Roselle Regalzyk (Anne Bancroft) is the naughty but nice little sister of mobster Phil "Regal" (Anthony Quinn). The unwed Roselle has managed to get herself pregnant by Nick Branda (Farley Granger), another convict who is soon on his way to the electric chair. Phil no sooner has Nick sprung so that he can marry Roselle, then Roselle miscarries, making the shotgun wedding unnecessary. Written by
Bancroft, Quinn and Granger chief attractions in crime drama plus sociology lesson
Maxwell Shane's The Naked Street opens with a `torch' murder under the low-rent end of the Brooklyn Bridge; it's a hit ordered by mob boss Anthony Quinn. Quinn finds family problems vying for his attention, however. His kid sister, Ann Bancroft, has been left pregnant by a murderer on death row (Farley Granger, who here could double for Eddie Fisher at about the same time). Quinn intimidates the original witnesses and secures Granger's release in order for him to make an honest woman out of Bancroft.
Investigative reporter Peter Graves, meanwhile, is working on an exposé of Quinn's underworld empire. He gets nowhere, however, until Quinn's quick fix of his sister's dilemma starts to unravel. Her baby is still-born (probably due to all the sherry her groom bought her to brighten her confinement), leading Granger to start to womanize and brush up his criminal skills. This only provokes Quinn, who tries to undo his earlier meddling by meddling some more....
The Naked Street blows in some high-minded social commentary in an attempt to supply moral uplift to an otherwise gritty crime drama. In that, it keeps step with the fads of the mid- to late-fifties, with many reminders of the `tenement' origins of criminals (despite the fact that, as here, these monsters' mothers are invariably old-country saints). And the plot's ironies, though obvious, hold interest.
But Shane, who six years earlier had done the more authentic City Across The River along similar lines, can be a clumsy director. He lets too much of the story get told through Grave's voice-over narration rather than telling it himself, on film. And there are nagging little lapses: there's a phony hijack in which a car runs a truck five times its size off the road; at an illegal all-night poker game in the back room of an ice-cream shop, the neon sign blazes `Millie's' to beckon every cop in the five boroughs. Still, Quinn does well in one of his last `heavy' roles, and early Bancroft offers glimpses of the fame to come. But the puzzle is, what was there in this role tempting enough to lure Granger back from Europe?
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