7.3/10
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Born to Kill (1947)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 3 May 1947 (USA)
A calculating divorcée risks her chances at wealth and security with a man she doesn't love by getting involved with the hotheaded murderer romancing her foster sister.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writers:

Eve Greene (screenplay), Richard Macaulay (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claire Trevor ... Helen
Lawrence Tierney ... Sam
Walter Slezak ... Arnett
Phillip Terry ... Fred
Audrey Long ... Georgia
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Marty
Isabel Jewell ... Laury Palmer
Esther Howard ... Mrs. Kraft
Kathryn Card Kathryn Card ... Grace
Tony Barrett Tony Barrett ... Danny
Grandon Rhodes ... Inspector Wilson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jason Robards Sr. ... Conductor (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

In Reno a man kills a girl he likes and her boyfriend out of jealousy; it may not be the first time. A woman whose divorce has just come through finds the bodies but decides not to become involved. The two meet next day on the train to San Francisco unaware of this link between them. They are attracted to each other, and the relationship survives his marriage to her half-sister for money and status. It even survives the woman discovering that he was the murderer, though she may not realise how easily someone who has killed this way before can do so again. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

THE COLDEST KILLER A WOMAN EVER LOVED! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 May 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Deadlier Than the Male See more »

Filming Locations:

Reno, Nevada, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Arnett quotes the Bible twice. "I find more bitter than death the woman ...", is from Ecclesiastes 7:26, though it is not an exact quote from the standard bibles, and "... the way of the transgressor is hard..." (sic) from Proverbs 13:15. See more »

Goofs

They took a train from Reno Nv. to San Fransisco Ca. but the shot of the train coming at the camera head-on is a Pennsylvania RR streamlined K4 locomotive on their 4 track mainline in Pennsylvania. See more »

Quotes

Mrs. Kraft: How come you got a hold of this information?
Marty: Through underworld connections, like it says in the newspapers. I'm a bad boy.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Along About Evening
(uncredited)
Music by Lew Pollack
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The femme fatal meets her match.
23 July 2005 | by Ham_and_EggerSee all my reviews

Truly one of the most sinister of RKO's hardcore noirs, Born to Kill is as close to real nihilism as a Hollywood studio picture was likely to come. The only remotely sympathetic characters are a pair of dupes and an old drunk, everyone who's got anything on the ball is corrupt and ruthless.

Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney) is a homme fatal, as attractive yet deadly to women as any of a dozen femmes fatal in other films are to men. Unable to resist his glowering masculine wiles is Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) who is nearly as black-hearted as he is. All the other characters circle around them like moths around a flame. As is to be expected money, murder, and lust all have their parts to play.

To be honest Lawrence Tierney's performance is fairly one dimensional, but it is a hell of a dimension. He menaces, scowls, and swaggers through the picture, always ready to attack, like an alley cat that's found it's way inside. His character's bluntness is played for maximum effect, wisely since Tierney is no Bogart. He does manage some good, direct, lines, in response to Trevor's, "Oh, I wouldn't say that...," he tightens his lips and spits out, "No. You wouldn't say it, but that's how it is." With Tierney turning up the heat, it's up to Claire Trevor to sweat. She rides the moral see-saw much like Fred MacMurray reacting to Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. Even without the benefit of a voice-over she pulls it off quite well, convincingly playing a woman caught between her safe, malleable (and rich) fiancée and the exciting but untamed Wilde.

There are three strong supporting performances. Elisha Cook, Jr. is Marty Waterman, Sam's "friend" who does his best to keep the lid on the pot (and to deliver most of the lines in their shared scenes). Esther Howard is Mrs. Kraft, a boardinghouse owner who is important to the plot. Especially good is Walter Slezak as the genteel detective Arnett.

Born to Kill does have a few flaws, the pacing is somewhat questionable and several of the important characters are either missing or blindingly stupid throughout most of the picture. But on the whole Tierney, Trevor, and the others deliver and there's enough tension to keep things interesting. The film is based on a novel 'Deadlier Than the Male' but given Tierney's looks and personality that title doesn't truly seem to fit the movie, it's a rare case of the man luring the woman to her doom.


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