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Scarlet Street (1945) [Film Noir] [Drama]

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Scarlet Street is an American film noir directed by Fritz Lang and based on the French novel La Chienne (The Bitch) by Georges de La Fouchardière, that previously had been dramatized on stage by André Mouëzy-Éon, and cinematically as La Chienne (1931) by director Jean Renoir. The principal actors Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, had earlier appeared together in The Woman in the Window (1944) also directed by Fritz Lang. The three were re-teamed for Scarlet Street.

Christopher "Chris" Cross (Edward G. Robinson), a meek, amateur painter and cashier for clothing retailer, J.J. Hogarth & Company, is fêted by his employer, honoring him for twenty-five years of dull, repetitive service. Hogarth presents him with a watch and kind words, then leaves getting into a car with a beautiful young blonde. Walking home in Greenwich Village, Chris muses to an associate, "I wonder what it's like to be loved by a young girl." He helps prostitute Kitty (Joan Bennett), an amoral fast-talking femme fatale, he sees apparently being attacked by a man, stunning the assailant with his umbrella. Chris is unaware that the attacker was Johnny (Dan Duryea), Kitty's brutish boyfriend, and sees her safely to her apartment building. Out of gratitude and bemusement, she accepts his offer for a cup of coffee at a nearby bar. From Chris's comments about art, Kitty believes him to be a wealthy painter, adding, "To think I took you for a cashier."

Soon, Chris becomes enamored of her because his loveless marriage is tormented by his shrewish wife Adele (Rosalind Ivan), who idolizes her former husband, a policeman drowned while trying to save a woman. After Chris confesses that he is married, Johnny convinces Kitty to pursue a relationship in order to extort money from Chris. Kitty inveigles him to rent an apartment for her, one that can also be his art studio. To finance an apartment, Chris steals $500 in insurance bonds from his wife and later $1000 from his employer. Meanwhile, Johnny unsuccessfully tries selling some of Chris's paintings, attracting the interest of art critic David Janeway.

Kitty is maneuvered by Johnny into pretending that she painted them, charming the critic with Chris's own descriptions of his art, and Janeway promises to represent her. Adele sees her husband's paintings in the window of a commercial art gallery as the work of "Katherine March" and accuses him of copying her work. Chris confronts Kitty, who claims she sold them because she needed the money. He is so delighted that his paintings are appreciated, albeit only under Kitty's signature, that he happily lets her become the public face of his art. She becomes a huge commercial success, although Chris never receives any of the money.

Adele's supposedly dead first husband, Higgins, suddenly appears at Chris's office to extort money from him. He explains he had not drowned, but had stolen money from the purse of the suicide he tried to save. Already suspected as corrupt for taking bribes from speakeasies, he had taken the opportunity to escape his crimes and his wife. Chris embezzles again to pay off Higgins, but reasons that his marriage will be invalidated if he confronts his wife with her still-living first husband. He contrives a meeting and believes he can then marry Kitty. However he finds her in Johnny's arms. He later confronts Kitty, but still asks her to marry him; she taunts him in reply. Enraged with humiliation, he murders Kitty with an ice-pick. Higgins, under arrest, reveals the embezzlement to police and Chris is fired from his job. Johnny is accused, convicted, and put to death for Kitty's murder, despite his attempts to implicate Chris.

At the trial, all of their deceptions work against Johnny and Chris denies painting any of the pictures. Chris goes unpunished but Kitty is posthumously recognized as a great artist. Haunted by the murder, Chris attempts to hang himself. Although rescued, he is impoverished with no way of claiming credit for his own paintings and tormented by thoughts of Kitty and Johnny being together for eternity loving each other.

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Directed by John Parker, produced by John Parker, Ben Roseman and Bruno VeSota (as Bruno Ve Sota), written by John Parker, starring Adrienne Barrett, Bruno VeSota (as Bruno Ve Sota), Ben Roseman and Angelo Rossitto.

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Source: "Scarlet Street" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. 24 April 2013. Web. 12 June 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlet_Street.

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