Theatrical release lobby card
|Directed by||Steve Sekely|
|Produced by||Paul Henreid|
|Screenplay by||Daniel Fuchs|
|Based on||Hollow Triumph|
by Murray Forbes
|Music by||Sol Kaplan|
|Edited by||Fred Allen|
|Color process||Black and white|
Bryan Foy Productions
|Distributed by||Eagle-Lion Films|
Hollow Triumph (working title The Man Who Murdered Himself, reissued in the United States as The Scar) is a 1948 American film noir crime film directed by Steve Sekely starring Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett. It was released by Eagle-Lion Films, based on the 1946 novel of the same title written by Murray Forbes.
Just released from prison, John Muller (Paul Henreid) masterminds a holdup at an illegal casino run by Rocky Stansyck (Thomas Browne Henry). The robbery goes bad, and the mobsters capture some of Muller's men and force them to identify the rest before killing them. Stansyck has a reputation for tracking down and killing his enemies, no matter how long it takes, so Muller decides to leave town and hide. He takes an office job recommended by his law-abiding brother, Frederick (Eduard Franz), but quickly decides that working for a living is not for him.
A chance encounter with dentist Dr. Swangron (John Qualen) reveals that Muller looks exactly like a psychoanalyst who works in the same building, Dr. Bartok, the only difference being a large scar on the left side of the doctor's face. Seizing the opportunity, he begins researching Bartok, even slipping into his office to examine his records. He is discovered by the doctor's secretary, Evelyn Hahn (Joan Bennett). She mistakes him for her employer and kisses him, but quickly realizes he is someone else. He persuades her to go out with him, though she has become embittered and claims to have given up any dreams of finding love.
Muller sets out to impersonate Bartok, aided by the fact he studied psychoanalysis in medical school before dropping out. He takes a photograph of the doctor and uses it as a guide to cut an identical scar on his own face. Unfortunately, the developers of the photograph reversed the negative, so now Muller has the scar on the wrong side. He discovers the mistake only after he has already murdered Bartok and is preparing to dump the body in the river. He has no choice but to go through with the plan anyway. Luckily, no one (except the office cleaning lady, whose suspicions he manages to lull) notices the difference, not even Evelyn or Bartok's patients.
Muller discovers "he" has a girlfriend, Virginia Taylor (Leslie Brooks), and that they frequent Maxwell's, a high class casino. It also turns out Bartok has been losing heavily.
When a worried Frederick Muller tries to contact his brother, the trail leads to Bartok. The scar convinces Frederick that the man he sees is merely a lookalike. Evelyn, previously unaware of the switch (but now very suspicious), reveals that John Muller said he was going to Paris. Frederick Muller tells "Bartok" that his brother no longer has to hide; Stansyck was convicted for "income tax problems" and is scheduled to be deported.
Afterward, Evelyn realizes that Muller is an imposter and that he must have killed the psychoanalyst. Though he admits to her he did, she does not turn him in to the police; instead she purchases a ticket to sail to Honolulu. Muller finds out and promises he will go with her, but she does not believe he would leave such an opportunity to enrich himself. Muller arranges for other doctors to take care of his patients and heads to the dock. There, however, he is intercepted by two men who want to discuss Bartok's $90,000 gambling debt. When Muller tries to break away, they fatally shoot him. Evelyn sails away, unaware that Muller lies dying on the dock.
- Paul Henreid as John Muller / Dr. Victor Emil Bartok
- Joan Bennett as Evelyn Hahn
- Eduard Franz as Frederick Muller
- Leslie Brooks as Virginia Taylor
- John Qualen as Swangron
- Mabel Paige as Charwoman
- Herbert Rudley as Marcy
- Charles Arnt as Coblenz
- George Chandler as Artell, Assistant
- Sid Tomack as Aubrey, Manager
- Alvin Hammer as Jerry
- Ann Staunton as Blonde
- Paul E. Burns as Harold (as Paul Bruns)
- Charles Trowbridge as Deputy
- Morgan Farley as Howard Anderson
- Thomas Browne Henry as Rocky Stansyck
- Jack Webb as Bullseye (uncredited)
- Henry Brandon as Big Boy (uncredited)
Henreid wanted to move into production after being under contract with Warner Bros. He optioned a novel which had been suggested to him by director Steve Skeley and set up the project at the newly formed Eagle Lion. Henreid was keen to play the lead role, a gangster, as it was a different sort of part for him. He hired Daniel Fuch to write the script having admired the latter's work on Between Two Worlds. He wanted Evelyn Keyes for the lead but she was under contract to Columbia and Harry Cohn refused to loan her out, so Joan Bennett was cast instead.
Henreid says Eagle Lion were unhappy with Skeley's direction, so they replaced him with Henreid.
Henreid says the film did well at the box office but the film was linked financially with three other movies from star producers. None of these did well so Henreid saw no profits.
The New York Times critic Thomas M. Pryor called it "an adequate examination of an intelligent criminal type. There is not quite enough logic in the plot to enable it to stand up under scrutiny, but the story moves along briskly, the performances are sound and there is always the promise of more violence just around the corner."
Alain Silver in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style notes "As in many of these B thrillers, the plot is contrived although the film's conclusion is as downbeat as any noir film since Scarlet Street."
- Henreid, Paul; Fast, Julius (1984). Ladies man : an autobiography. St. Martin's Press. pp. 185–189.
- Thomas M. Pryor (October 29, 1948). "A Study of a Criminal Type". The New York Times.
- *Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward (1992). Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style. The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
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