Detective Story (1951 film)

Detective Story (1951 film)
Detective Story

Theatrical release poster
Directed by William Wyler
Produced by William Wyler
Screenplay by Robert Wyler
Philip Yordan
Based on Play:
Sidney Kingsley
Starring Kirk Douglas
Eleanor Parker
Cinematography Lee Garmes
Editing by Robert Swink
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) November 6, 1951 (1951-11-06) (United States)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Detective Story (1951) is a film noir which tells the story of one day in the lives of the various people who populate a police detective squad. It features Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O'Donnell, Lee Grant, among others. The movie was adapted by Robert Wyler and Philip Yordan from the 1949 play of the same name by Sidney Kingsley. It was directed by William Wyler.[1]

An embittered cop, Det. Jim McLeod (Douglas), leads a precinct of characters in their grim daily battle with the city's lowlife. Little does he realize that his obsessive pursuit of an abortionist (Macready) is leading him to discover his wife had an abortion. The characters who pass through the precinct over the course of the day include a young petty embezzler, a pair of burglars, and a naive shoplifter.



The film begins with the arrest of a shoplifter (Lee Grant in her first film role) and her booking at the 21st police precinct in New York City. Outside, Det. Jim McLeod (Kirk Douglas) is sharing a romantic moment with his wife Mary (Eleanor Parker), and they discuss the children they are planning to have. He returns to the precinct to process a young embezzler named Arthur Kindred (Craig Hill).

McLeod then encounters Endicott Sims (Warner Anderson), lawyer of Karl Schneider (George Macready), a New Jersey doctor who has had his license revoked and is now wanted on murder charges. Sims informs Lieutenant Monahan (Horace McMahon) that Schneider wants to turn himself in to avoid the wrath of McLeod, who has apparently been conducting an ongoing hate campaign against the doctor, who is known to perform abortions. McLeod professes his hatred of Schneider, and in fact all criminals, lamenting that the law merely "coddles them."

Two burglars, Charley Gennini (Joseph Wiseman, who played the title role in the first James Bond film Dr. No) and Lewis Abbott (Michael Strong), are brought in. With his partner Brody's (William Bendix, best known as Riley in the TV series, Life Of Riley) help, McLeod interrogates the men and manages to turn Abbott against Gennini. Further investigation proves that Gennini essentially makes a living out of thievery. When his record comes in it turns out that he has done far worse than stealing.

When Schneider arrives with Sims, McLeod informs him that his assistant, Miss Hatch (Gladys George), has implicated him and will pick him out of a line-up. To McLeod's disgust, Schneider has bribed Hatch with a fur coat, and she fails to identify him. McLeod explodes and calls Hatch a liar before dismissing her. He admits to reporter Joe Feinson (Luis Van Rooten) that his hatred for his father and "his criminal mind" (who drove his wife to a lunatic asylum) is what fuels his crusade against evil-doers.

McLeod then takes Schneider to Bellevue Hospital where a young victim of Schneider's work is being treated. However, McLeod learns that the woman has died, and without her identification, there is no case against Schneider. As they head back to the precinct, Schneider threatens McLeod with information he apparently has on the detective, taunting him that he has a lot of pull in high places. McLeod responds by slapping and punching Schneider until he suddenly collapses. As an ambulance is called Schneider mentions the name "Giacoppetti" and a woman to Monahan, which presumably has something to do with McLeod. When Sims comes by to berate McLeod and Monahan he inadvertently reveals - only in the presence of Monahan - that the woman is Mary McLeod.

Arthur's boss, Albert R. Pritchett (James Maloney), comes to the precinct to file charges against Arthur. His old family friend Susan (Cathy O'Donnell) arrives and gives Pritchett $120 she scraped together hoping no charges are filed against her friend. McLeod calls Arthur a thief and tries to dissuade Susan, but she pleads with Pritchett, swearing that the funds will be repaid the next day. In truth, Arthur stole the money to pay for a dinner date with an old flame, in a vain attempt to rekindle her interest in him. Brody sympathizes with Arthur and talks Pritchett into accepting Susan's money. Angered by Brody's interference, McLeod essentially bullies Pritchett into filing charges, stating that a first offender always becomes a repeat offender (using Gennini as an example), and no mercy should be shown to them.

Mary McLeod arrives at the station and talks with Lt. Monahan about knowing Giacoppetti - a racketeer who used to date Mary - and Schneider. She denies knowing them, but when Giacoppetti walks in and greets her, she bursts into tears. Giacoppetti, pressured by Monahan, admits that Mary had gotten pregnant while they dated and gone to Dr. Schneider for an abortion.

Mary confesses to her husband, and once alone with him she asks his forgiveness, but he brutally responds that he'd rather die than find out his wife is "a tramp," and asks if her infertility was caused by Schneider's abortion. Stunned and severely hurt by Jim's reaction, Mary leaves in tears.

Later, she comes to the station to say goodbye to McLeod and he pleads with her to stay. Mary relents, but after a snide comment made by Sims about Mary's love life, McLeod falls back on his anger and asks how many men there were before he met her, admitting he cannot wash away the "dirty pictures" in his mind. Calling him cruel and vengeful, she leaves McLeod for good, not wanting be "driven to a lunatic asylum." She vows never to see him again.

Gennini, taking advantage of the commotion started when a victim runs into the station yelling she's been robbed, grabs a gun from a policeman's holster and shoots McLeod several times. McLeod, in his dying words, asks for his wife's forgiveness and requests that his colleagues go easy on Arthur Kindred. McLeod then begins an Act of Contrition, which Brody finishes after McLeod dies. A distressed Brody then releases Arthur while admonishing him "not to make a monkey out of me." Arthur and Susan (who earlier professed her love for him) leave as Monahan calls for a priest and Joe calls his newspaper to inform them of McLeod's death.



The film version omits details from the play pertaining to the criminal underworld and the dangers of a police state.

During production, the film had some trouble with the Production Code Authority. The Production Code did not allow the killing of police officers or references to abortion. Joseph Breen suggested that explicit references to abortion would be altered to "baby farming". Ironically, when the film was released, film critics still interpreted Dr. Schneider as an illicit abortionist. Breen and William Wyler suggested to the MPAA Production Code Committee that the code be amended to allow the killing of police officers if it was absolutely necessary for the plot. They agreed and the code was amended, lifting the previous ban on cop killing.


Critical response

When the film was released, Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, lauded the film and the casting, writing, "Sidney Kingsley's play, Detective Story, has been made into a brisk, absorbing film by Producer-Director William Wyler, with the help of a fine, responsive cast. Long on graphic demonstration of the sort of raffish traffic that flows through a squad-room of plainclothes detectives in a New York police station-house and considerably short on penetration into the lives of anyone on display...In the performance of this business, every member of the cast rates a hand, with the possible exception of Eleanor Parker as the hero's wife, and she is really not to blame. Kirk Douglas is so forceful and aggressive as the detective with a kink in his brain that the sweet and conventional distractions of Miss Parker as his wife appear quite tame. In the role of the mate of such a tiger—and of a woman who has had the troubled past that is harshly revealed in this picture—Mr. Wyler might have cast a sharper dame."[2]

Critic James Steffen appreciated the direction of the film and the cinematography of Lee Garmes, writing "While Detective Story remains essentially a filmed play, Wyler manages to use the inherent constraints of such an approach as an artistic advantage. The confined set of the police precinct is not simply a space where various characters observe each other and interact; it also contributes to the underlying thematic thrust and ultimately to the film’s emotional power. The staging of the individual scenes, which often plays on foreground-background relationships, is also augmented by Lee Garmes’ deep focus photography. (Wyler, of course, used deep focus photography extensively in the films he shot with Gregg Toland.)"[3]

Time felt the film adaption was better than the original play.[4]


Year Award/Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards
1951 Best Actress in a Leading Role Eleanor Parker Nominated
1951 Best Actress in a Supporting Role Lee Grant Nominated
1951 Best Director William Wyler Nominated
1951 Best Writing, Screenplay Philip Yordan, Robert Wyler Nominated
British Academy of Film and Television Arts
1952 BAFTA Film Award Best Film from any Source USA Nominated
1952 Cannes Film Festival
1952 Best Actress Lee Grant Won[5]
1952 Grand Prize of the Festival William Wyler Nominated
Directors Guild of America
1952 DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures - William Wyler Nominated
Edgar Award
1952 Best Motion Picture Screenplay Sidney Kingsley, Robert Wyler, Philip Yordan Won
Golden Globes
1952 Best Motion Picture - Drama Nominated
1952 Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama Kirk Douglas Nominated
1952 Best Supporting Actress Lee Grant Nominated
Writers Guild of America
1952 WGA Award (Screen) Best Written American Drama Philip Yordan, Robert Wyler Nominated


Video and DVD
In a DVD review of the film, technology critic Gary W. Tooze, wrote, "Absolutely stunning image. One of the best I have seen for a black and white film this year. Superb sharpness, shadow details and contrast. Standard Paramount bare bones release with no extras and a price tag for the frugal minded. The image and price make it a must own for Noir fans and everyone else too. Wyler direction sends the film to upper tier to join the DVD."[6]


  1. ^ Detective Story at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, November 7, 1951. Last accessed: December 26, 2007.
  3. ^ Steffen, James. Turner Classic Movies, film review and analysis, 2007. Last accessed: February 1, 2008.
  4. ^ "Cinema: The New Pictures, Oct. 29, 1951"
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Detective Story". Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  6. ^ Tooze, Gary W. DVD Beaver, review, 2007. Last accessed: December 26, 2007.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Detective Story — can refer to the following things: Detective fiction, a genre of fiction Detective Story (play), a 1949 play by Sidney Kingsley Detective Story (1951 film), a film version of the play Detective Story (1983 film), a Japanese film directed by… …   Wikipedia

  • Detective Story (play) — Detective Story is a 1949 play in three acts by American playwright Sidney Kingsley. The play opened on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre on March 23, 1949 where it played until the production moved to the Broadhurst Theatre on July 3, 1950. The… …   Wikipedia

  • Detective Story — Histoire de détective Histoire de détective Titre original Detective Story Réalisation William Wyler Acteurs principaux Kirk Douglas Eleanor Parker Scénario Histoire : Sidney Kingsley Robert Wyler Philip Yordan Photographie Lee Garmes …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Detective Story — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Polizeirevier 21 Originaltitel: Detective Story Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 1951 Länge: 105 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Film noir — Two silhouetted figures in The Big Combo (1955). The film s cinematographer was John Alton, the creator of many of film noir s iconic images …   Wikipedia

  • 1951 in film — The year 1951 in film involved some significant events.Events* Sweden May Britt is scouted by Italian film makers Carlo Ponti and Mario SoldatiTop grossing films (U.S.)(*) After theatrical re issue(s) source:… …   Wikipedia

  • 1950s in film — The decade of the 1950s in film involved many significant films. NOTOC Contents 1 Events 2 List of films: # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.EventsFilms of the 1950s were of a wide variety. As a result of television, the… …   Wikipedia

  • Mrs. Miniver (film) — Mrs. Miniver Theatrical release poster Directed by William Wyler Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress — This article is about the 1944 documentary film. For the fictionalized 1990 film, see Memphis Belle (film). Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress Directed by William Wyler Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • Come and Get It (film) — Come and Get It Directed by Howard Hawks William Wyler Produced by Samuel Goldwyn …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”