7.3/10
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74 user 33 critic

I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 31 October 1941 (USA)
Why is Inspector Ed Cornell trying to railroad Frankie Christopher for the murder of model Vicky Lynn?

Director:

(as Bruce Humberstone)

Writers:

(screen play), (novel)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Reporter
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Reporter
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Assistant District Attorney
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Keating--Florist
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Cemetery Caretaker
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Headwaiter
May Beatty ...
Lady Handel (as Mae Beatty)
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Storyline

Promoter Frankie Christopher, being grilled by police in the murder of model Vicky Lynn, recalls in flashback: First meeting her as a waitress, Frankie decides to parlay her beauty into social acceptance and a lucrative career. He succeeds only too well: she's on the eve of deserting him for Hollywood...when someone kills her. Now Frankie gets the feeling that Inspector Ed Cornell is determined to pin the killing on him and only him. He's right. And the only one he can turn to for help is Jill, the victim's sister, who's been cool toward him... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

31 October 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hot Spot  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first noir film produced by 20th Century Fox. See more »

Goofs

Jill's new address is apartment F, but when Cornell visits, the door is clearly marked 3B. See more »

Quotes

Jill Lynn: What's the good of living without hope?
Ed Cornell: It can be done.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Biography: Betty Grable: Behind the Pin-up (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

The Things I Love
(uncredited)
Music and lyrics by Harold Barlow and Lewis Harris
Based on "Melody," Op. 42, No.3
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Sung by Carole Landis
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Powerhouse Cast Makes Fox's First Film Noir Sizzle
30 January 2008 | by (Whitehall, PA) – See all my reviews

Victor Mature, Betty Grable, and Carole Landis had all been in movies together (mostly musicals) in various combinations, but I WAKE UP SCREAMING (IWUS) was the first film noir all three of them starred in. Maybe that's why IWUS still feels so fresh; everyone in it and everything about it brims with verve and brio, as if all concerned were eager to start filming. Though the movie begins in a NYC police interrogation room (an effective change from the novel's Hollywood setting), IWUS's plot starts more like PYGMALION/MY FAIR LADY than pulse-pounding crime fiction like the Steve Fisher novel the movie's based on. Flashbacks show how promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), newspaper columnist Larry Evans (Allyn Joslyn), and veteran actor Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray) grab a bite at a Times Square eatery and end up betting they can turn their tart-tongued but beautiful waitress, Vicky Lynn (the incandescent Carole Landis), from a hash slinger to a headliner by getting her name in the papers and her face plastered all over town. It works *too* well: dazzled by her own success, Vicky snares a Hollywood screen test and contract right under her shocked benefactors' noses, only to be murdered on the eve of her Tinseltown departure. Jill finds Frankie standing over Vicky's body, swearing he found her that way. Hotshot Police Inspector Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar) insists Frankie's lying. 15-year veteran Cornell has never been wrong, and he's obsessed with making an example out of hapless Frankie. But does justice alone explain Cornell's zeal, or does he have a hidden agenda? The cat and mouse game is afoot between Frankie, determined to prove his innocence, and Cornell, a smoothly sinister behemoth of a man, ready, willing, and able to go to any lengths to railroad Frankie. Undeterred by the lack of a search warrant, Cornell even sneaks into Frankie's bedroom to watch him while he sleeps ("Someday you're gonna talk in your sleep, and when that day comes, I wanna be around."), doing his damndest to wear Frankie down with smilingly delivered threats and manipulation. With wily Cornell's festering resentment of Frankie, you can't tell what he'll pull next. A formidable, menacing presence, Cregar rocks in the role. His silky voice and charming smile somehow make him even scarier; no wonder IWUS put him on the map. Victor Mature's Frankie is a great match for Cregar's Cornell, with his outer charm and inner toughness. Always an appealing presence, Mature was a better actor than he got credit for, making it look easy. He was hot, too; no wonder Cornell sneeringly calls Frankie "Handsome Harry!" :-) Elisha Cook Jr. is fine as Harry Williams, the oddball switchboard operator and original suspect. (Fun Fact on film historian Eddie Muller's commentary track: Cook filmed his role as THE MALTESE FALCON's Wilmer at the same time he filmed IWUS.)

Things heat up as Jill and Frankie acknowledge what sharp Vicky had already realized: they're in love and eager to protect each other. It's cute and typical of the era to see Jill get starry-eyed when Frankie wants to marry her. It's even cuter when Frankie reveals his original surname as Jill dreamily sighs, "Mrs. Botticelli." Vicky's whirlwind trajectory from waitress to glamour girl to corpse plunges Jill into a world of murder, terror, and obsession, propelling her to flee with the man she loves, dogged by Cornell at every turn. When the plucky Grable's wholesome sexiness meets Mature's playful yet virile allure, it's Chemistry City! Dwight Taylor's screenplay tightens Fisher's sprawling novel almost to the point of claustrophobia (in a good way), with sharp, witty dialogue and comic relief balancing the nerve-racking tension. Taylor's dialogue is snappy, suspenseful, and poignant in all the right places. Loved that "key" exchange early on! Edward Cronjager's lush, expressionistic black-and-white photography is a thing of shadowy beauty, used especially well in Cregar's early scenes as combinations of heavy shadows and bright interrogation lights hide him from view.

Even with studio sets, IWUS evokes early 1940s NYC, even the rooftops. When Frankie shows Jill his old East Side neighborhood, it's fun as both a getting-to-know-you scene and a mini-travelogue of the non-touristy places where native New Yorkers go. This continues when the lovers become fugitives and Frankie shows Jill where to hide in the big city, including the library and a 24-hour grindhouse. Even the swimming pool scene has that spirit; sure, it's there primarily to show off sex symbols Mature and Grable in their swimsuits, but it reminded me of the city's neighborhood pools at their best. One ironic-in-retrospect bit, considering IWUS came out before the U.S. entered World War 2: incensed upon spotting Frankie and Jill dancing so soon after Vicky's murder, Larry calls in a blind item about them, snapping, "Scrap the stuff about the Japanese spy with the Kodak and run this!" Apparent nods to Fisher's pulp roots: 1.) Frankie takes Jill to The Pegasus Club, possibly a shout-out to the novel's narrator/writer hero, nicknamed "Pegasus," a.k.a. "Peg." 2.) During a Cornell/Frankie confrontation, a newsstand features Black Mask Magazine. (This scene gets my vote for cleverest use of a Tootsie Roll.) Finally, according to Muller's commentary, Cornell was named after Fisher's pal and fellow pulpster Cornell Woolrich.

Nice, quirky use of music, too, particularly "Over the Rainbow." Fans of vintage movie music will notice that the opening credits music is the same theme, Alfred Newman's "Manhattan Street Scene," also used in THE DARK CORNER. When Jill brings Frankie home to show him an incriminating letter, listen carefully: in the background, "Over the Rainbow" and "Manhattan Street Scene" cross-pollinate into a sinister new theme, courtesy of music arranger Cyril Mockridge. Ironically, although Mature and Joslyn each have scenes where they awaken with a start, nobody in I WAKE UP SCREAMING ever actually wakes up screaming! How could you wake up to find a huge cop staring at you and *not* scream? :-)


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