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Some have justly criticized this film for moralizing too much. However I still enjoyed it for the acting (Bogart of course and John Derek as well) and for the intelligent exploration of how much responsibility rests on the individual and how much on society. A note of interest is that Dewey Martin (Nicky's friend Butch) would later play Bogart's brother in The Desperate Hours. I also appreciated character actor Vince Barnett's (The Killers) portrayal as the less than reliable bartender. All in all, a flawed but nevertheless worthwhile film, 7/10.
Bogey is superb as defense attorney with too soft a heart under his tough
guy exterior, and Derek is chillingly believable as the cool, young
delinquent who thinks nothing of playing his friends for marks. Macready,
as the relentless D.A, pulls no punches, and allows for no softness in an
A pioneering movie blazes a trail later imitated but never bested.
Bogart plays a forceful attorney who spends almost the entire film
trying to convince the jury and the audience that Derek is an innocent
victim of circumstantial evidence
To prove his point, he takes the audience through a series of flashbacks into the dirty squalor and deprivation that brought about the killing in question
The film is a patently phony attempt at social commentary which simply didn't come off A sequel, "Let No Man Write My Epitaph," was made in 1960
One line of dialog from "Knock On Any Door," used as Derek's motto, was often quoted by young people in the fifties: "Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse."
"Knock on Any Door" (Columbia 1949), a combination courtroom drama and
delinquent youth social statement, was Nicholas Ray's directorial
debut. Humphrey Bogart plays lawyer Andrew Morton, one time street
tough turned idealistic lawyer. Bogart's independent production company
made the film shortly after he broke away from Warner Brothers.
Bogart's part was originally intended for Marlon Brando, but Brando
withdrew after the death of producer Mark Hellinger.
On the verge of becoming a partner in his big-time law firm, Morton is yanked out of his ivory tower and into the past by the need to defend accused murderer Pretty Boy Romano (John Derek), who he attempted to help when Romano was a petty teenage criminal. This is told in flashbacks with Romano repeating his credo: "live fast, die young, and have a good looking corpse". Probably the first film use of what has become a very tired expression. Morton carries a lot of guilty baggage into the trial. He blames himself for the imprisonment of Romano's father, an event that plunged the family into poverty and led to Romano's life of crime. Through the years he had tried to help Romano who had married a nice girl and attempted to go straight. But setbacks at work returned Romano to crime. Then his pregnant wife's suicide unhinged him and he killed a cop.
The "Knock on Any Door" expression refers to Morton's plea for leniency during the trial, as he blames the conditions in the slums and the affects of poverty for Romano's actions. Stating that behind any door are young men whose lives will be wasted unless they receive guidance and are assisted in becoming productive citizens.
"Knock on Any Door" provides a nice example of the unpredictability inherit in the film making business. A look at screenplay and cast would lead you to expect the film's strengths to be the Bogart-Derek scenes and the courtroom drama, with the romantic background story (told in flashbacks) a glaring weakness.
But the trial scenes which take up a substantial part of the film suffer from the usual procedural inaccuracies and are not particularly effective dramatically. Bogart pretty much plays his Captain Queeg character ("The Caine Mutiny") and spends more time whining than defending. The Bogart-Derek scenes are nothing special and there is no chemistry between the two actors. The narrative actually contradicts the theme of outrage over social inequities. The simplistic conclusions about social justice ring hollow and any sympathetic feelings toward Romano seem misplaced.
The production design is great. When combined with the haunting the black & white photography it makes for one of the best looking examples of the film noir genre.
What ultimately saves the film and actually makes it rather special is the romance between Romano and Emma (Allene Roberts). This unlikely character pairing (imagine James Dean's "Rebel" having a serious relationship with Melanie from "Gone With the Wind") somehow works as Roberts and Derek have a real chemistry together. And she introduces intangibles that are missing from the rest of the production. In addition, the relationship itself introduces a nice irony as it is the pressure to make Emma proud of him and to tangibly demonstrate his love that ultimately leads Romano back to crime.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
***SPOILERS*** Nicholas Ray's first film that's very much like his 1955
classic "Rebel Without a Cause" which deals with a troubled youth where
in "Rebel" it's star James Dean, as James Stark, was a troubled and
misunderstood teenager. In the movie "Knock on any Door" the young man
Nick"Pretty Boy" Romono", John Derek, is a hardened and career
criminal. Arrested after a cop was shot and killed outside the 3.80
Club Nick is grabbed by the police together with a score of other
persons and charged with the policemen's murder.
Attorney Andrew Morton ,Humphrey Bogart, who handles only property and probate cases goes against his law partners wishes to take up Nick's defense pro bono. Andrew feels that he owes him at least that since he holds himself responsible for the violent life that Nick had chosen years earlier. Six years ago Andrew turned the case of Nick's dad over to his law partner Ed Elkins, Curt Conway. He felt at the time that it was an open and shut case for old man Romono being found innocent. Elkins however blotched it up and caused the old man to be sentenced to a year in prison and died after four months behind bars. With Nick suddenly becoming the family bread-winner he drifted into a life of crime and worked himself up, over those six years, from petty theft to what he's now being accused of, the murder of a law enforcement officer.
Ahead of it's time, even though very dated now, "Knock on any Door" gets into the background of it's accused killer like a scalpel used by a neurosurgeon goes into the brain of his patient. The entire movie goes from Nick's trial to his past, through a series of flashbacks and shows how he got to where is is now; on trial for his life.
Handsome John Derek's first film and he does the best with the part that he has giving a three dimensional, unlike the usual cartoon-like, performance of the ruthless criminal Nick "Pretty Boy" Romono who has a heart of gold under all that barb wire that he covers himself up with. Humphrey Bogart gives his usual high quality performance as the lawyer Abdrew Morton who goes out of his way to try to save the "abused and troubled" young man from a one-way trip to the electric chair.
Very emotional and powerful ending sequence where Andrew gives his closing argument not just about his client's Nick Romono tormented and troubled past,as he pleads for the jury to spare his life, but also for the future. Andrews final summery is in preventing more Nick Romono's from evolving out of the depressed and hopeless crime infested neighborhoods that they come from and grow up in.
Humphey Bogart in his first movie for his own production company Santana. And introducing "pretty boy" John Derek. Bogart plays a sympathetic lawyer defending a juvenile delinquent(Derek)on trial for murder. Pretty average Film-Noir, but good enough to hold your interest. Courtroom scenes provide high drama and then comes the twist ending that really is not so surprising. Also in the cast are:George Macready, Allene Roberts and Mickey Knox. And then there is Dooley Wilson tickling the ivories.
Knock on Any Door was Humphrey Bogart's first film after leaving Warner
Brothers. He and his Santana productions did a few for Columbia at that
It's a throwback film to the Thirties, a time it was seen that all cures to society's ills was a better social program. That's the message that attorney Bogart was driving home to the jury, that for a few better breaks his client John Derek would be a solid citizen.
Actually during the course of the film, what we see of John Derek's life showed he had some opportunities and blew them. It also did show that the family had some rotten luck. A mixed message to say the least.
The film shows Bogart as an attorney and his involvement over the years with young John Derek who was making his screen debut. Derek has been arrested for killing a policeman after a bar stickup and he turns to Bogart for help. The first part of the film is Bogart's opening remarks to the jury at the murder trial and we see in flashback, Derek's life and how it intertwined with Bogart's.
The second half was the trial itself and the aftermath. George MacReady as the District Attorney probably gave the best performance in the movie. Another reviewer described MacReady as evil. Granted he usually is in his roles, but here he's just one very effective prosecutor.
Yet Knock On Any Door, confused as it is, does still raise some relevant questions. The scenes in the reform school are still being shown today and had their not been Code restrictions might have been more graphic. I only have to cite the movie Sleepers from a few years back.
Bogart fans will like it and John Derek certainly merited the nickname "pretty boy."
Humphrey Bogart has created an impressive resume in movies. Thus when trying to choose which film personifies his best, it's difficult to say. Some would offer it's the 'Petrified Forest', others would argue and suggest 'The African Queen', or 'The Maltese Falcon'. They are all Classics, still this movie " Knock on any Door " is the one I would select. The story is taken from the novel by Willard Motley and able directed by Nicholas Ray. Seen in Black and White it relates the story of Nick Romano, superbly played by handsome John Derek (the stone-cutter from The Ten Commandments). Growing up wild and undisciplined in the wet streets of a big city, he is arrested for a Capital crime and stands a good chance of imprisonment or death. However, the only obstacle to that bleak future is able defense attorney Andrew Morton, attorney at law. The courtroom drama is inter-fused with the life of the young Romano and Bogart is at his best with a incredible narrative which encompasses the film. The drama is excellent as is the acting, leaving little doubt the end result is one of Bogart's best. Easilly offered or recommended to any fan of Bogart or Derek as a Classic picture. ****
It's third feature of Nicholas Ray (1911-1979). The screenplay, by John
Monks Jr. and Daniel Taradash, is adapting the novel "Knock on Any
Door" (1947), Willard Motley. Is shot in real settings Lake Arrowhead
(CA) and the Sunset Gower studios Columbia Studios (Hollywood, LA, CA)
Produced by Robert Lord for Santana Productions for Columbia Pictures,
The dramatic action takes place in Chicago (IL) in recent years
1948-1949. The hero is the attorney Andrew "Andy" Morton (Bogart), who
had a difficult childhood, but later got out and is now happily married
a promising lawyer. Co-star is young Nick Romano (Derek), eldest son of
a large family of Italian immigrants, lives in a slum in the city,
where poverty abounds, unemployment, and crime. The film explores,
among other things, the world of adolescents and young people
particularly in relation to the problem of juvenile delinquency, its
causes and its relationship with the environment.
Movie fundamental genre noir cinema with a good interpretation of Humphrey and somewhat looser interpretation of John Derek, where they try to analyze the causes of crime through a reflection of social exclusion and explicit criticism of the institutions (police, prisons, reformatories...).
This film could be a prelude of what would later become (Rebel without a Cause 1955), problematic neighbourhood kid and wanted by the law. Good movie, recommended especially for the actions of Bogart, a character who used to play.
"Knock on Any Door " is a tense film, with a large dose of social criticism to a world where we see and do not act, where we are all guilty of any offense, even where the law is able to use any trick to get your goal.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think this is a fine movie, with a tremendous performance by Humphrey
A lawyer -- Bogart -- defends Nick Romano (John Derek), a good boy that turned into a juvenile delinquent when his childhood went bad when his father died...in part due to his lawyer's negligence (Bogart). The older Nick got, the more of a thug he became, although for a while, after he married a sweet girl, it seemed as if things were turning around for him. Eventually, Nick goes on trial for viciously killing a policeman. Bogart's legal strategy is to argue that the slums bred Nick into a criminal. Bogart has a field day in the courtroom scenes...one his strongest performances...in a film produced by his own production company.
Reviewer Bosley Crowther called the film "a pretentious social melodrama". Well, it is a social melodrama...a rather liberal one, though I'm not sure why Crowther called it "pretentious".
While Bogart's performance is dominant, John Derek's debut is very strong. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Derek ever lived up to this early promise. As he was nicknamed in this film, he was a pretty boy, and as Bogart reportedly told him, that would not be enough.
A fine film that might belong on your DVD shelf.
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