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The Killers (1946) Poster

(1946)

Trivia

Author of the original short story Ernest Hemingway liked the film. Prior to its release, producer Mark Hellinger sent publicity man Al Horwits to Sun Valley, Idaho, to give Hemingway a private screening. Hemingway had a pint of gin in one pocket of his overcoat and a pint of water in the other so that he could sip from them if the film got bad. After the screening, Hemingway held up the full bottles, grinned and said "Didn't need 'em".
This was Burt Lancaster's first movie role. He was the third choice for the part of The Swede, and was signed only after actors Wayne Morris and Sonny Tufts proved unavailable. Lancaster was an ex-circus acrobat from Union City, New Jersey. When producer Mark Hellinger saw the first rushes of Lancaster's performance in a private screening room, he was so pleased that he yelled "So help me, may all my actors be acrobats!"
Burt Lancaster received first billing in his first film.
The musical theme by Miklós Rózsa, heard whenever the killers appear, was later used in expanded form as the theme music for the TV series Dragnet (1951) and its revival Dragnet 1967 (1967).
The boxing match in the third flashback was filmed in a boxing arena for an audience of 2000 spectators. Burt Lancaster trained for two months with a boxing champion and played the part of the Swede with realism, against a real boxer, until his 2nd KD and TKO.
The film opened in New York at the Winter Garden Theatre on August 28, 1946. The first day, $10,341 was taken in at the box office, beating a previous house record by $3000.
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Mark Helliger became convinced Lancaster was right for the role after seeing his screen test with Constance Dowling. Another independent producer, Hal B. Wallis, was so taken with the screen test Lancaster did with Lizbeth Scott, that both producers signed the former acrobat and shared his contract.
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The astronomy lesson in the prison cell is a disaster. Not only is the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major) nowhere near Orion, but the star Betelgeuse is improperly identified as the brightest star in the sky - however, Sirius, which IS the brightest star in the sky, is close to Orion. Nonetheless, those books weren't helping out as much as thought.
In-joke: In the scene towards the end of the film where Edmond O'Brien arranges to meet Ava Gardner outside a nightclub, O'Brien stands on the street in front of the club, waiting for Gardner to drive up. On the wall behind him is a poster, beginning with "Sir Arthur Hilton presents..." Arthur Hilton, an Englishman, was the film's editor.
Burt Lancaster was nearly 33 when he made his movie debut in this film.
"The Hedda Hopper Show - This Is Hollywood" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 19, 1947 with Edmond O'Brien and Burt Lancaster reprising their film roles.
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Former Warner Bros. producer Mark Hellinger, who had started his own independent production unit at Universal-International, initially wanted either Wayne Morris or Sonny Tufts to star in this, his first picture. Tufts was ultimately considered to be too inexperienced, and Warner Bros. wouldn't loan Morris, so Hellinger cast the unknown Burt Lancaster in his first movie. It made Lancaster a star.
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Producer Mark Hellinger purchased the rights to Ernest Hemingway's short story for $36,700, although publicity releases announced the figure at $50,000. (Source: "The Mark Hellinger Story" by Jim Bishop)
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After leaving Warner Brothers for Universal with The Killers (1946), producer Mark Hellinger initially wanted to borrow Warner director Don Siegel, but the loanout fee proved prohibitively high for a director of his limited reputation at that time, so Hellinger used Universal's Robert Siodmak. Ironically, almost 20 years later Siegel did go on to direct the remake, The Killers (1964).
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Although the fictional Nick Adams only has a small role in the film's opening, the character was a roman a clef for author Hemingway, Adams and was a prominent character in many of the author's stories.
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Character actress Virginia Christine also appeared in the 1964 remake in a different role as a blind secretary.
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Although Burt Lancaster's character name is pronounced "Anderson," it is properly spelled (as in Hemingway's original story) as "Andreson".
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"Screen Directors' Playhouse" did a radio adaptation of the story in 1949 with Burt Lancaster reprising his role as Swede. It was introduced by director Robert Siodmak and featured Shelley Winters as Kitty.
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Allegedly the Las Vegas band 'The Killers' named themselves after this film.
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