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Slightly Scarlet (1956)

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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 490 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 12 critic

Kleptomaniac Dorothy Lyons is paroled from prison in custody of her sister June, secretary to "reform" political candidate Frank Jansen. Ben Grace, associate of crime boss Sol Caspar, sees ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Ben Grace
June Lyons - Jansen's Secretary / Girlfriend
Dorothy Lyons
Kent Taylor ...
Frank Jansen - Mayoral Candidate / Mayor of Bay City
Solly Caspar - syndicate hood
Lance Fuller ...
Buddy Baer ...
Lenhardt - Caspar Goon


Kleptomaniac Dorothy Lyons is paroled from prison in custody of her sister June, secretary to "reform" political candidate Frank Jansen. Ben Grace, associate of crime boss Sol Caspar, sees this as a way to smear Jansen's campaign. But after falling out with Caspar, Ben tries to help June, who he begins to fall for. Sexy Dorothy also has a yen for Ben. June is reluctantly forced to go along with Ben's schemes, but there may be more to these than meets the eye... Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


James M. Cain's scorchingly frank expose of the operators behind big-city graft See more »


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


See all certifications »




Release Date:

29 February 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Straße des Verbrechens  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See  »

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User Reviews

I like my John Alton neat.
24 April 2006 | by (California) – See all my reviews

I tried to make this short but there is a lot to be said about this very interesting tail-of-the-cycle noirish yarn. It may seem that I discount this film as nothing more than an conceptual experiment gone awry. The use of color photography is so far misplaced it actually folds back onto the film like some Einsteinien cosmic quilt and provides a surrealism that in some ways compliments the noir attitude. However interesting that may be, it really is about as far as the overly saturated color gets in terms of complimenting the overall film. I have made some effort to find out if Alton actually felt that Slightly Scarlet should have been filmed in color or not and have found nothing readily available that says either way. I'm inclined to fantasize that in pre-production sessions there were gun blazing arguments about how the color would enhance or distract from the effect of the story and I can only imagine that Alton must have been virtually unarmed.

My first comment that this is noirish, not film noir, is not solely because of the color but because the film lacks too many of the classical tenets of film noir to be considered anything more than an urban crime drama. Only with respect to the Ben Grace character and his seemingly chameleon ability to go with the flow does it provide the moral ambiguity that is inherent in all films noir. Make no mistake, he is a very nasty fellow. All other character moralities are easily discerned as good-guy bad-guy; that includes Dorothy who is what she is because of a psychological illness and not because of decisive moral indiscretion.

There are some terrific noir moments while watching Solly and his henchmen strong-arm their way into city government which leaves no doubt that these guys are gonna burn in hell. But that is not enough for me to toss the accolade of film noir. The narrative, while very watchable and with enough twists to keep interest high, does not allow fate to intervene as it does so fluidly in films like Out of the Past and Double Indemnity. Don't misunderstand, if your looking to watch a film noir and you have seen all the heralded classics, this is not a waste of your time. It is a notable film and deserves far more recognition than it gets. I give it 4 outta 5 stars.

Of course a theatrical screening at the Egyptian in Hollywood would be the preferred venue but on DVD we have full control of the color guns on our video sets. Fortunately with the DVD we can have our cake and eat it too. I strongly suggest that you view this film at least twice before you make any decisions about its quality. Watch it in its intended colorscape then watch again in B&W. First in point, it is one of only a handful of films by Alton that is available on DVD in anamorphic wide screen. That alone is important and contributes to the overall luscious appearance of this DVD release. Secondly, after viewing the film in its – yes – very garish color, you can enjoy an almost entirely different film by turning the color off on your set and reviewing simply for the classic Altonesque photography. You will be amazed at the contrast in the overall feeling of the film. Not just because it is B&W but more so because of the mise en scene and deep focus that makes film noir so interesting. So as to film noir or not film noir, that is a consideration I'll leave to individual viewers and their own interpretations. I doubt it will be argued by anyone that the cinematography by Alton - when viewed in B&W - is anything but glorious noir at its zenith and well worth the time spent to view twice.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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