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Detective Story (1951)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 4,252 users  
Reviews: 57 user | 28 critic

On one day in the 21st Precinct squad room, assorted characters form a backdrop for the troubles of hard-nosed Detective Jim McLeod.

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(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Detective Story (1951)

Detective Story (1951) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Horace McMahon ...
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Craig Hill ...
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Luis Van Rooten ...
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Storyline

Jim McLeod is a hard-nosed and cynical detective. He believes in a strict interpretation of the law and doesn't believe in turning the other cheek. The current object of his zealousness is Karl Schneider, an abortionist responsible for the death of several young women. Schneider's lawyer tells the precinct lieutenant that McLeod has his own personal reasons for going after his client. It turns out that his wife was a patient before they met, although Jim knew nothing of it. His world suddenly turned upside down, McLeod is too late in re-evaluating his priorities. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The love story of a man whose wife was more woman than angel!

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

TV-PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 May 1952 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

William Wyler's Production of Sidney Kingsley's Detective Story  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cinematographer John F. Seitz shot the last three weeks of production, uncredited. See more »

Goofs

In some of the close-up shots of McLeod and Schneider in the back of the paddy wagon, McLeod's shadow can be faintly seen on the rear-projection screen showing the street behind them. (Other shadows can also be seen.) See more »

Quotes

Detective James McLeod: I wanna put him in the electric chair where he belongs, and pull the switch myself.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Colgate Comedy Hour: Episode #2.21 (1952) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"I built my whole life on hating my father. All the time, he was inside me, laughing."
1 March 2009 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

A play which tells the story of a day in the lives of the several people who populate a police precinct translates more or less transparently between mediums, though with its theatrical pace results in a vigorous, enthralling drama with a solid, receptive cast. Kirk Douglas, playing the central cop, a brooding maverick who can't stand having to stop at the line between law and vengeance, is very intense in particular, the breadth of view of a crystallizing soul masqueraded by rigor and command, which makes for some delicate scenes with his wife, Eleanor Parker. The very natural William Bendix is one of the other officers in the precinct, a cop with a delicate sensibility, the clear contrast to the uncompromising protagonist. But the film's brightest highlights are the few moments dominated by the brilliant Lee Grant, whose character seems non-sequitary yet has a refreshing outside-world quality. Dense with lively exhibitions of the sort of devil-may-care influx that transits and languishes through a workday of plainclothes detectives, it is a police procedural not in the traditional sense. There is no central case over which our detectives toil. There is simply an allotment of arrests and conflicting views on the confines of police work.

While this Edgar-winning cop drama stays in effect a filmed play, William Wyler uses the innate limitations of such a project as a creative outlet, as well as his widely known grating approach multiple retakes. The cooped up setting is not just a space where all manner of characters eyeball each other and interplay. It complements the lurking gist of the story's thematic elements and overall to the film's dramatic impact. The staging of the individual scenes, which a lot of the time plays on foreground-background relationships, is intensified by Lee Garmes's deep-focus cinematography, a consistent device used by Wyler throughout his body of work no matter how much he diversifies in genre and tone.

The core of Wyler's consistency throughout his tremendous career is his insistence on emotional truth, thus his enraging approach to directing actors, and thus his track record with directing Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning performances. Wyler's discretion of angle exposes or intimates more character than the last and apprehends the decisive sensibility to give significance to the experience of seeing the film. He didn't coin anything new. He didn't use unprecedented angles or logistically fussy dolly takes. He's discerning from the acknowledged bill of fare of long shot, medium shot and close-up as the atmosphere of the scene calls for.


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