Compulsion (1959 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Fleischer
Produced byRichard D. Zanuck
Screenplay byRichard Murphy
Based onCompulsion
by Meyer Levin
StarringOrson Welles
Diane Varsi
Dean Stockwell
Bradford Dillman
Music byLionel Newman
CinematographyWilliam C. Mellor
Edited byWilliam H. Reynolds
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 1, 1959 (1959-04-01)
Running time
103 minutes
99 minutes (FMC Library Print)
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.8 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]

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.

Although the principal roles are played by Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman, top billing went to Orson Welles.


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.[3]



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.[4]


At the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, Dillman, Stockwell, and Welles won the Best Actor Award.[5] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. ^ Jake Hinkson (October 19, 2012). "Leopold and Loeb Still Fascinate 90 Years Later". Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  4. ^ Leaming, Barbara (1985). Orson Welles: A Biography. New York: Viking. pp. 439–43. ISBN 978-0670528950. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Compulsion". Retrieved 2009-02-14.

External links[edit]