New York Confidential (1955)


(director: Russell Rouse; screenwriter: Clarence Greene/from the book by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer; cinematographer: Edward Fitzgerald; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Josep Mullendore; cast: Broderick Crawford (Charlie Lupo), Richard Conte (Nick Magellan), Marilyn Maxwell (Iris), Anne Bancroft (Kathy Lupo), J. Carrol Naish (Ben Dagajanian), Onslow Stevens (Johnny Achilles), Barry Kelley (Robert Frawley), Mike Mazurki (Wendler), Celia Lovsky (Mama Lupo), Herbert Heyes (Marshall), Steven Geray (Morris Franklin), William ‘Bill’ Phillips (Whitey), Carl Milletaire(Sumak), Charles Evans (Judge Kincaid), William Forrest (Williamson); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Clarence Greene; Warner Brothers; 1955)
“Never exciting, tense or eye-opening.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Warning: spoilers throughout.

Russell Rouse’s New York Confidential is a crime thriller that is a formulaic exposé of the rackets, and is not quite as good as another such film–The Enforcer. The movie reveals similar things exposed by the Kefauver hearings investigation into organized crime. It is based on the bestseller book of the same name by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer, while the screenplay is by Clarence Greene. It’s a drab story about the syndicate and how it’s unstoppable and its corruption is pervasive in society.

Crime boss Charlie Lupo (Broderick Crawford) heads the NYC operation, which is part of a nationwide syndicate. Lupo arranges with the Chicago crime boss Johnny Achilles to hire hit man Nick Magellan (Richard Conte) to get revenge for a prior unauthorized hit against his gang. Satisfied with the hit and feeling comfortable with Nick, who is the son of one of his late crime friends, he moves Nick into a bodyguard position and soon elevates the classy young gangster into a top spot with his crime organization.

Lupo is a widower who lives in his $300,000 house with an overbearing mother (Celia Lovsky) and a rebellious twentysomething daughter Kathy (Anne Bancroft), who resents her father as a man who earns blood money. There’s an attraction between Nick and her, but the loyal Nick is wary of becoming involved with the boss’s daughter. The other girl in Lupo’s life is the sexy Iris (Marilyn Maxwell), his obedient girlfriend he fixed up with expensive clothes and a luxury Manhattan apartment.

The syndicate is involved with a complicated billion dollar international oil-shipping contract, which was arranged under a federal subsidy by hired lawyers making crooked deals. When the lobbyist who arranged this deal (William Forrest) double crosses the syndicate and doesn’t go through with the deal, the syndicate holds a board meeting and arranges for the double crosser to be hit in New York by Lupo’s men. The three Lupo thugs kill the insider, but also kill a cop in their escape and leave clues. Charlie orders Nick to bump them off before they turn squealers, but after killing two of them, the third one, Wendler (Mike Mazurki), makes his way to the home of the crime commissioner, Judge Kincaid, and arranges to rat out Lupo in exchange for being allowed to walk free.

Lupo goes into hiding, but the syndicate meets without him and decide to have Nick kill him. They have already learned that Lupo plans to cut a deal with the government and they want to shut him up before he sings. The theme played out is that this a vicious circle of self-destruction that will go on forever, where the gangsters are trapped into a life of violence, betrayals and always looking over their shoulders.

New York Confidential was never exciting, tense or eye-opening. Its narrative was a cliché driven mob story that was only mildly diverting and even though the performances were energetically delivered, it still tasted like a stale salami sandwich.


REVIEWED ON 10/14/2004 GRADE: C+