Promoter Frankie Christopher, being grilled by police in the murder of model Vicky Lynn, recalls in flashback: First meeting her as a waitress, Frankie decides to parlay her beauty into social acceptance and a lucrative career. He succeeds only too well: she's on the eve of deserting him for Hollywood...when someone kills her. Now Frankie gets the feeling that Inspector Ed Cornell is determined to pin the killing on him and only him. He's right. And the only one he can turn to for help is Jill, the victim's sister, who's been cool toward him...Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Remade as Vicki (1953), critics considering the original to be far more superior. See more »
Victor Mature drives Betty Grable to the boxing matches in his car. After the boxing program is over, they are shown walking home and then they catch a cab, with the car completely forgotten. See more »
Music by Alfred Newman
[Played over main titles, then heard as background music throughout the movie] See more »
Story of obsession, murder key movie in developing noir cycle
WWII pin-up gal Betty Grable took her first dramatic part as the sister of a murdered model in Bruce Humberstone's I Wake Up Screaming, based on a serialized novel by Steve Fisher. It sounds like second billing, but the victim's role as coffee-shop hostess turned toast of Manhattan Vicky Lynn remains curiously understated (and played by Carole Landis).
Landis is discovered by publicist Victor Mature and falls under his benevolent spell, which launches her onto magazine covers and ultimately to a Hollywood contract. She proves ungrateful and winds up strangled. Mature, among other suspects, comes under the scrutiny of the police, particularly of a dogged detective whose interest in the case borders on the obsessive. Portrayed by the immense but oddly vulnerable Laird Cregar, the detective becomes Mature's nemesis (in one scene, Mature wakes up to find Cregar watching him, hoping he'll incriminate himself by talking in his sleep). Cregar's ominous bulk makes for a number of looming shadows skulking through nighttime New York.
I Wake Up Screaming, which appeared very early in the noir cycle, certainly displays the dark look and fragmented structure of its successors, but its tone remains ambiguous. Basically, it's a high-style, `sophisticated' murder mystery, a precursor to the more famous and accomplished Laura. But, unlike Laura, it found many of the implications of the story perhaps too grim for wartime audiences the theme of obsession gets played down, for instance. But it's a key work in the developing noir cycle, released the same year as Johnny Eager, The Glass Key and This Gun For Hire.
Eleven years later, the releasing studio, 20th Century Fox, remade the film as Vicki. Though changes for the most part were minimal, the title role was enlarged (and taken by Jean Peters) while Mature's part was weakened by routine casting. The most interesting change was engaging the young Richard Boone for the Cregar part, who delivers a more brutal portrayal and thus underscores the theme of sexual obsession. It could be argued that the remake, despite lapses in casting and direction, remains the more intriguing version.
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