Illegal (1955 film)

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Illegal (1955).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lewis Allen
Produced by Frank P. Rosenberg
Screenplay by W.R. Burnett
James R. Webb
Story by Frank J. Collins
Starring Edward G. Robinson
Nina Foch
Hugh Marlowe
Jayne Mansfield
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography J. Peverell Marley
Edited by Thomas Reilly
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 28, 1955 (1955-10-28) (New York City)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Illegal is a 1955 American film noir directed by Lewis Allen. It stars Edward G. Robinson, Nina Foch, Hugh Marlowe and Jayne Mansfield.[1]


Victor Scott (Edward G. Robinson) is a District Attorney with a drive to win every case. He is assisted by attorney Ellen Miles (Nina Foch) who is not quite as relentless, but is devoted to her D.A. boss. After Scott discovers that a man he sent to his death is innocent, he falls into an alcoholic haze, is arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, and determines to defend another incarcerated man. This leads to a new career as a defense attorney.

Scott ends up defending an associate of the city's crime boss, a man he refused to work for earlier due to the fact that " one would testify against you; you own the people who work for you." This, in turn, leads him into direct confrontation with the very office he used to head.

Ellen Miles kills her husband in self-defense. Scott is determined to clear her, as there are no witnesses. There is an ongoing leak between the D.A.'s office and the crime boss. The leak turns out to be Ellen's husband, Ray Borden. The new D.A., not knowing this, determines that Ellen herself is the leak and that she murdered her husband when found out.

Alluded to is a long relationship between Miles and Scott. In that past, Scott is encouraged and mentored by Ellen's father. When the father slipping away, Scott makes a death-bed promise to the man to protect his daughter. There is also a hint that the relationship between Ellen and Scott might have been a romantic one had Scott allowed it.

Angel O'Hara (Jayne Mansfield) plays a small yet important role as witness for the defense. Her testimony places the role of "leak" firmly in the lap of Borden (Hugh Marlowe), whom she testifies has had continuing contact with the crime boss, Frank Garland (Albert Dekker).



During filming Robinson lent his considerable contemporary art collection to the production company. These include some impressionist works by Gauguin, Degas, Duran, and Gladys Lloyd, all of which appear in the film. Because Robinson was also the target of investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee this movie was of a lower budget and caliber than his earlier films.

The film offered a rare serious performance by the future sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield, who went on to star in hits like: The Girl Can't Help It (1956) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).


Critical response[edit]

Film critic Bosley Crowther compared the film to The Asphalt Jungle but thought it was not as good. He wrote, "For one thing, the story of Illegal invades the higher echelons of crime, with a fast-thinking, double-dealing lawyer as the principal character ... The fact that this hard-bitten lawyer is played by Edward G. Robinson in his old vein of stinging sarcasm is a clue to what you may expect. But more than this and more than the climate of sordid deceit that is achieved is the fact that Illegal tries to blueprint The Asphalt Jungle's Marilyn Monroe. You may remember that Miss Monroe's first screen role was in the latter. She spoke not a word but she went right to work as an adornment in the apartment of the criminal counselor. Well, in Illegal Jayne Mansfield plays precisely the same sort of role in the apartment of Albert Dekker, the big poobah of crime. Miss Mansfield, we might add, is the beauty who is imitating Miss Monroe in a feeble imitation of Once In a Lifetime on the Broadway stage."[2]


  1. ^ Illegal at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley, film review, The New York Times, October 29, 1955. Accessed: July 5, 2013.

External links[edit]