IMDb > Act of Violence (1948)

Act of Violence (1948) More at IMDbPro »


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Robert L. Richards (screenplay)
Collier Young (story)
View company contact information for Act of Violence on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
21 December 1948 (USA) See more »
He's the only one that came out alive ... and now he wants my life ... to atone for the others' See more »
An embittered, vengeful POW stalks his former commanding officer who betrayed his men's planned escape attempt from a Nazi prison camp.. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
"A lot of things happened in the war" See more (49 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Van Heflin ... Frank R. Enley

Robert Ryan ... Joe Parkson

Janet Leigh ... Edith Enley

Mary Astor ... Pat

Phyllis Thaxter ... Ann
Berry Kroeger ... Johnny
Taylor Holmes ... Gavery
Harry Antrim ... Fred
Connie Gilchrist ... Martha

Will Wright ... Pop
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Albright ... Bellboy (uncredited)
Rudolph Anders ... German (voice) (uncredited)
William Bailey ... Convention Party Drunk (uncredited)
Margaret Bert ... Bystander (uncredited)

Barbara Billingsley ... (voice) (uncredited)
Douglas Carter ... Heavy Jowled Man (uncredited)
Bill Cartledge ... Newsboy (uncredited)
Fred Datig Jr. ... Bystander (uncredited)
Sayre Dearing ... Conventioneer (uncredited)
Rex Downing ... Teenage Boy (uncredited)
Jim Drum ... Policeman (uncredited)
Phil Dunham ... Convention Party Drunk (uncredited)
Dick Elliott ... Convention Party Drunk (uncredited)
Mary Jo Ellis ... Bystander (uncredited)
Everett Glass ... Hotel Night Clerk (uncredited)
A. Cameron Grant ... Man at Bar (uncredited)
Don Haggerty ... Policeman (uncredited)
Mahlon Hamilton ... Wino Pedestrian (uncredited)
Tom Hanlon ... Radio Commentator (voice) (uncredited)

Larry Holt ... Georgie Enley (uncredited)
Leslie Holt ... Georgie Enley (uncredited)
Wesley Hopper ... Policeman (uncredited)
Jimmy Kelly ... Bystander (uncredited)
Paul Kruger ... Policeman (uncredited)
Rocco Lanzo ... Teenage Boy (uncredited)
Ann Lawrence ... Bystander (uncredited)
Nolan Leary ... Voice (voice) (uncredited)
Wilbur Mack ... Convention Party Drunk (uncredited)
Mickey Martin ... Teenage Boy (uncredited)
Walter Merrill ... Man at Bar (uncredited)
Howard M. Mitchell ... Bartender (uncredited)
Ralph Montgomery ... Man at Bar (uncredited)
Roger Moore ... Wino Pedestrian (uncredited)
David Newell ... Bystander (uncredited)
George Ovey ... Bystander (uncredited)
Garry Owen ... Auto Rental Co. Attendant (uncredited)
Ralph Peters ... Tim (uncredited)
William 'Bill' Phillips ... War Vet Speaker at Dedication (uncredited)
Florita Romero ... Girl (uncredited)
Fred Santley ... Convention Party Drunk (uncredited)
Frank J. Scannell ... Bell Captain (uncredited)
Hans Schumm ... German (voice) (uncredited)
Irene Seidner ... Old Woman (uncredited)
Dick Simmons ... Veteran (uncredited)
Robert Skelton ... Cabbie (uncredited)
Robert R. Stephenson ... Bartender in Dive (uncredited)
Brick Sullivan ... Conventioneer (uncredited)
Phil Tead ... Hotel Day Clerk (uncredited)
Harry Tenbrook ... Man (uncredited)
Candy Toxton ... Veteran's Wife (uncredited)

Roland Varno ... German (voice) (uncredited)
Eddie Waglin ... Bellboy (uncredited)

Directed by
Fred Zinnemann 
Writing credits
Robert L. Richards (screenplay)

Collier Young (story)

Produced by
William H. Wright .... producer
Original Music by
Bronislau Kaper 
Cinematography by
Robert Surtees (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Conrad A. Nervig 
Art Direction by
Cedric Gibbons 
Hans Peters 
Set Decoration by
Edwin B. Willis 
Costume Design by
Helen Rose (costumes: women)
Makeup Department
Jack Dawn .... makeup creator
Sydney Guilaroff .... hair styles designer
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Andrew Marton .... second unit director (uncredited)
Art Department
Henry Grace .... associate set decorator (as Henry W. Grace)
Sound Department
Douglas Shearer .... recording director
Camera and Electrical Department
Harry Stradling Jr. .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Music Department
André Previn .... conductor
Robert Franklyn .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
82 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Australia:PG | Finland:K-16 | Sweden:15 | USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:Approved (certificate #13275)

Did You Know?

All the credits except for the title are at the end of the movie, highly unusual for that time.See more »
Continuity: At the end of the movie, when the car crashes head-on into the light pole, Frank Enley is thrown forward by the impact. He is next seen lying in the street several yards to the rear of the car.See more »
Gavery:[Persuading Frank that Joe Parkson needs to be eliminated] You're the same man you were in Germany. You did it once, and you'll do it again. What do you care about one more man? You sent ten along already. Sure, you're sorry they're dead. That's the respectable way to feel. Get rid of this guy and feel sorry later. He dies... or you die. It's him... or you.See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)See more »


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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful.
"A lot of things happened in the war", 10 December 2007
Author: imogensara_smith from New York City

"What is it, love trouble or money trouble?" a burnt-out good-time-gal asks the man she just picked up in a bar. She's seen all the troubles in the world, she tells him, "And they boil down to just those two. You're broke, or you're lonely." Most noir films confirm this: the hero is brought down by lust or greed or some combination of the two; by the temptations of crime or the lure of a femme fatale. But this time the world-weary hooker is wrong; her man's problem has nothing to do with love or money. It has to do with the war, when, as the man tells his wife, "A lot of things happened...that you don't understand."

World War II is an undercurrent in many post-war noirs. A generation of men had faced violence and death; they couldn't settle back into their ostentatiously wholesome communities, and they were all too ready to pull out their service revolvers to solve peacetime problems. ACT OF VIOLENCE offers the most direct analysis of the war as a source of noir angst, becoming both one of the best examples of the genre and one of the best films about the effects of war. Four years after America's victory, it was still daring to admit that not all of our boys behaved honorably overseas, and that our prosperity might rest on corrupt foundations.

Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is a perfect image of postwar success, a war hero with a thriving business, a nice house in the suburbs, a beautiful wife and a young son. This idyll of fishing trips and checkered aprons is invaded by Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), a creepy, limping, gun-wielding, apparently deranged stalker. He was with Frank in the army and in a P.O.W. camp, and holds a mysterious, murderous grudge against him. The first part of the movie plays like a horror film, using magnified sounds--especially the slow, shuffling drag of Parkson's lame leg--in eerie stillness to heighten suspense. As we learn more about what really happened in the war, the black-and-white scenario of threatened innocence unfolds into a complex moral puzzle. Can desperate circumstances or good intentions mitigate an act of betrayal and moral cowardice? Is violent revenge ever justified?

Robert Ryan starts out in typical form: intense, tightly-wound, scary, seething with hate. But we also get to glimpse the suffering and moral outrage that underlie his tortured obsession. His anger might be righteous, but he's still a figure of terror. Van Heflin has the richer part, and he reveals the full measure of his under-appreciated brilliance. He doesn't look like a movie star--he was well described as "attractively homely"--and he doesn't act like a movie star either. He's so transparent and direct; he never advertises what he's doing. Like Arthur Kennedy, he specialized in ambiguity, playing nice guys with something shifty and unreliable about them, or unscrupulous heels with decent cores. Here he evolves from an amiable pillar of the community to a man so sick with self-loathing that he can hardly stand up straight.

In a classic noir trajectory, he moves from the sunny suburbs to the wasteland of an urban night, where the desolate streets around L.A.'s Angel's Flight mirror his state of mind. (The suburbs too have dark shadows and unsettling overtones, like the background motif of the Enleys' baby screaming behind the bars of his crib or playpen, trapped and helpless as his father.) At the end of his rope, Frank meets a friendly, worn-out barfly (a shockingly weathered and tawdry Mary Astor.) Astor works wonders with a clichéd part, all nervous tics and generosity pinched by fear and bad memories. She keeps talking about "getting her kicks"--it's all she has left. "Gee, there's no law says you gotta be happy."

In this seedy underworld, the man with the tortured conscience meets a man with no conscience, a killer-for-hire with a smooth voice and plump, evil face (Barry Kroeger) who plays the part of Satan, tempting Frank to get rid of his problem the easiest way. Heflin manages to retain sympathy for his weak and sometimes despicable character, through the honesty and vividness of his anguish. Fred Zinneman keeps the suspense mounting through taut, spare direction: no excessive music or flashy visuals or extraneous flourishes, just a relentless focus on the collision courses of the main characters, who include Frank's wife (the girlish, gorgeous Janet Leigh) and Parkson's girlfriend (Phyllis Thaxter), who doesn't want her man to be a murderer.

What would you do if you were starving, literally fighting for survival, and you had a chance to save yourself? What if you had done something terrible and knew that only one living witness knew about it? What if you were that witness? There are no easy answers in this movie, which attacks the popular notion that when a war is over it's over, and people can just get on with their lives. An "act of violence" is never the end, it always leads to another.

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