Born to Kill (1947 film)

Born to Kill (1947 film)

name = Born To Kill

caption = Theatrical Poster
director = Robert Wise
producer = Herman Schlom
writer = Story: James Gunn
Screenplay: Eve Greene Richard Macaulay
starring = Claire Trevor
Lawrence Tierney
Walter Slezak
Phillip Terry
Audrey Long
Elisha Cook Jr.
music = Paul Sawtell
cinematography = Robert De Grasse
editing = Les Millbrook
distributor = RKO Radio Pictures
released = May 3, 1947 (U.S.A.)
runtime = 92 minutes
language = English
budget =
amg_id = 1:6753
imdb_id = 0039211|
:"For the 1974 film alternatively released as "Born to Kill", see Cockfighter.""Born to Kill", a 1947 black and white film, was the first film noir directed by Robert Wise, who later directed "The Set-Up" (1949), "The Captive City" (1952), and "Odds Against Tomorrow" (1959). In the U.K . the title was "Lady Of Deceit." The drama features Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, among others. [imdb title|id=0039211|title=Born to Kill.]

This was Tierney's first "A" picture, but because of his dangerous and volatile reputation, he never made another big film as a movie lead. [ [ Muller, Eddie] . Web site. "The Big Leak: An Uneasy Evening with the Noir Legend," 1999. Last accessed: January 27, 2008.]

The scenes in San Francisco prominently feature the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This bridge is used more often in film noir than the more famous Golden Gate Bridge, because it's easier to shoot with the city in the background.


Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) has just received a Reno divorce. That night, she discovers one of her neighbors, Laury Palmer, and a gentleman caller murdered in Palmer's home. The killer is her neighbor's other boyfriend, Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney), an insanely jealous man who won't abide anyone "cutting in" on him. Helen discovers the bodies, but says nothing to the police; she's leaving town and doesn't want to be impeded. She meets Sam on the train, and she is instantly attracted to his self-confidence and brutality, but she is engaged to marry a wealthy boyfriend. Helen's foster sister (Audrey Long) is also rich, and Sam soon shifts his attentions to her, marrying her for her money after a whirlwind romance. Neither Helen's engagement nor Sam's marriage is an impediment to their beginning an affair.

Meanwhile, back in Reno, the owner of the boarding house where Helen lived has hired a mercenary, verse-quoting detective, played by Walter Slezak, to find out who killed Laury. The detective follows Sam's friend, Marty (Elisha Cook Jr.), to San Francisco, and soon begins to make blackmailing overtures to Helen. Marty finds out who hired the detective and attempts to kill her, but Sam thinks he's trying to cut in on his action and kills him. Helen's rich boyfriend begins to see through her shell and breaks it off. Sam and Helen face off in a fatal confrontation as their schemes begin unraveling.


* Claire Trevor as Helen Brent
* Lawrence Tierney as Sam Wilde
* Walter Slezak as Albert Arnett
* Phillip Terry as Fred Grover
* Audrey Long as Georgia Staples
* Elisha Cook, Jr. as Marty Waterman
* Isabel Jewell as Laury Palmer
* Esther Howard as Mrs. Kraft
* Kathryn Card as Grace
* Tony Barrett as Danny
* Grandon Rhodes as Inspector Wilson

Critical reception

Critic Fernando F. Croce wrote of the film, "The usually meek Robert Wise trades his chameleonic tastefulness for full-on, jazzy misanthropy in this nasty melodrama...Wise swims in the genre's amorality, scoring a kitchen brawl to big-band radio tunes, terrorizing a soused matron at a nocturnal beach skirmish, and leaving the last word to Walter Slezak's jovially corrupt detective." [ [ Croce, Fernando F] . "Slant" magazine, film review, 2006. Last accessed: January 27, 2008.]


In the commentary for the 2005 DVD release of "Born to Kill", film noir historian Eddie Muller suggests that the character of Laury Palmer--a party girl who spends most of the movie as a murder victim--may have been an inspiration for Laura Palmer in David Lynch's TV series "Twin Peaks." [Muller, Eddie. Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2, "Born to Kill, et al," Supplements, Warner Home Video, July 5, 2005.]

Notable quotes

* Albert Arnett: "As you grow older, you'll discover that life is very much like coffee - the aroma is always better than the actuality."
* Marty Waterman: "You can't just go around killing people when the notion strikes you. It's just not feasible."


External links

* [ "Born to Kill"] at Film Noir of the Week.
* [ "Born to Kill"] at DVD Beaver (includes images).
* [ "Born to Kill"] at Film Monthly by Robert Weston.

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