Kiss of Death is a 1947 American film noir directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer from a story by Eleazar Lipsky. The story revolves around an ex-con played by Victor Mature and his former partner-in-crime, Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark in his first film). The movie also starred Brian Donlevy and introduced Coleen Gray in her first billed role. The film has received critical praise since its release, with two Academy Award nominations.
Victor Mature plays Nick Bianco, the lead role in the film. Coleen Gray plays Nettie, his second wife, who also narrates the beginning and ending of the film. Brian Donlevy plays Louis D'Angelo, the assistant district attorney.
Kiss of Death is notable for being Richard Widmark's film debut as Tommy Udo (a role originally announced for Richard Conte). According to Widmark, Hathaway disliked his high hairline because he thought it made him look too intellectual, so he ordered Widmark fitted for a hairpiece. Hathaway didn't send the test ahead to Zanuck because he wanted a nightclub piano player called "Harry the Hipster" to play Udo. A Fox production manager named Charlie Hill liked the test and sent it to Zanuck, who immediately signed Widmark. During the film, Udo uses a Benzedrine inhaler, which was suggested by Zanuck himself.
Attorney Earl Howser was played by Taylor Holmes, while Howard Smith was cast as a prison warden. Character actor Karl Malden got the part of Sergeant William Cullen while in the Broadway run of Arthur Miller's breakthrough play All My Sons. After doing this film, Malden took a three-year break from film acting, during which he created the role of Mitch in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway opposite Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, and Kim Hunter. He returned to films in 1950 in a small part as a bartender in The Gunfighter, starring Gregory Peck in the leading role.
Susan Cabot and Jesse White made their screen debuts in this film; they were both uncredited. Cabot plays a restaurant patron and White plays a taxi driver. Character actor Millard Mitchell also is uncredited as Detective Shelby. Mildred Dunnock played Mrs. Rizzo, a woman in a wheelchair pushed down a flight of stairs to her death by psychotic Udo.
Kiss of Death was shot between March and May 1947, with additional scenes being shot in June. Much of the filming was done in New York, using locations as practical sets, including the Chrysler Building, the Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre Street, the old Hotel Marguery at 270 Park Avenue at 48th Street, the St. Nicholas Arena, and the now-demolished Bronx House of Detention for Men (later known as the Bronx County Jail) at 151st Street and River Avenue.
A deleted scene involving Nick's wife Maria (who was played by Patricia Morison) was cut from the film. In this scene, a gangster (played by Henry Brandon) who is supposed to look out for her while Nick is in prison rapes her. Afterwards, Maria commits suicide by sticking her head in the kitchen oven and turning on the gas. Both scenes were cut from the original print at the insistence of the censors, who wanted no depiction of either a rape or a suicide, so although Morison's name appears in the credits, she does not appear in the film at all. Mention is made later in the film about Mature's wife's suicide and a now obscure reference is made by Nettie that the unseen gangster Rizzo contributed to the wife's downfall.
Widmark claimed that he only worked thirteen days during filming of the film, but had to go out to California for three or four days when a new ending was shot because Nick's wife suicide scene was cut out.
According to Widmark, there were pads on the bottom of the stairs during Mildred Dunnock's scene as well as men to catch her, but the cameraman forgot to rack the film and the scene had to be shot a second time.
Hathaway later said he "loved the picture because I liked working outside. It was exciting to manoeuvre things and get work done without people on the streets knowing that you were filming." He said the only problem was Victor Mature. "He was carousing all the time and up all night and sleeping all day on the set. He was dirty. I bought him a couple of new suits, and I found him in the men's toilet, lying on the floor asleep in one of the new suits I'd bought him. But he was a good actor."
Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film three out of a possible four stars, stating that the film was starting to "show its age, with cops and robbers a bit too polite", while also praising Widmark and Mature's performances.The impact of Widmark's performance as Tommy Udo found expression in a number of unusual ways. College fraternities formed Tommy Udo clubs "with the intent of putting women in their place." For years, people handed the actor blank phonograph disks on which they wanted him to record the maniacal laugh he used in the film.Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 88%, based on 17 reviews, with a rating average of 7.3/10.
Roach cast Mature in a small role in The Housekeeper's Daughter (1939), for which one reviewer called him "a handsome Tarzan type". Roach then gave Mature his first leading role, as a fur-clad caveman in One Million B.C. (1940). The film was highly publicized and it raised Mature's profile; Hedda Hopper called him "a sort of miniature Johnny Weissmuller". Roach next put him in a swashbuckler set during the War of 1812, Captain Caution (1940).
Mature was worried about the direction of his career at this stage, claiming, "nobody was going to believe I could do anything except grunt and groan." So he went to New York City to try the theatre. He signed to appear in a play with the Group Theatre, Retreat to Pleasure by Irwin Shaw. Shortly afterward it was announced he would appear instead in the musical Lady in the Dark with a book by Moss Hart and songs from Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill; Mature played Randy Curtis, a film star boyfriend of the show's protagonist, magazine editor Liza Elliott (Gertrude Lawrence). Mature later described his role:
When Mature left Lady in the Dark, he announced that 20th Century Fox had bought out half of Mature's contract with Hal Roach. His first film under the contract was to be Bowery Nightingale with Alice Faye. He was going to follow this with The Shanghai Gesture for Arnold Pressburger and Josef von Sternberg at United Artists.
Fox talked of reuniting Hayworth and Mature in a Russian set war film Ski Patrol. Instead, Mature was lent to RKO for a musical with Lucille Ball, Seven Days' Leave. This was followed by Footlight Serenade with Grable and Payne. All these films were very popular at the box office.
In July 1942, Mature attempted to enlist in the U.S. Navy, but was rejected for color blindness. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard after taking a different eye test the same day. He was assigned to USCGC Storis, which was part of the Greenland Patrol. This meant that when Paramount filmed Lady in the Dark, Mature was unable to reprise his stage role. After 14 months aboard Storis, Mature was promoted to the rating of chief boatswain's mate.
Fox assigned Mature to Three Little Girls in Blue. He was pulled off that film to play Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of The High Window. In December 1945 he signed a new two-year contract with Fox. However Mature ended up withdrawing from that film and instead was cast by John Ford in My Darling Clementine, playing Doc Holliday opposite Henry Fonda's Wyatt Earp, considered to be one of his finest performances.[by whom?] The film was produced by 20th Century Fox, whose head of production Darryl F. Zanuck was delighted that Ford wanted to use Mature, telling the director:
Zanuck promised Mature he would keep him away from musicals and stuck to that, casting him in the period thriller Moss Rose; Mature received a $50,000 bonus after shooting completed. His next film was the film noir, Kiss of Death, which had been developed specifically as a vehicle for him. The movie, shot mostly on location in New York, was not a particularly big hit, but was popular, earned Mature some of his best reviews and turned Richard Widmark into a star.
Still at Fox, Mature made his second Western, Fury at Furnace Creek, replacing John Payne. That film co-starred Coleen Gray, who had been in Kiss of Death and Fox announced plans to team them for a third time in a remake of Seventh Heaven. However, the film was not made. Instead, he co-starred with Richard Conte in a thriller directed by Robert Siodmak, Cry of the City. Mature's performance in the film as a world-weary cop was widely praised; one reviewer noted that he "turns in an excellent performance, arguably the best of his career".
During filming, Mature was frightened by a number of the animals and mechanical props used in the production, including the lions, the wind machine, the swords and even the water. This infuriated the director, DeMille, who bellowed through his megaphone at the assembled cast and crew:
While Samson was in postproduction, Paramount used Mature in another film, co-starring with Betty Hutton in Red, Hot and Blue, his first musical in a number of years. It was not particularly popular, and Easy Living was a flop, but Samson and Delilah earned over $12 million during its original run, making it the most popular movie of the 1940s, and responsible for ushering in a cycle of spectacles set in the Ancient World.
In late 1949, Mature was meant to fulfill another commitment at RKO, Alias Mike Fury (the new title for Mr Whiskers). Mature refused to make the movie and was put on suspension by Fox. The script was rewritten and Mature ended up making the film, which was retitled Gambling House. 041b061a72