murphy and Ben Hecht.
Wounded after a shootout where killed a cop, unrepentant hood ‘Martin Rome’ (Richard Conte) escapes from the hospital with the aim of fleeing the country with his starry-eyed young girlfriend and money from a jewel heist (a job he was falsely accused of). Childhood acquaintance ‘Vittorio Candella’ (Victor Mature), a police lieutenant, is determined to find Rome before he wreaks more havoc, and nail the real jewel perps in the bargain.
Excellent roles for both durable leads, Italian-American flavor minus standard cliches, tense action (with one odd goof—see if you catch it) and an atmosphere-enhancing visual patina thanks to Lloyd Ahern Sr. manning the camera. Debra Paget makes her debut as the naive ‘Teena’–she was just fourteen, which is really pushing the envelope (Conte was 37): the studios got away with that a lot in the old days. Two great supporting villains are inhabited by Berry Kroeger, as an oily lawyer (just begging for just desserts) and the daunting Hope Emerson, nonchalantly ruthless and 100% not your run-of-the-mill moll.
Grosses of $2,600,000 notched 115th place in noir-stoked ’48. With Fred Clark (always a pleasure), Shelley Winters (bearable), Mimi Aguglia, Tommy Cook, Betty Garde, Roland Winters, Walter Baldwin, Konstantin Shayne, Vito Scotti (debut). 95 minutes.