SLEEPING CITY, THE (director: George Sherman; screenwriter: Joe Eisinger; cinematographer: William Miller; editor: Frank Gross; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Richard Conte (Fred Rowan), Coleen Gray (Ann Sebastian), Richard Taber (Pop Ware), John Alexander (Inspector Gordon), Pebby Dow (Kathy Hall), Alex Nicol (Dr. Steve Anderson), Hugh Reilly (Dr. Foster); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Leonard Goldstein ; Universal International Pictures; 1950)
“A tight film noir about corruption in Bellevue.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
When NYC’s Mayor O’Dwyer was upset by the film’s use of Bellevue Hospital in negative terms Universal-International saved the day by inserting a prologue spoken by Richard Conte, stating that the story was fictional and that Bellevue is a fine hospital. The Sleeping City uses location shots of the city hospital and of the Automat. It’s the same restaurant on Trinity Street used by Clara Bow in a 1929 film.
George Sherman directs a tight film noir about corruption in Bellevue. When an intern named Dr. Foster is shot dead in the head while taking a smoke break, the police investigation comes up blank. Inspector Gordon puts his secret Confidential Squad to work, as he has three of his men infiltrate the hospital as staff members. The hospital commissioner is aware of the undercover operations, but needs reassurance from the police about patient safety. Detective Fred Rowan (Conte) poses as an intern graduating from USC named Fred Gilbert who is relocating here from Los Angeles. Fred takes the place of Dr. Foster and works in the same trauma ward. That ward is headed by nurse Ann Sebastian (Gray), who was rumored to be Foster’s girlfriend. But she denies that. Fred also rooms with Foster’s roommate Steve Anderson at the hospital dorm. Anderson is a bitter man whining about money problems and never getting enough money saved to open his own practice on the $50 a month he’s paid. He also believes his money problems will stop him from marrying his student nurse girlfriend Kathy Hall.
An elderly elevator operator named Pop Ware (Taber), induces the interns to bet on the horses. But when they lose, he never accepts payment. This arouses Fred’s suspicions, which lead him to a black market racket involving narcotics. There’s no surprises in the story, but it was so chillingly told that it holds your attention. It digs into hospital misconduct that is doubly alarming because it involves patients being deprived of needed drugs. The film also offers a bleak outlook about underpaid doctors and how their money woes negatively influences their career choices. Filmed in moody black-and-white colors that bring out the hardness of urban life, this hard-boiled tale does the job visually. All the cops are pictured as cynical veterans who do their duty and don’t question what they see, except for Conte. Conte does his duty, but wonders how the doctors got sucked into this drug ring and feels some sympathy for Sebastian even though she abuses her patients. Their budding romance seemed tacked on and was not convincing. Sebastian claims she needed the money to pay for mounting medical bills for a sick child who is not her own.
REVIEWED ON 8/19/2003 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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