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Born to Kill (1947)

Passed  -  Crime | Drama | Film-Noir  -  3 May 1947 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,485 users  
Reviews: 60 user | 33 critic

A calculating divorcée risks her chances at wealth and security with a man she doesn't love by getting involved with the hotheaded murderer romancing her foster sister.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Born to Kill (1947)

Born to Kill (1947) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Complete credited cast:
Walter Slezak ...
Phillip Terry ...
Audrey Long ...
Laury Palmer
Esther Howard ...
Mrs. Kraft
Kathryn Card ...
Tony Barrett ...
Grandon Rhodes ...
Inspector Wilson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jason Robards Sr. ...
Conductor (scenes deleted)


In Reno a man kills a girl he likes and her boyfriend out of jealousy; it may not be the first time. A woman whose divorce has just come through finds the bodies but decides not to become involved. The two meet next day on the train to San Francisco unaware of this link between them. They are attracted to each other, and the relationship survives his marriage to her half-sister for money and status. It even survives the woman discovering that he was the murderer, though she may not realise how easily someone who has killed this way before can do so again. Written by Jeremy Perkins <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Story of a Woman Who Loved Unwisely...and too well! See more »


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 May 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Deadlier Than the Male  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Arnett quotes the Bible twice. "I find more bitter than death the woman ...", is from Ecclesiastes 7:26, though it is not an exact quote from the standard bibles, and "... the way of the transgressor is hard..." (sic) from Proverbs 13:15. See more »


When Mrs. Kraft rolls down the hill in the desert, her head is pointing left when she comes to a stop. After the edit (when the stunt double is replaced), her head is now pointing to the right. See more »


Fred Grover: You never see a thing except what you want to see, do you?
See more »


Referenced in Pretty Little Liars: Stolen Kisses (2012) See more »


From This Day Forward
Music by Leigh Harline
See more »

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User Reviews

Everything you want a Film Noir to be
8 December 2004 | by (Boston) – See all my reviews

"Born To Kill" is some kind of minor phenomenon. It is hard to believe it was even made or released in 1947. This picture is so hard-boiled, so unrelentingly downbeat that audiences must have been shocked or frightened by it.

There are so many elements that make this film memorable: the perfect casting of Lawrence Tierney as Sam, the amoral killer is one of the few truly scary villains of the 1940s. Claire Trevor, a gifted, subtle performer, is also perfect as Helen, a woman trapped between wanting what she can never really have and a self-destructive desire for the ruthless criminal Sam. Elisha Cook, Jr is superb as always, playing a strangely solicitous companion to Sam: we never know where his devotion is coming from. And then there is Esther Howard, giving a highly original performance as an aging woman who wades in too deep, trying to avenge her friend's murder. There is a striking scene between Howard and Claire Trevor, in which the latter attempts to frighten the older woman into giving up her mission. Perhaps best of all is the ending, eminently fitting, yet totally atypical for the era.

The film is shot in the familiar style of the period we now label "Noir", but this time the look is matched by the content. There is something grim, yet compulsively watchable about "Born To Kill". It would not be an overstatement to call it a study in corruption. Helen is drawn to Sam because her own life is so unexciting, but she oversteps her mark and enters a world of pure, cold evil.

It is indeed surprising to realize that this dark, brooding minor masterpiece was directed by Robert Wise, better known for "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music". But Wise, in his early career, had worked with Val Lewton on "The Body Snatchers" and, two years after the film under discussion, would direct "The Set-Up", another Noir sleeper.

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