While the City Sleeps (1955) - Rotten Tomatoes

While the City Sleeps (1955)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

While the City Sleeps Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

The "lipstick killer", a serial murderer who leaves the cryptic message "Ask Mother" at the crime scenes, is at large in the Big City. Vincent Price, the wastrelly inheritor of a major newspaper chain, offers a large cash reward to any of his staffers able to find out the identity of the elusive killer. This leads to a great deal of infighting amongst Price's reporters, especially cynical journalist Dana Andrews, photographer James Craig, "sob sister" Ida Lupino, and wire service chief George Sanders. Integrity and human values are not considerations in the race for the gold: one of the contestants, in fact, willingly offers his girl friend as bait for the killer. Adapted by Casey Robinson from a novel by Charles Einstein, While the City Sleeps features Thomas Mitchell as a scheming managing editor, Rhonda Fleming as Price's faithless wife, and John Barrymore Jr. as the mixed-up murderer, who in the end is more pawn than predator. To inject a bit of much-needed humor in the proceedings, director Fritz Lang inserted a scene wherein Ida Lupino puts the make on Dana Andrews by tantalizing him with a nude photograph -- which turns out not to be of Ida but of a baby on a bear rug. Producer Bert Friedlob hated the scene, and insisted upon cutting it out. Lang offered a compromise: if the preview audience laughed, the scene stayed. They laughed, but Friedlob insisted upon extending the preview process until he came across an audience who wouldn't laugh (they always did, and the scene is still in the film). Though a huge moneymaker for the flagging RKO Radio Pictures, While the City Sleeps was actually produced independently, and originally slated for United Artists release before RKO agree to distibute the film.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Casey Robinson, Charles Einstein
In Theaters:
RKO Radio Pictures


Dana Andrews
as Edward Mobley
Rhonda Fleming
as Dorothy Kyne
Ida Lupino
as Mildred Donner
George Sanders
as Mark Loving
Sally Forrest
as Nancy Liggett
Thomas Mitchell
as John Day Griffith
Vincent Price
as Walter Kyne
Howard Duff
as Lt. Burt Kaufman
James Craig
as Harry Kritzer
John Drew Barrymore
as Robert Manners
Vladimir Sokoloff
as George Palsky
Robert Warwick
as Amos Kyne
Larry J. Blake
as Police Sergeant
Ed Hinton
as O'Leary
Mae Marsh
as Mrs. Manners
Sandra White
as Judith Fenton
Celia Lovsky
as Miss Dodd
Pitt Herbert
as Bartender
Andrew Lupino
as Jim Leary (uncredite...
David Andrews
as Bar Pianist
Carleton Young
as Police Interrogator ...
David Andrews
as Bar Pianist
Larry Blake
as Police Sergeant
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for While the City Sleeps

Critic Reviews for While the City Sleeps

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (4)

The story is a cynical twist on Lang's famous M.

Full Review… | October 15, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Plot intricacies are deftly interwoven, with director Fritz Lang doing a topflight job of balancing the ingredients without dragging the pace.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

While this journalistic jamboree is more flamboyant than probable, a tight and sophisticated script by Casey Robinson and a clutch of professional performances make While the City Sleeps a diverting and workmanlike fiction.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Lang's most underrated movie.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Dour, disillusioned stuff -- easy to admire, harder to love.

Full Review… | October 15, 2014
Total Film

Lang's finest film since The Big Heat and his last great success, While the City Sleeps is a crime drama sending its lead actors on a twisted, dog-eat-dog journey into the underworld in their quest for success.

Full Review… | October 15, 2014
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for While the City Sleeps

While the City Sleeps is a decent Fritz Lang movie that for the most part manages to blend a murder mystery with a movie about the newspaper business. Vincent Price does well enough as the vacuous and generally clueless inheritor of a newspaper that chums the waters with a promotion between the 3 main horses in the running. The romantic storyline between Dana Andrews and Sally Forrest got a little annoying and overall, the cast was pretty good even if George Sanders and Ida Lupino were grossly underused. Regardless, Lang pulled it together at the end even if it did fall out of orbit for most of the 3rd act.

Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer


In "While the City Sleeps," Edward Mobley(Dana Andrews) is left with the tough job of having to announce the death of Amos Kyne(Robert Warwick), the owner of Kyne Media and his boss, on his nightly newscast. That leaves the company in the less than capable hands of Amos' playboy son Walter(Vincent Price) who does not inspire his new employees. At least, he realizes his shortcomings by announcing the new position of Executive Director which he makes a contest between Mark Loving(George Sanders), John Day Griffith(Thomas Mitchell) and Harry Kritzer(James Craig). So, the spoils go to whoever reveals the identity of the lipstick killer(John Barrymore Jr.).

"While the City Sleeps" is an entertaining movie performed with aplomb by a marvelous cast(not forgetting Ida Lupino and who could?) that owes more than a little debt to King Lear in its division of a kingdom.(And a character also references Macbeth.) And director Fritz Lang is certainly in his element here, again exploring civic responsibility with newspapers and related media in a free society that cannot properly function if they work entirely out of self-interest, as depicted here. As Amos puts it, a newspaper allows the citizens to make up their own mind while at the same time he puts the lipstick killer on the front page to scare everybody. Even though there is a killer on the loose, that's no reason to panic. And it is certainly no reason to take a cheap shot at comic books even in the wake of organized hysteria.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Makes a fantastic companion piece to Lumet's Network

Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer

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