Scarlet Street (1945)

“How can a man be so dumb … I’ve been waiting to laugh in your face ever since I met you. You’re old and ugly and I’m sick of you …” If you only remember Edward G. Robinson as the tough guy character in classic gangster films such as Little Caesar (1931), then you’re in for a real treat in this highly entertaining film noir directed by Fritz Lang. Robinson portrays “Chris Cross,” a meek, middle-aged cashier and amateur painter stuck in an unhappy marriage. Cross’ life turns upside down during a chance encounter with femme fatale “Kitty” (Joan Bennett), a gold digger who milks him for all he’s worth (she mistakenly believes that he is a wealthy painter). Dan Duryea turns in an amazingly sleazy performance as Kitty’s abusive boyfriend (pimp?) and con artist “Johnny.” In order to keep Kitty happy, Cross starts embezzling from his employer and things rapidly go downhill from there. Ironically, Cross’ “avant-garde” paintings start attracting positive attention in the New York City art world. The ending is very dark indeed as no one escapes the wrath of fate! Robinson, Bennett and Duryea also starred together in The Woman in the Window (1944), also directed by Lang. Scarlet Street was based on the French novel La Chienne (“The Bitch”) by Georges de La Fouchardiere that was previously made into a 1931 Jean Renoir film that starred Michel Simon and Janie Mareze.

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