Friday, February 10, 2017
Jules Dassin | The Naked City
the desire to glitter
by Douglas Messerli
Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald (based on Wald’s book), Jules Dassin (director) The Naked City / 1948
Any detailed summary of Jules Dassin’s The Naked City plot would sound like involuted nonsense, since the point of the story is to circle around itself so that the homicide police, Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and rookie detective Jimmy Halloran (Dan Taylor), can slowing make impossible and sometimes illogical connections to get their man. Let’s just say that a beautiful model is found dead in her bath tub, clearly murdered. And the police spend days to chasing down clues, including another dead body and an attempted murder, finally linking up the murders with the heads of a jewel heist ring, headed by Frank Niles (Howard Duff) and the murdered woman, with whom he was having an affair, and carried out by two thugs, Willie Garzah (Ted de Corsia) and Pete Backalis (Walter Burke). Finally piecing together the facts, the police solve the case. Enough said.
The last 20 minutes of the film are the very best, as the murderer and the young detective race through the city, acrobatically jumping backyard fences, cutting in and through vast lower East-side crowds, and finally climbing to the towers of the Williamsburg Bridge.
And, although the script of The Naked City is often mundane and even sentimental, the acting is not half bad, particularly Fiztgerald’s Lieutenant, who he plays as a cleaver, witty, and cavalier Irishman with an accent as heavy as lead. Duff, the failed son of a privileged family, whips up amateur lies faster than the Trump administration, and Dorothy Hart as the murdered woman’s best friend, Ruth Morrison, like the young and handsome Dan Taylor are a treat for the eyes.
At one poignant moment, the dead girl’s mother, Paula Batory (Adelaide Klein) turns in a rather remarkable performance as she damns her daughter for her greedy desires at the very moment she expresses her sorrow and pain for her death. And then Molly Picon’s recognition of the villain suddenly turns to deep regret; she likes the harmonica playing ex-wrestler because he’s good to children.
Los Angeles, February 10, 2017