Compulsion (1959 film)
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Richard D. Zanuck|
|Screenplay by||Richard Murphy|
by Meyer Levin
|Music by||Lionel Newman|
|Cinematography||William C. Mellor|
|Edited by||William H. Reynolds|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
99 minutes (FMC Library Print)
|Box office||$1.8 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
Compulsion is a 1959 American crime drama film directed by Richard Fleischer. The film is based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Meyer Levin, which in turn was a fictionalized account of the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. It was the first film produced by Richard D. Zanuck.
Close friends Judd Steiner (based on Nathan Leopold and played by Dean Stockwell) and Artie Strauss (based on Richard Loeb and played by Bradford Dillman) kill a boy on his way home from school in order to commit the "perfect crime". Strauss tries to cover it up, but they are caught when police find a key piece of evidence — Steiner's glasses, which he inadvertently left at the scene of the crime. Famed attorney Jonathan Wilk (based on Clarence Darrow and played by Orson Welles) takes their case, saving them from hanging by making an impassioned closing argument against capital punishment.
- Orson Welles as Jonathan Wilk
- Diane Varsi as Ruth Evans
- Dean Stockwell as Judd Steiner
- Bradford Dillman as Artie Strauss
- E.G. Marshall as District Attorney Harold Horn
- Martin Milner as Sid Brooks
- Richard Anderson as Max Steiner
- Robert F. Simon as Police Lt. Johnson
- Edward Binns as Tom Daly
- Robert Burton as Charles Straus
- Wilton Graff as Mr. Steiner
- Louise Lorimer as Strauss's mother
- Gavin MacLeod as Padua – Horn's Assistant
- Terry Becker as Angry Reporter (uncredited)
Welles, whose recent thriller Touch of Evil was overlooked in America (though appreciated in Europe), was bitter at not being selected to direct Compulsion. His time on the set was tense, and he threw frequent tantrums.
In the early 1950s, Meyer Levin visited Nathan Leopold in prison and requested that Leopold cooperate with him on writing a novel based on the murder (the other murderer, Richard Loeb, was dead at that time). Leopold declined saying he didn't wish his story told in fictionalized form but asked Levin if he could help him write his memoir. Levin was unhappy with that suggestion and wrote the novel anyway, releasing it in 1956. The novel was called Compulsion, the book the film is based on. Leopold read the book and reportedly didn't like it. Leopold later wrote that reading the book made him "physically sick ... More than once I had to lay the book down and wait for the nausea to subside. I felt as I suppose a man would feel if he were exposed stark-naked under a strong spotlight before a large audience."
In 1959, Leopold sought unsuccessfully to block production of the film on the grounds that Levin's book had invaded his privacy, defamed him, profited from his life story, and "intermingled fact and fiction to such an extent that they were indistinguishable." Eventually the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against him, noting that Leopold, as the self-confessed perpetrator of the "crime of the century" could not reasonably demonstrate that Levin's book had damaged his reputation.
At the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, Dillman, Stockwell, and Welles won the Best Actor Award. The film was nominated for the BAFTA best picture of the year, Richard Fleischer was nominated for best director by Directors Guild of America, and Richard Murphy was nominated for best screenplay by the Writers Guild of America.
- Leopold and Loeb
- List of American films of 1959
- Murder by Numbers, 2002 film directed by Barbet Schroeder
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p252
- "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
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