Scarlet Street

Scarlet Street, stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea, and was directed by Fritz Lang, with Walter Wanger as executive producer. More on him in a moment.

Lang epitomized the stereotype of the tyrannical German film director such as Erich von Stroheim and Otto Preminger; he was known for being hard to work with.

Both in Germany and the United States, he was one of the most personally disliked directors around, a fact that hurt him at times in Hollywood, because some actresses and actors would refuse to work with him.

For example, allegedly during the climactic final scene in M, he actually pushed Peter Lorre down a flight of stairs in order to give more authenticity to Lorre's battered look.

Lang’s most famous films are the groundbreaking Metropolis (which was the world's most expensive silent film at the time of its release) and what many film scholars consider to be his masterpiece: M, a disturbing story of a child murderer, starring Peter Lorre in his first role.

Lang worked in Germany before coming to the US and, according to Lang, in 1933, Nazi Party prograganda minister Joseph Goebbels called Lang to his offices to inform him that one of his films was being banned.

But he was so impressed by Lang's abilities as a filmmakerthat he was offering Lang a position as the head of the German Cinema Institute. Lang said he needed time to think about it.

He had already been planning to leave Germany for Paris, but the meeting with Goebbels ran so long that the banks were closed by the time it finished. So Lang escaped to Paris that night without any money, and didn’t return to Germany until after the war.

It’s a great story, but it’s questionable, because most of it can’t be verified. Lang went on to become an influential film director and was dubbed 'The Master of Darkness' because of his film noirs.

In 1964, at age 74, nearly blind, Lang was chosen to be president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, mostly as an honor for his work in film.

Edward G. Robinson was born Emmanuel Goldenberg in Romania, and for the first 9 years of his life lived in a Yiddish community before the family emigrated to the U.S.

An interest in acting led to him winning an American Academy of Dramatic Arts scholarship, after which he changed his name to Edward G. Robinson, the G. signifying his original last name.

His great performance as the gangster Rico Bandello in Little Caesar (1931) led to him being typecast as a "tough guy" for much of his early career.

Like most actors in the 1950s, he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was threatened with blacklisting.

Robinson took steps to clear his name, such as having a representative go through his check stubs to ensure that none had been issued to subversive organizations.

He also gave names of Communist sympathizers and his own name was cleared, but after that he received smaller and less frequent roles.

In Robinson's final film, Soylent Green, he plays a depressed and disillusioned man who commits suicide to escape from the apocalyptic future world in which he lives.

Robinson was dying of cancer at the time, and his death scene features him talking with co-star, Charlton Heston, whose character cries as he watches Robinson's videos of a pre-destroyed Earth.

The tears in the scene were real….. at the time, Heston wasa long time friend and the only person who knew of Robinson's terminal cancer.

He died in 1973 at age 79, 2 weeks after filming Soylent Green and just 2 weeks before he was to be given an honorary Oscar. He knew about the Oscar and was thrilled but didn’t live long enough to receive it himself.

Robinson spoke 7 languages including English, Yiddish, Romanian and German and he had a 50-year career, appearing in over 100 films. And, with Robinson, we have another cartoon character inspiration: the voice of the police cheif on TV's The Simpsons is based on Robinson.

Robinson’s wife, Adele, is played by Rosalind Ivan who, because she played haughty or cold-hearted types so well, was nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible."

Walter Wanger (rhymes with stranger) holds a special place in the history of motion picture production for a couple of things - he was the first and last studio executive to suggest to Groucho Marx that he lose the greasepaint moustache as it was an "obvious fake".

And secondly, because of the scandal surrounding his wife, Joan Bennett.

Wanger began his career in the theater, moved to Hollywood when the studio system was in its infancy, and went on to produce over 60 films, including such classics as John Ford's Stagecoach, Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

His career was notable for taste, for sophistication, and also for scandal; in 1951, he caused a sensation by shooting a man he thought was having an affair with his wife, actress Joan Bennett.

Jennings Lang was the agent of Joan Bennett, then Wanger's wife, and Wanger discovered the two of them were having an affair. He caught them in the act, and wound up shooting Lang twice.

Wanger was convicted of attempted murder in the shooting and served a four-month sentence in the County Honor Farm and then quickly returned to his career.

In 1949 he turned down the Special Academy Award given to him for Joan of Arc .

He was furious at the way the film had been marketed and blamed billionaire Howard Hughes - who at the time was head of RKO, the studio that distributed the film - for its commercial failure.

He was also reportedly angry that the film's several Oscar nominations did not include one for Best Picture.

His last film was Cleopatra in 1963, with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever made, and after the film bombed, almost bankrupting 20th Century Fox, his career never recovered. 

Joan Bennett, playing Kitty, was the youngest of the three acting daughters of stage and screen star Richard Bennett. She was part of a famous theatrical family with a lineage dating back to traveling minstrels in 18th century England.

Joan, like her sisters Constance and Barbara, was a beautiful blonde but in the late 1930s, she dyed her hair dark brown, and began to get more significant roles in films.

Her career flourished, not only because of her change of hair color, but also because of her marriage to the prominent producer Walter Wanger. Wanger guided her career and can take much of the credit for the powerful roles which she accepted.

In her later years she was a cast regular on the gothic daytime television soap opera Dark Shadows, which attracted a major cult TV following, from 1966 to 1971.

In 1968, she was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as the mistress of the haunted Collinwood Mansion.

Celebrated for not taking herself too seriously, Bennett said in a 1986 interview, "I don't think much of most of the films I made, but being a movie star was something I liked very much."

Her sister Barbara, was the mother of trash talk show host Morton Downey, Jr.

Dan Duryea, Johnny Prince, was educated at Cornell University and worked in the advertising business before pursuing his career as an actor. He moved to Hollywood in 1940 and established himself in films by carving a niche as a violent, yet sexy, bad guy in a number of film noirs.

From the 1950s, Duryea was more often seen in Westerns, most notably his charismatic villain in Winchester '73. Duryea's screen reputation as a heel did not extend to his personal life.

He was married to his wife for 35 years and was a family man at heart….he was a scout master and PTA parent.

Dudley Nichols, who wrote the screenplay, was the first artist to ever turn down an Oscar, when he won Best Screenplay for The Informer in 1935.  He also wrote the screenplays for Stagecoach, Ten Little Indians, Bringing Up Baby and For Whom The Bell Tolls.

He refused to accept the Oscar because of the antagonism between several industry guilds and the Academy over union issues. He was elected President of the Screen Writers Guild two years later.

Scarlet Street broke a long-standing tradition in film of the criminal being punished for his crime; this is the first Hollywood film where that didn’t happen.

In the beginning, it has the feel of a romance or drama more than it does a film noir.

But after a while, it shifts gears into darkness - the characters start to make decisions they cannot turn back from, every scene feels dark and tragic and, of course, there are consequences for drastic actions.

So this is a film that shows that crime doesn’t pay, even if you do get away with it.