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The Naked City (1948)

aka The Naked City

"The soul of a city. Her glory stripped! Her passion bared!"

Directed By: 
Details: 96 mins · English

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Cast:

Small Det. Lt. Dan Muldoon
Small Frank Niles
Small Ruth Morrison
Small Det. Jimmy Halloran
No_movie_poster Capt. Donahue
Small Willie Garzah aka Willie the Harmonica
No_movie_poster Dr. Stoneman
No_movie_poster Mrs. Halloran
No_movie_poster Mrs. Paula Batory
No_movie_poster Mr. Batory
No_movie_poster Det. Perelli
No_movie_poster Mrs. Edgar Hylton
Small Narrator (voice)

Crew:

No_movie_poster William H. Daniels Director of Photography
Small Miklós Rózsa Original Music Composer
Small Jules Dassin Director
No_movie_poster Frank Skinner Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Albert Maltz Screenplay
Small Mark Hellinger Producer
No_movie_poster Malvin Wald Screenplay
No_movie_poster Paul Weatherwax Editor
No_movie_poster Paul Weatherwax Editing

Taglines:

"The soul of a city. Her glory stripped! Her passion bared!"

"The Most Exciting Story of the World's Most Exciting City!"

Plot:

The film opens at about 1:00 A.M. on a hot summer night in New York City. Producer Mark Hellinger's voice narrates the film. Two men are shown subduing and killing Jean Dexter, a blonde model, by knocking her out with chloroform, strangling her, and then drowning her in a bathtub. Cross-cutting is used to show what is happening to the other main characters at the same time: Dr. Stoneman (House Jameson) hosts a party for the beautiful and wealthy; homicide detective Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) is shown making breakfast; the infant son of a young couple is shown waking up and crying; a radio host is shown playing records; a cleaning woman goes to her job; and various aspects of early-morning life in the city (milk deliveries, newspapers being sold, etc.) are shown. When one of the murderers, conscience-stricken, gets drunk, the other kills him and throws the body into the East River.

Dexter's body is discovered by Martha Swenson (Virginia Mullen), Dexter's housekeeper. Muldoon and Halloran are assigned to the case, and interview Swenson. Several aspects of police forensics, such as dusting for fingerprints, photographing the crime scene, and collecting hair and fiber evidence, are depicted. The medical examiner says Dexter's death was murder. The police discover a pair of man's pajamas in the apartment, and Swenson says that Dexter associated with a "Mr. Henderson" and formerly dated a man named Frank Niles. A large amount of expensive jewelry is also missing, and the police find a bottle of sleeping pills in the bathroom.

Halloran questions Dr. Stoneman (House Jameson), the psychiatrist who prescribed the pills, but he has little information to offer. Halloran also talks to Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart), a model who worked in the shop where Dexter bought her dresses. Morrison says she is engaged to Frank Niles.

Muldoon has Niles (Howard Duff) brought to the police station for questioning. Niles lies about his past relationship with Jean Dexter and denies knowing Ruth Morrison. Muldoon deduces from the bruises on Dexter's neck that she was killed by two men, not one as the detectives had previously assumed. That evening, Dexter's estranged parents, Mr. and Mrs. Batory, arrive to identify the body. They tell the detectives that their daughter was enamored of wealth and fame, changed her name, and became involved with the wrong type of people and sexually promiscuous. They also reveal that they had not spoken with her for a long time. Muldoon admits that the case is growing cold. But the next morning, the detectives learn that Niles pawned a gold cigarette case and purchased a one-way airline ticket to Mexico.

Because jewel thievery was being investigated in conjunction with the killing, Halloran determines that the cigarette case was stolen almost a year ago. Lists of stolen goods are checked against a list of the jewelry stolen from Dexter's apartment. A black star sapphire ring found on Dexter's body is also discovered to be stolen, taken several months earlier from the home of wealthy Mrs. Hylton (Enid Markey). Muldoon and Halloran return the ring to Mrs. Hylton, who reveals that the ring actually belonged to her daughter. When the daughter walks through the door, Muldoon and Halloran are surprised to discover that she is Ruth Morrison (the daughter from Mrs. Hylton's first marriage). Muldoon and Halloran quickly learn that Morrison's engagement ring (given to her by Frank Niles) is also stolen property.

Muldoon and Halloran take Morrison to Niles' apartment, where they interrupt someone trying to murder him. The killer exchanges gunfire with the police, then escapes down the fire escape and onto a nearby elevated train—eluding Halloran. Niles' behavior is very suspicious. When questioned about the stolen jewelry, Niles claims that Jean Dexter gave all of it to him as gifts. He claims his trip to Mexico was for a business event he learned of that afternoon, but Muldoon says Niles bought the ticket in the morning. Morrison becomes violently upset at the revelations that Niles had an ongoing intimate relationship with Dexter.

Niles is arrested for theft, but the police admit they cannot link him to Dexter's murder. A body (that of small-time thief Peter Backalis (Walter Burke) is discovered in the East River by some boys. Halloran learns that Backalis died within hours of Dexter, and tries to connect the two crimes. Muldoon, although skeptical, lets him pursue the lead and assigns two detectives to assist Halloran with the legwork.

After talking with Backalis' parole officer, Halloran concludes that Bacaklis was not drunk enough to have hit his head and fallen into the river. The beat cop who arrested Backalis two years earlier reveals that Backalis had an acrobatic accomplice named Willie who liked to play the harmonica. Halloran and his assistants talk to as many gymnasium owners and bookers of acrobatic acts as they can. They learn Willie's last name (Garza), that he is a former professional wrestler, and that he had a brother. They track down the brother, who tells the detectives that Willie lived near the Williamsburg Bridge. With a photograph of Willie Garza taken from a newspaper story about wrestlers, the detectives begin canvassing the neighborhood where Garza is alleged to live.

Meanwhile, Muldoon pressures Niles into revealing more about what he knows about the theft ring. One of Niles' former employers says that he hired Niles only after Niles presented him with a letter of recommendation from Dr. Stoneman. Niles confesses that the mysterious "Mr. Henderson" is really Dr. Stoneman, and that Stoneman was involved in the theft ring. Muldoon takes Niles to Stoneman's office and surprises the doctor. The patrician doctor breaks down and confesses that he fell in love with Jean Dexter. Dexter and Niles used Stoneman's high society connections to gain entry to the homes of the wealthy. After determining what was worth stealing and where it was located in each home, Dexter and Niles hired various criminal low-lifes to commit the actual robberies. Niles then admits that he and Dexter hired a Willie Garza and his accomplice, Backalis, to commit the robberies. But Garza and Backalis wanted a larger cut of the money made from the robberies. When Dexter refused, they killed her. Niles says he thinks Garza killed Backalis.

Meanwhile, Halloran meets a local food vendor who tells him where Garza lives. Halloran calls his precinct and tells them where he is going. Halloran locates Garza's apartment, finds Garza at home. He tries to bluff the wrestler into revealing what he knows by claiming that Backalis is in the hospital and wanted to see him. Garza sees through the ruse, and knocks Halloran unconscious. Meanwhile, Lt. Muldoon learns that Halloran has also learned about Willie Garza, and fears for Halloran's life. He orders as many police as possible to close in on the neighborhood.

Just as Garza attempts to flee his apartment building, the police arrive. Garza begins to panic, and runs. He bowls over a blind man and his guide dog. The dog attacks Garza, and Garza (using the gun he took from the unconscious Halloran) shoots and kills the dog. The police quickly converge on the sounds of gunfire. Garza attempts to flee over the Williamsburg Bridge, and is shot and wounded by Halloran. Garza climbs high up into one of the bridge's towers and refuses to surrender. Gunfire is exchanged. Garza is shot again and falls to his death.

As aerial and street shots of New York are shown, the narration concludes with the famous line: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."

Release Dates:

DVD : 2007-03-20