Crime of Passion (1957)

Directed by Gerd Oswald

Kathy leaves the newspaper business to marry homicide detective Bill but is frustrated by his lack of ambition and the banality of life in the suburbs. Her drive to advance Bill’s career soon takes her down a dangerous path.

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Plot

Kathy Ferguson (Stanwyck) is a San Francisco newspaper advice columnist. One day, Lieutenant Bill Doyle (Hayden), a Los Angeles police detective, and his partner, Captain Charlie Alidos (Royal Dano), track a fugitive wanted for murder to San Francisco. He meets Kathy and they fall in love. She manages to gain the female fugitive’s trust and locate her. Kathy’s resulting front page story leads to an offer of a big job in New York City, but she abandons her career, marries Doyle and moves to Los Angeles.

Her new role as a 1950s suburban wife and homemaker quickly makes her unhappy. She wants her husband to move up in the world, to become “somebody”. Doyle has different values. He works in order to afford a comfortable lifestyle, no more. Kathy schemes to push her husband up the career ladder without his knowledge. She arranges to get into a car accident with Alice Pope (Fay Wray), in order to become acquainted with her husband, Police Inspector Tony Pope (Raymond Burr), head of Bill’s division. Pope realizes what she has done, and why, but plays along.

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Her continuing ploys inevitably bring her into conflict with Sara Alidos (Virginia Grey), the captain’s equally ambitious wife, and Captain Alidos begins to find fault with Bill at every opportunity. Vicious rumors circulate about Kathy’s relationship with Tony Pope. When Bill sees a poison pen letter that Kathy has received, he rushes to work and punches his boss, Alidos, in front of two police witnesses. During the investigation, Pope shifts enough of the blame to Alidos, suggesting he reached for his gun when the visibly angry Bill burst into the room, that he can hush up the whole incident. Alidos is then transferred to another division, and Bill is given his former position as an acting homicide captain.

When Alice Pope breaks down under the years of mental strain of being a policeman’s wife and is hospitalized, Tony decides to retire. When Tony comes to tell Kathy about Alice’s breakdown and his plans to retire, Kathy tries to persuade him to recommend her husband for the vacancy his departure will create.

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During their talk, he seems to consider the idea favorably, then grabs and kisses her. She recoils at first, then embraces him. Afterward, however, he avoids her. When she finally forces him to meet her, he makes it clear that he believes that Bill is not qualified, and that he is going to recommend Charlie Alidos as his successor. This elevation of a man she hates over her husband’s ambition infuriates Kathy.

When Kathy accompanies Bill to the police station, she steals a gun used in a robbery and murder that her husband is investigating. Kathy then confronts Pope in his home and pleads that he at least not recommend Charlie Alidos. If Pope recommends no one, Kathy argues, her husband still has a small chance and she can justify what she did. Pope coldly refuses so she shoots him dead.

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The entire police department works on Pope’s murder investigation. Bill figures out the killer has to have been his own wife. When Bill confronts Kathy, she tells him, “Now I’ll know just how much of a cop you really are.” Bill responds, “The same cop, Kathy. The same cop you met in Frisco. Same cop I was 10 years ago, pounding a beat. The same cop.” He then drives her to police headquarters. Inside, before they disappear behind a door, she nods her head.

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Thanks to TCM

10/10
Author: mollymoor from United States
12 January 2007

My comments are not only for the movie and its stars but for TCM keeping these noir movies and other “oldies” on air for future generations to have the priveledge of viewing and even for its social education to give them a window of movies and life past. It is very important for us to never forget where todays movies started and what real stars and actors are…. At my age it is very nostalgic to return to the movies I grew up watching the actors I saw on the big screen. Movies will never be like this again and the present actors with the exception of a few will never light up the screen and cause our imaginations to go wild! Now movies have to show every nuance of reality so no one can have an imagination or self thought process…they do it all for you@

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Fay Wray

Pushin’ Hubby Up The Rungs

7/10
Author: ferbs54 from United States
29 November 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We’ve all heard the saying that behind every great man, there’s a little woman pushing him on. But what if the big lug has no desire to be pushed on? What’s a gal to do then? Well, if the woman is Barbara Stanwyck in the 1957 film “Crime of Passion,” she connives, eliminates the competition, arranges phony accidents, engages in adultery and finally commits homicide, all to push hubby up the rungs of success. In this film, Babs plays a tough-dame reporter in San Francisco who falls hard for L.A. cop Sterling Hayden. She even marries the big galoot after a couple of dates and moves to Lalaland with him. Anyway, that’s the setup of what turns out to be a fairly interesting, sexually frank, compact little noir, featuring a once-in-a-lifetime cast.

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Stanwyck, 50 here and nudging toward the end of her spectacular film career, is as intense as ever (she always gave her all in every picture); Hayden is his typically macho, upright self; Raymond Burr, playing Hayden’s boss, is a tad less sleazy than usual but still not to be trusted; and Fay Wray, also 50 here and approaching the end of HER career, is fine in her small role as Burr’s wife. Director Gerd Oswald, a favorite amongst fans of the old “Outer Limits” (and who also went on to direct Burr on TV’s “Perry Mason”), does his usual excellent job as well. The presences of Stanwyck and Hayden, who had starred in such noir classics as “Double Indemnity” (’44), “The Asphalt Jungle” (’50) and “The Killing” (’56), add greatly to the noirish feel here. And if this film shows anything, it’s that there’s one place on Earth you DON’T want to be: on Babs’ bad side!

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Joe Conley …as the wet behind the ears
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Critical response

Critic Dan Callahan gave the film a positive review, writing, “Hayden installs Stanwyck into a hellish suburbia where the women only talk about their TV sets; after a particularly trying montage of idle housewife chatter, Stanwyck rages against the mediocrity all around her. When she rails against her kitchen duties, she’s a ’30s star railing potently against ’50s conformity. Though her character turns violent, the reasons behind her anger are powerfully expressed and the film puts you on her side. This overlooked, subversive movie has a strong feminist message and an even stronger Stanwyck performance.”

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Critic Glenn Erickson liked the film’s noir screenplay and wrote, “Crime of Passion is a fascinating film that goes head-on with the classic conception of the femme fatale character. Screenwriter Jo Eisinger wrote the delirious 1946 Gilda, noir’s most romantically perverse epic, but here she dissects the murderous female from a 50s perspective. It’s hard-edged, direct in its theme and both dated and progressive at the same time. Barbara Stanwyck and Sterling Hayden make an exceptional screen couple.”

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