31 user 9 critic

Crack-Up (1946)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 6 September 1946 (USA)
Art curator George Steele experiences a train wreck...which never happened. Is he cracking up, or the victim of a plot?


Irving Reis


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Complete credited cast:
Pat O'Brien ... George Steele
Claire Trevor ... Terry Cordell
Herbert Marshall ... Traybin
Ray Collins ... Dr. Lowell
Wallace Ford ... Lt. Cochrane
Dean Harens ... Reynolds
Damian O'Flynn ... Stevenson
Erskine Sanford ... Barton
Mary Ware ... Mary


George Steele, art curator at a small museum, has an apparent mental breakdown one night, convinced he was in a train wreck...which never happened. In flashback, shortly after proposing to x-ray some old master paintings the museum has on loan, Steele is called on an unplanned nocturnal train trip. He suddenly sees another train ahead, speeding toward his... Is George indeed cracking up, or is there a plot to discredit him? The mystery grows murky with shadowy menace... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A man's frenzied urge to re-live one blanked-out hour...unlock the secret of what happened to him! (original print ad) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

6 September 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Galveston See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on December 30, 1946 with Pat O'Brien reprising his film role. See more »


Barton addresses a character by her real name, not her character's name. It happens about ten minutes into the movie, when George Steele's lecture is just ending. Among the attendees, Barton turns around, sees Mary, and addresses her as "Miss Ware". The character Mary's last name is unknown, but she's played by Mary Ware. See more »


Terry Cordell: Cops are notoriously untidy. They mean well, but they like to mess things up and...
Traybin: It's strange, but you Americans are always fighting an undeclared war against your police. Why is it? You hire them to do their job, then you dare them to do it, then you almost resent it if they succeed.
George Steele: It's a long story.
Traybin: You know, it may be an impertinent suggestion, as after all I'm only a visitor but, um, why not meet them half way? Cops are only human. They might respond to a little... respect and ...
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Featured in The Narrow Margin (1952) See more »

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User Reviews

Madman's Holiday!
3 September 2013 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Crack-Up is directed by Irving Reis and collectively written by John Paxton, Ben Bengal and Ray Spencer from Fredric Brown's story Madman's Holiday. It stars Pat O'Brien, Claire Trevor, Herbert Marshall, Ray Collins, Wallace Ford and Dean Harens. Music is by Leigh Harline and cinematography by Robert De Grasse.

Art curator George Steele (O'Brien) believes he has been in a train crash, but he's told that no such crash has occurred. Is he cracking up, or the victim of something sinister?

I'm not trusting anyone this week.

Out of RKO, Crack-Up is an above average film noir that is apparently under seen. It thrusts George Steele on a crusade to prove he is not losing his mind and on his way to residency at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. As he trawls around the city with a foggy head, his thoughts still remembering his service in WWII, he tosses off sarcastic quips and evades tricky situations with guile and ingenuity. Who can he trust though? If anybody?

I'm outta my head. I drive around in cars picking up psychopathic killers.

His journey encompasses a number of locations that are expertly born out for noirish purpose. Smokey steam train, dimly lighted station, a ship of many murky corners, the harbour as well, a penny arcade and of course many damp streets at night that are ripe for conversations; both hushed and threatening. With Reis (The Gay Falcon) and De Grasse (The Body Snatcher) using chiaroscuro effects, the atmosphere is suitably eerie, dovetailing perfectly with George's psychologically paranoid funk.

About as smart as cutting my throat to get some fresh air!

Set to the backdrop of the art world, the narrative has an opinion on art styles and snobbery while wrapping the plot around the crooked line of forgeries. It's not wholly successful for dramatic worth or intrigue, and in fact the visual presentation and very good performances of O'Brien and Trevor deserve a more cohesive story and a motive revelation of the crimes considerably stronger in substance.

However, with its technical attributes most positive, some very well constructed scenes (the train crash sequence is excellent) and noir staples in place (amnesia, shady characters, sleuthing for truth et al), Crack-Up is well worth checking out. 7/10

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