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

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, Frank Garland (Albert Dekker), 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." Though not in Garland's pocket, he establishes a careful relationship with the gangster, leading him into direct confrontation with the very office he used to head.

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 (Hugh Marlowe). Ellen discovers this, leading to a confrontation in which she kills him in self-defense. The new D.A. believes that Ellen herself was the leak and that she killed Borden when found out. She is prosecuted for murder and Scott defends her, potentially placing him in conflict with Frank Garland.

Angel O'Hara (Jayne Mansfield) plays a small yet important role as witness for the defense. Her testimony confirms that Borden spoke to Garland regularly, and made the phone call that led to Ellen learning that he was the leak.



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]

See also[edit]


  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]