Once a Thief (1965 film)

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For other uses, see Once a Thief (disambiguation).
Once a Thief
Once a Thief 1965.jpg
Movie Poster
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Produced by Jacques Bar
Written by Zekial Marko
Based on novel Scratch a Thief by Zekial Marko (as "John Trinian")
Starring Alain Delon
Van Heflin
Jack Palance
Tony Musante
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by Fredric Steinkamp
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • September 8, 1965 (1965-09-08)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office 749,282 admissions (France)[1]

Once a Thief is a 1965 film directed by Ralph Nelson and starring Alain Delon, Ann-Margret, Van Heflin and Jack Palance. It was written by Zekial Marko, based on his novel.

The movie was known in France as Les Tueurs de San Francisco.

Nelson won the OCIC award at the 1965 San Sebastián International Film Festival for the film.[2]


Ex-convict Eddie Pedak (Delon) tries to lead a normal life in San Francisco with a loyal wife (Ann-Margret), a daughter and a steady job. Much to his chagrin, he also has a police detective (Heflin) and brother (Palance) complicating his life.

The cop, Mike Vido, remains bitter over being shot by Eddie during a robbery. He promptly has Eddie unjustly arrested again for another theft, but is forced to drop the charges and turn him loose.

Eddie nonetheless loses his job due to the arrest. His wife Kristine must take what work she can get at a dingy nightclub. In desperation, Eddie finally accepts the offer of his persistent brother Walter Pedak to come in on a big heist. Walter has a pair of accomplices, Sargatanas and Shoenstein.

The thieves get away with $1 million in stolen goods except for Walter, who is killed. Eddie alone has the truck with the heist's haul, so Sargatanas decides to abduct Kristine and keep her until he gets his hands on the merchandise.

Vido investigates and becomes convinced that Eddie was framed for the original job that left the cop wounded. When he arrives to help Eddie in a showdown with the other thieves, Eddie ends up dead trying to protect him.



The story was based on the personal experiences of screenwriter Zekial Marko; he had written the novel The Big Grab which was adapted into Any Number Can Win, a big hit for Delon. Once a Thief was based on Marko's novel Scratch a Thief; this was his first screenplay. Marko had a small role in the film and spent time in jail on criminal charges during the shoot.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

A.H. Weiler of The New York Times thought that the film was not as good as similar genre pictures, but praised its dialogue for its accuracy in portraying the gangster's speak.

The film was not a success at the box office.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ French box office information for film at Box Office Story
  2. ^ Once a Thief (1965) - Awards
  3. ^ Nelson, Ralph (17 October 1965). "'Once a Thief'---Nightmare in the American Dream". Los Angeles Times. p. q6. 
  4. ^ "Original ;New York Times; review". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  5. ^ New Dream for Alain Delon Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 18 Dec 1965: a12.

External links[edit]