Born to Kill (1947 film)
|Born To Kill|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Produced by||Herman Schlom|
|Screenplay by||Eve Greene
|Story by||James Gunn|
Elisha Cook Jr.
|Music by||Paul Sawtell|
|Cinematography||Robert De Grasse|
|Editing by||Les Millbrook|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Release date(s)||May 3, 1947|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Born to Kill is a 1947 film noir starring Lawrence Tierney and directed by Robert Wise. It was the first film noir to be directed by Wise, who later directed The Set-Up (1949), The Captive City (1952), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). The film also features Claire Trevor, Walter Slezak, and Elisha Cook Jr.
The film was released in the U.K. as Lady Of Deceit.
Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) has just received a Reno divorce in Nevada. That night, she discovers one of her neighbors, Laury Palmer, and Palmer's gentleman caller, murdered in Palmer's home. The killer is Palmer's other boyfriend, Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney), an insanely jealous man who won't abide anyone "cutting in" on him. Helen says nothing to the police after discovering the bodies; she's leaving town and doesn't want to be impeded. She runs into Sam at the train station, and she is instantly attracted to his self-confidence and brutality, but she is engaged to marry a wealthy boyfriend, Fred (Phillip Terry). Sam tells Helen that he will call on her wherever she is staying in San Francisco. He arrives and meets Georgia Staples (Audrey Long), Helen's foster sister, also rich, and Sam soon shifts his attentions to her, marrying her for her money after a whirlwind romance. Neither Helen's engagement nor Sam's marriage is an impediment to their beginning an affair.
Meanwhile, back in Reno, the owner of the boarding house where Helen lived has hired a mercenary, verse-quoting detective, Albert Arnett (Walter Slezak), to find out who killed Laury. The detective follows Sam's friend, Marty (Elisha Cook Jr.), to San Francisco, and soon begins to make blackmailing overtures to Helen. Marty finds out who hired the detective and attempts to kill her, but Sam thinks he's trying to cut in on his action and kills Marty. Fred is troubled by the resulting police investigation, as well as Helen's increasingly heartless demeanor, and calls off their engagement. Sam and Helen face off in a fatal confrontation as their schemes begin unraveling, with Sam fatally shooting Helen before he is slain by police.
- Claire Trevor as Helen Brent
- Lawrence Tierney as Sam Wilde
- Walter Slezak as Albert Arnett
- Phillip Terry as Fred Grover
- Audrey Long as Georgia Staples
- Elisha Cook, Jr. as Marty Waterman
- Isabel Jewell as Laury Palmer
- Esther Howard as Mrs. Kraft
- Kathryn Card as Grace
- Tony Barrett as Danny
- Grandon Rhodes as Inspector Wilson
Critical reception 
In 2006, critic Fernando F. Croce wrote of the film, "The usually meek Robert Wise trades his chameleonic tastefulness for full-on, jazzy misanthropy in this nasty melodrama...Wise swims in the genre's amorality, scoring a kitchen brawl to big-band radio tunes, terrorizing a soused matron at a nocturnal beach skirmish, and leaving the last word to Walter Slezak's jovially corrupt detective."
At the time it was released, the film was condemned by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. He called it "a smeary tabloid fable" and "an hour and a half of ostentatious vice." His review concluded: "Surely, discriminating people are not likely to be attracted to this film. But it is precisely because it is designed to pander to the lower levels of taste that it is reprehensible."
More recently, critic Robert Weston said, "This was the first and the nastiest of the noirs directed by Robert Wise...Wise came to genre with a background in the Val Lewton horror team and the expressionistic films of Orson Welles, so he was the right tool for the job when it came to film noir...As the title suggests, Born to Kill is a film about the grimmest corners of the human condition, the wicked place where sex, corruption and violence join hands and rumba round in darkness. Director Robert Wise suggests that we all share a collective dark side, that one way or another we are all 'born to kill,' and in the final throw of the dice, only the incontrovertible laws of chance can set the record straight."
Notable quotes 
- Albert Arnett: "As you grow older, you'll discover that life is very much like coffee - the aroma is always better than the actuality."
- Marty Waterman: "You can't just go around killing people when the notion strikes you. It's just not feasible."
See also 
- Born to Kill at the Internet Movie Database.
- Croce, Fernando F. Slant magazine, film review, 2006. Last accessed: January 27, 2008.
- Crowther, Bosley (May 1, 1947). "Review of Born to Kill". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
- Weston, Robert. Film Monthly, review, October 2, 2001. Last accessed: December 1, 2009.
- Born to Kill at the Internet Movie Database
- Born to Kill at AllRovi
- Born to Kill at the TCM Movie Database