Pickup on South Street (1953)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller  |  1 August 1953 (Japan)
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Reviews: 83 user | 75 critic

A pickpocket unwittingly lifts a message destined for enemy agents and becomes a target for a Communist spy ring.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Murvyn Vye ...
Zara (as Willis B. Bouchey)
Detective Winoki


On a crowded subway, Skip McCoy picks the purse of Candy. Among his take, although he does not know it at the time, is a piece of top-secret microfilm that was being passed by Candy's consort, a Communist agent. Candy discovers the whereabouts of the film through Moe Williams, a police informer. She attempts to seduce McCoy to recover the film. She fails to get back the film and falls in love with him. The desperate agent exterminates Moe and savagely beats Candy. McCoy, now goaded into action, confronts the agent in a particularly brutal fight in a subway. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


How the law took a chance on a B-girl... and won!


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Release Date:

1 August 1953 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Blaze of Glory  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 5, 1954 with Thelma Ritter reprising her film role. See more »


After Joey shoots Candy and she's lying unconscious with her foot against the door, you can see that she moves the foot forward before he opens it. See more »


Skip McCoy: Pack up the pitch with the charge or drive me back to my shack.
Capt. Dan Tiger: I'll drive you back in a hearse if you don't get the kink out of your mouth!
See more »


Referenced in L.A. Noire (2011) See more »


Music by Dorcas Cochran
Occasional leitmotif
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User Reviews

Brilliant from alarm bell to chopsticks
18 July 2001 | by (The Bit Cave) – See all my reviews

Pickup On South Street is one of the most brilliant movies ever made. An example of the directing: When Candy (Jean Peters) starts going through her purse and notices her wallet is missing, an alarm goes off in the background in the building she's in -- as if it's an alarm going off in her head. It's not cartoon-like -- it's subtly woven into the background in a way that strikes you on a subconscious level until you've seen the film a few times and it just "clicks" that there's an alarm bell going off when she starts frantically going through her bag.

Richard Widmark is way on top of his game as a smart-alec -- he's really great -- but the highlight performance of the film was the first scene for "Moe," the street peddler/informer, played by Thelma Ritter. Later, in her apartment, you are not seeing a movie -- you're seeing a real person. I've never seen anyone "act" so real I felt like I was looking into a real room until Ritter's performance -- right down to the way her hair stuck out a bit when she removed her hat.

About a million other things just *worked,* from the way Lightning Louie picks up money with his chopsticks to the way Candy's jewelry clicks when she flicks Moe's hand away from her brooch, to the way Moe gets the dollars and change from the police captain across the FBI guy's chest -- and even the way the captain opens his filing cabinet, like he's been doing it in that way in that room for many years. "Pickup On South Street" is detailed moves (directing) with consummate performances (acting) and superb now-nostalgic visuals of the day, such as the panel truck, the boards leading to the shack out on the water, the dumbwaiter, -- and the unforgettable place Skip stashes his pocket pickings. Wonderful stuff.

"Pickup On South Street" is also one of the few movies where, even though the characters aren't perfect, you do care about them -- perhaps because they have been somewhat branded by their pasts in ways that are hard to escape: Skip as a "three-time loser" and Candy as a youngish woman who has "knocked around" a lot. When these people behave a little more badly than you'd expect, it's in sort of novel ways that make it seem you're looking in at people you'd never otherwise imagine -- and yet you know that they are possible because the actors make them so recognizably human.

70 of 76 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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