The ambitious Stanton "Stan" Carlisle works in a sideshow as carny and assistant of the mentalist Zeena Krumbein, who is married with the alcoholic Pete. The couple had developed a secret ... See full summary »
Small-time crook Nick Bianco gets caught in a jewel heist and despite urgings from well-meaning district attorney D'Angelo, refuses to rat on his partners and goes to jail, assured that his wife and children will be taken care of. Learning that his depressed wife has killed herself, Nick informs on his ex-pals and is paroled. Nick remarries, gets a job and begins leading a happy life when he learns one of the men he informed on, psychopathic killer Tommy Udo, has been released from custody and is out for revenge against Nick and his family. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Richard Widmark belongs to a select few players who from their screen debut became instant stars. No bit parts, no walk-ons, Widmark's first feature role netted him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and stardom.
Widmark's portrayal of Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death shocked audiences nationwide. When Widmark tied up Mildred Dunnock and threw her down a flight of stairs, gasps aplenty came from audiences. That maniacal giggle became his trademark and fodder for impressionists from then on in. Widmark in fact had to really convince his bosses at 20th Century Fox that he was capable of more than being a psychopathic killer.
Widmark was fourth billed in this film and so dominates it that it's forgotten that Victor Mature is the lead and contributes a good performance in his own right. Mature is a career criminal who was left holding the bag for his associates during a jewel heist. He refuses to rat them out and gets a stretch in prison for it. By his refusal to be a stoolie, Mature gains the friendship of Widmark who has a special hatred for the breed.
Things then go bad for Mature when his wife commits suicide and his two little daughters wind up in an orphanage. At that point he rethinks becoming a stoolie for District Attorney Brian Donlevy and the main action of the film begins.
Mature gives a very good performance of a man running out of options. He's caught between concern for his family and living up to the honor system that criminals have among themselves. Brian Donlevy, usually a villain, does a good job as the District Attorney.
One other performance is worthy of note. Though he only has a few scenes, criminal defense attorney Taylor Holmes is also a real stand out. His Earle Houser is definitely one of the sleaziest lawyers ever portrayed on the screen.
For all the many good performances Richard Widmark has given in his 91 years, his debut film turned out to be the only time he was ever nominated for an Oscar. That's a shame because I could think of a couple of other films like Night and the City, Pickup on South Street and Panic in the Streets that would have been worthy of consideration.
Hopefully the American Film Institute will give Widmark a Lifetime Achievement Award and soon.
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