Detective Story

Critics Consensus

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73%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 11

72%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,204
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Movie Info

Sidney Kingsley's Broadway play Detective Story was praised for its realistic view of an event-filled day in a single police precinct station. The film, directed by meticulous taskmaster William Wyler, manages to retain this realism, even allowing for the star-turn performance of Kirk Douglas. A stickler for the letter of the law, Detective James McLeod (Douglas) is not averse to using strong-arm methods on criminals and witnesses alike in bringing lawbreakers to justice. He is particularly rough on a first-time offender (Craig Hill), on whom the rest of the force is willing to go easy because of the anguish of his girlfriend (Cathy O'Donnell). But McLeod's strongest invective is reserved for shady abortion doctor Karl Schneider (George MacReady); McLeod all but ruins the case against Schneider by beating him up in the patrol wagon. When McLeod discovers that his own wife (Eleanor Parker) had many years earlier lost a baby in one of Schneider's operations, and that the baby's father was gangster Tami Giacoppetti (Gerald Mohr), it is too much for the detective to bear. Punctuating the grim proceedings with brief moments of humor is future Oscar winner Lee Grant, reprising her stage role as a timorous shoplifter; it would be her last Hollywood assignment until the early 1960s, thanks to the iniquities of the blacklist. Despite small concessions to Hollywood censorship, Detective Story largely upheld the power of its theatrical original, and it forms a clear precursor to such latter-day urban police dramas as NYPD Blue.

Cast

Kirk Douglas
as Det. James McLeod
Lee Grant
as Shoplifter
Frank Faylen
as Gallagher
George Macready
as Karl Schneider
Cathy O'Donnell
as Susan Carmichael
Horace McMahon
as Lt. Monahan
Gladys George
as Miss Hatch
Joseph Wiseman
as Charles Gennini
Gerald Mohr
as Tami Giacoppetti
Craig Hill
as Arthur
Michael Strong
as Lewis Abbott
Luis Van Rooten
as Joe Feinson
Russ Evans
as Patrolman Barnes
Warner Anderson
as Endicott Sims
Howard Joslin
as Patrolman Keogh
James Maloney
as Mr. Pritchett
Burt Mustin
as Janitor
Lee Miller
as Policeman
Mike Mahoney
as Coleman
Catharine Doucet
as Mrs. Farragut
Ann Codee
as Frenchwoman
Harper Goff
as Gallantz
Catherine Doucet
as Mrs. Farragut
Charles Campbell
as Newspaper Photographer
Donald Kerr
as Taxi Driver
Kay Wiley
as Hysterical Woman
Pat Flaherty
as Desk Sergeant
Jack Shea
as Desk Sergeant #2
View All

Critic Reviews for Detective Story

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (1) | Fresh (8) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for Detective Story

  • May 30, 2016
    William Wyler's gritty, absorbing cinematic adaptation of the smash Broadway hit play by Sidney Kingley. It is set in a New York City police station in the early 1950s, where a rigid, no-nonsense Detective named Jim McLeod, played brilliantly by Kirk Douglas in a powerhouse performance. McLeod has a twisted personal code and a unique hatred for criminals which he has no mercy for, he would act as judge and jury for any case for which he is involved. He obsessively pursues an abortionist, Karl Schneider, superbly played by George Macready who has been link to the death of several young women, this will tragically lead McLeod to personal disaster. Astute direction by Wyler, with exceptional performances by Eleanor Parker in an Oscar nominated performance as McLeod's loving wife with a past, William Bendix as McLeod's loyal police colleague, Horace McMahon as McLeod's stern, but fair Commander, Joseph Wiseman as the hysterical thief, Michael Strong as the dim-witted thief's partner, Craig Hill as the handsome, clean-cut embezzler, Cathy O'Donnell as the embezzler's adoring wannabe girlfriend, and Lee Grant who is sensation in her Oscar nominated film debut as a Brooklynese shoplifter. An American classic. Highly Recommended.
    Danny R Super Reviewer
  • Jul 26, 2013
    Kirk Douglas succeeds in embodying all the strengths and fatal flaws of detective on the beat. It is an average day at the police station but one that is tremendously filled with drama.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    My second favourite Kirk Douglas movie. He plays a detective perfectly, the dialogue is great, the rest of the cast is great, the story is exciting, and it all takes place in one day. One of my favourite movies.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2010
    Truly a performance based movie that really shouldn't be treated as anything else. While it lacks powerful direction and style, I don't think there was ever any intent to have either of those. You stay involved for the larger than life performance from Kirk Douglas as the most black and white cop to ever roam the streets of New York. You can clearly see this is better suited as a play and didn't necessarily need to make the jump to screen, but I'm pleased anyway.
    Conner R Super Reviewer

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