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CRIME OF PASSION (director/writer: Gert Oswald; screenwriter: Jo Eisinger; cinematographer: Joseph LaShelle; editor: Marjorie Fowler; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Kathy Ferguson), Sterling Hayden (Bill Doyle), Raymond Burr (Inspector Tony Pope), Fay Wray (Alice Pope), Royal Dano (Capt. Alidos), Virginia Grey (Sara), Dennis Cross (Detective Jules), Robert Griffin (Detective James), Jay Adler (Nalence), Malcolm Atterbury (Officer Spitz), John S. Launer (Chief of Police), Stuart Whitman (Lab Technician); Runtime: 85; United Artists; 1957)
“A so-so noir melodrama…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A so-so noir melodrama, that can’t overcome its limited script and unbelievable premise of a career woman who gives it all up to live a boring life with the husband she’s madly in love with. Barbara Stanwyck is too powerful for this role, therefore making it hard to believe that she has suddenly become a vulnerable suburban housewife capable of such outlandish violence to further her policeman husband’s career. What keeps this melodrama going is the understated star performances generated by Raymond Burr and Sterling Hayden, bouncing off the fiercely passionate portrayal Stanwyck gives.

As the film opens Kathy Ferguson (Stanwyck) is a lovelorn columnist for the San Francisco Post, who is known for her cynicism while around the other reporters and for her schmaltzy advice she dishes out to her love-sick readers. When Kathy’s sent to cover a story about an L.A. woman who killed her husband who is hiding out in San Francisco, she smokes her out by writing sympathetic columns about a woman’s plight and convinces her to turn herself over to LAPD homicide cops Capt Charlie Alidos (Dano) and Lt. Bill Doyle (Hayden). For this she gets her big break to become a star columnist for a New York paper, but stops off in L.A. for a dinner date with Bill Doyle and in a fast decision marries him and gives up her career.

Kathy regrets her decision when she’s taken into the suburban social circle of her husband’s colleagues and she can’t stand their mediocrity, their idolizing of the wormy police captain, their talk of pensions, and the wives echoing the clich√© “Behind every successful man is a woman.” Kathy only stays because she lusts for Bill, but she decides she wants him to be someone important.

When Kathy’s car collides with the car of the police inspector’s wife, Alice Pope (Wray), she uses this opportunity to ingratiate herself with Alice’s husband. He happens to be Doyle’s boss, Inspector Pope (Burr). Kathy schemes to get her husband promoted to captain and Alidos transferred out, after some poison-pen letters show up accusing her of having an affair with Pope. Alidos’ backbiting wife Sara (Grey) is suspected of writing these letters, and the emotionally charged Bill attacks Alidos in the station-house. Pope handles the incident by dismissing any charges against Doyle, and his friendship for Alidos sours.

In a moment of passion, Pope tells Kathy he is retiring and they make love with the promise made that he will recommend her husband for that position. But the next day he changes his mind and tells her that the police department comes first and he doesn’t think Bill is up to the job. To add insult to injury, Pope tells her he is recommending her enemy Alidos.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

Kathy confronts Pope and tells him that she can only face herself after their affair if her husband gets the promotion. When Pope states why he can’t do it, she shoots him with a gun she stole from the police station. The irony is, that her husband leads the investigation to get Pope’s killer and ends up arresting her — which proves how good a cop he really is.

Kathy gets involved in an outlandish situation, in many ways similar but a lot more deadly than those situations she used to make fun of when she wrote her lovelorn column. The best that can be said about this story, is that it’s not bad and had some spark.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”