The Naked City (1948)
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
User Ratings: 3,100
Movie InfoYoung model Jean Dexter is knocked unconscious and drowned in her own bathtub in her Manhattan apartment, and a lot of jewelry that she supposedly owned is missing. The Naked City is actually about six days in the life of New York City that coincide with the murder and the subsequent investigation by Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Detective James Halloran (Don Taylor). The account of their work, and the workings of the New York City police department, is interspersed with brief vignettes about the life of the city around them, and, especially, the reaction of residents to the murder and the newspaper reports of the progress of the case. Muldoon and Halloran first must determine why she was killed, which may (or may not) have to do with how a woman with a minimal income came by the jewelry -- was it a love affair gone bad (and if so, with whom?), or something more complex and sinister? Retracing the final 18 months of the victim's life, their investigation reaches out to a mysterious "Philip Henderson" with whom she was supposedly linked romantically, and to Frank Niles (Howard Duff), who's a little too fast-and-loose with the truth when he doesn't have to be to make Muldoon comfortable; to make things more complicated, Muldoon determines that there were at least two men involved with the actual commission of the murder. The victim turns out to have led a wild life, filled with men and parties, and was tied up with several sordid figures. Their investigation carries them into the highest and lowest ends of New York's social strata to find the killer, and it turns out there are a lot of interlocking reasons why at least three men might've wanted her dead. In the process, we get glimpses of the private lives of the detectives, which was something new in movies at this time; in the midst of all of this activity, the writers set up a fascinating contrast, in adjacent scenes, between Halloran, his wife, and their young son looking toward the future, with the parents of the dead woman, looking back with bitter regret and recriminations -- no movie ever presented in more subtle fashion the contrast between the zeitgeist of the 1930s and that of the postwar era. The final chase on the Williamsburg Bridge is one of the classic pieces of suspense cinema, as the armed and desperate killer races up the walkway past children playing and adults strolling, while detectives close in on foot from behind and patrol cars come up from ahead, with crowded subways rolling past, and then into the superstructure of the bridge for a stand-off and shootout. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot future character leads Paul Ford, James Gregory, John Marley, Kathleen Freeman, and Arthur O'Connell as well as familiar faces Tom Pedi, John Randolph, Molly Picon, and Walter Burke in the supporting cast. Cinematographer William Daniels and editor Paul Weatherwax won Oscars for their work, but awards might just as easily have been presented to director Jules Dassin, writers Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald, composers Miklos Rozsa and Frank Skinner, and, most notably, to producer/narrator Mark Hellinger, who intoned the closing monologue, which opens with one of the most famous tag lines in movie history: "There are eight million stories in the Naked City." ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for The Naked City
A definite parochial fascination is liberally assured all the way and the seams in a none-too-good whodunnit are rather cleverly concealed.
The on-location photography and final minutes on the streets and bridge are impressive, but this noir is more memorable for what it inspired to follow it than in its slow talky self.
One of Jules Dassin's best features is a quintessential film noir, distinguished by its on-location shooting and Daniels' sharp imagery, which deservedly won the Oscar
Affords the viewer a look at a type of city life that has long since disappeared, giving the film a kind of documentary time-capsule flavor.
What The Naked City does is paint an indelible vision of both the New York City that never sleeps and of the human life and industry that teems within it
This superlative film set the pattern for myriad documentary-type dramas to come.
It plays as just another crime episode in a typical homicide detective's day.
Standard plot but the visuals are amazing
Audience Reviews for The Naked City
Crazy cool Weegee-esque 1947 New York exteriors. This movie begins where most film noirs end. Slightly humdrum police procedural but at the time it was a real breakthrough, since imitated by Dragnet and a hundred Jerry Bruckheimer TV shows. There are eight million stories in the naked city and this one ends with a stunning chase sequence on the Williamsburg Bridge.
Just a ripping good police drama with New York as the ever present backdrop. Barry Fitzgerald is the lead (!!!) (and atypically reserved ... though he does manage to throw in some few reminders of his proud heritage) detective as the death of a model turns out to reveal a ring of jewel thieves. And what lifts this above the usual sort is the interspersed additions about life in New York circa 1950, the people and rhythm of the streets. An announcer detracts from the proceedings but not enough to deflate the tale, including a great foot chase at the end.
Another in a long line of detective films, I can't justifiably call this a noir by any means. Sure, it's certainly gritty and calls upon the same course set of circumstances to show the story, but has none of the dire aspects of noir. Instead of a larger than life language, the detectives all exhibit their own ways, and realism is embedded in every part of this film. This was shot in New York City, and never on sets or lots. It was shot in apartments, on streets and subway tracks, a fact that the narrator of the film proclaims at the start of the film. Besides the fact that this film follows the investigation of a murdered girl, it also takes a quick look into the lives of residents of the city. It's not exactly a love letter to New York, or a condemnation of the many lurid lives that go on during the rush of traffic and the investigations of the police, but it is a wide scope. Throughout a strange kind of narration dubs voices, and fills in the blanks where need be. The story is that of a model who is chloroformed and drowned in her bathtub. Surprisingly the crime itself was showed, and it was amazingly graphic. The look of the film is sleek, shady, and seductively black and white. The actual detectives on the case are varied and at times awkward, but in a good way. The lead detective (Barry Fitzgerald) shows both his professional side as well as his ability to give lessons to beat cop Det. Halloran (Don Taylor). Of all the roles of this film, nothing is dopey except for Halloran, who has playful fights with his wife, lives in Jackson Heights, and is always smiling that same big eared smile throughout the entire film. The plot isn't overly dramatic or contrived in any way, but it's the way it's told, the characters behind the murder that really hold this high in people's mind. My favorite character is the crook Niles (Howard Duff) who lies to everyone, even his fiancee and the cops. He is charismatic, deceitful, and not too bright, but you only feel horror at the depths at which he sinks. It's truly a classic, mostly looking like a documentary about New York at the time, and it would be a shame if you missed it.
A distant procedural that confirms our worst fears: that committing a murder is as commonplace as going to work in the Big Apple. Right from it's unconventional opening, one gets the sense that this isn't your average noir.
From there director Jules Dassin treats the viewer to shots of workers trudging along in their daily grind. Some going to their factories, some at their desk, some participating in a brutal slaying. It's just clockwork. Like a job, murder is just part of some people's routine. The near banality of the crime is aided by a candid and temperate narrator who is our guide in this lurid tale. He seems to take pleasure in informing the audience that this isn't a basic studio picture. That it is shot on location, as close to reality as it gets. This even-keel approach gives the feeling like this is something he has seen 1,000 times. That in a city of 8,000, sometimes pill-popping power-hungry women get offed. That is just the way it is.
Dassin also taps into the thoughts of the residents of the city. No matter how innocent, hedonistic, or sadistic, they are treated equally. Connected by this city, for better or for worse.
Pre-dating Scorsese and Allen, who are famous for using the city as a character in the story, Dassin also gives the city a prominent role here. From the opening with the Empire States Building, to the parents angrily-sobbing over how their choices may have lead to an untimely death with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background, to the breathtaking ending on said bridge, the city seems to have a distinct impact on everyone's actions. In a way, it seems to be the main character.
As one can see this isn't your average noir. Dassin, who would later have a rather tumultuous relationship with Hollywood, takes a lot of chances here and crafts one of the more unique noirs that I have seen.
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