Crossfire (1947)

Three Roberts - Ryan, Mitchum and Young

'Crossfire' is a great film-noir, made in 1947 by a top director (Edward Dmytryk) and a superb cast featuring Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Gloria Graham. The film is exciting with a story of murder and prejudice and a magnificent screenplay that uses flashbacks both to show and solve the mystery. The overriding theme – anti-Semitism – was unusual for that era.

The movie received five Academy Award nominations but was unsuccessful in all five, losing out to 'Gentleman's Agreement', coincidentally the other anti-Semitic movie of that year. Nevertheless, 'Crossfire' was very successful at the box-office. It cost $589,000 to make and grossed $1.27 million for the studio.

One possible reason for the film's dearth of Oscars was the appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in late 1947 of director Edward Dmytryk and producer Adrian Scott. They were part of the infamous "Hollywood Ten", a group of movie professionals who, in April 1948, were tried and convicted of contempt of Congress. They were subsequently blacklisted and were unable to work in Hollywood. It was very much Hollywood's loss.


The action takes place in America after WWII. Homicide Capt. Finlay, played by Robert Young, is investigating the death of Jewish Joseph Samuels who has been beaten up in his apartment. We learn about the night's events from flashbacks from the point of view of different participants, particularly the three soldiers who had been in the apartment that night drinking with Sammy. Sergeant Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum) starts to investigate the murder on his own. We, the audience, soon work out who the murderer is. The question remains about the motive for the killing.


The movie was originally titled "Cradle Of Fear" . It is uncertain how it got its final name as it involves no crossfire of any description!

It is based on "The Brick Foxhole", a 1945 novel by Richard Brooks. In the novel it was a gay man who was murdered and the book was about homophobia. This was dangerous territory for the Hays Office in Hollywood of the 1940s as homosexuality was seen as sexual perversion, and the studio substituted anti-Semitism instead. The decision was made by producer Adrian Scott, who had purchased the rights to the novel, knowing any depiction of homosexuality would not get past the Production Code Administration.

The photography is superb and captures the dark atmosphere perfectly with eerie and suitably shadowy lighting. The low-key lighting was accomplished quickly and efficiently thanks to the skill and experience of 70-year-old cinematographer J. Roy Hunt. This explains why the film took only 24 days to shoot. It also resulted in what many consider to be one of the most visually impressive film noirs ever made.

Edward Dymytryk's directs with great style. He keeps the story moving and retains the interest of the audience. He ensures that the movie is entertaining as well as punching home its message about the dangers of racial and religious bigotry.

Main Cast

It is Robert Ryan's movie, playing to the hilt a very nasty piece of work indeed, but the whole cast works well to produce a really powerful movie.

Robert Young … Capt. Finlay
Robert Mitchum … Sgt. Peter Keeley
Robert Ryan … "Monty" Montgomery
Gloria Grahame … Ginny Tremaine
Paul Kelly as … Mr Tremaine
Sam Levene … Joseph Samuels
Jacqueline White … Mary Mitchell
Steve Brodie … Floyd Bowers
George Cooper … Cpl. Arthur "Mitch" Mitchell
Richard Benedict … Bill Williams
Tom Keene … Dick, detective (as Richard Powers)
William Phipps … Leroy
Lex Barker … Harry
Marlo Dwyer … Miss Lewis
Kenneth McDonald … the Major


Director ... Edward Dmytryk
Producer ... Adrian Scott
Screenplay ... John Paxton
Based on ... The Brick Foxhole, 1945 novel by Richard Brooks
Music ... Roy Webb
Cinematography ... J Roy Hunt
Production Company ... RKO Radio Pictures
Release date ... July 22, 1947
Running time ... 86 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
Five Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture - Adrian Scott, producer
Best Director - Edward Dmytryk
Best Supporting Actor - Robert Ryan
Best Supporting Actress - Gloria Grahame
Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay - John Paxton


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