96 user 42 critic

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.


Robert Wise


Eve Greene (screen play), Richard Macaulay (screen play) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Claire Trevor ... Helen Brent
Lawrence Tierney ... Sam Wilde
Walter Slezak ... Albert Arnett
Phillip Terry ... Fred Grover
Audrey Long ... Georgia Staples
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Marty Waterman
Isabel Jewell ... Laury Palmer
Esther Howard ... Mrs. Kraft
Kathryn Card ... Grace
Tony Barrett ... Danny
Grandon Rhodes ... Inspector Wilson


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 then 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 realize how easily someone who has killed this way before can do so again. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


RELENTLESS SUSPENSE! (original ad - all caps) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


According to a contemporary article in The Hollywood Reporter, Tallulah Bankhead was first considered for the role of Helen that went to Claire Trevor. See more »


After Mart leaves Helen's room and goes to the room Sam is in, there is sunlight reflected on the wall behind Sam coming from the window in front of him, which can be seen behind Mart sitting on the bed. Yet Helen had told Mart she was reading before going to bed and Sam told the police the next morning that it was 9:30 the night before when Mart came to his room. See more »


Marty Waterman: I've been scared somethin' like this would happen. The way you go off your head. And it's been worse, lately. Ever since that nervous crackup last summer. Honest, Sam, you go nuts about nothin'. Nothin' at all. You gotta' watch that. You can't just go around killin' people whenever the notion strikes you. It's not feasible.
Sam Wilde: [angrily] Why isn't it!
Marty Waterman: All right, Sam. All right. It is.
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From This Day Forward
Music by Leigh Harline
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User Reviews

Why Wasn't Lawrence Tierney a Bigger Star?
14 June 2006 | by BaronBl00dSee all my reviews

Superior film noir classic directed by the late Robert Wise about Claire Trevor and her love for a killer, Lawrence Tierney. A couple is murdered by Tierney in Reno because he was jealous and easily angered to the point of violence. Trevor finds the bodies but leaves after finalizing her divorce. While on the train, she meets up with Tierney and has instant chemistry with him. Only trouble is that she has a fiancée with a lot of money and Tierney is broke. Well, just like with any film noir, it gets more complicated with Tierney marrying Trevor's foster sister(a wealthy woman in her own right) and being tailed by sleazy, literate detective Walter Slezak. Wise does a more than adequate job creating tension and suspense in this film and leaving no character's sense of good in tact. All of the characters it seems are of dubious natures with Esther Howard's roly-poly drunk with a heart of gold coming out as the most ethical! The acting by the leads and the supporting cast are first-rate. I am so surprised that Tierney, a man I immediately remembered from a Seinfeld episode and from Reservoir Dogs, was so good so long ago. He seemed to have dropped out of the public eye for so long, but his acting definitely shows great potential. I believe I read that alcoholism was behind this. At any rate, Tierney is very good, Trevor plays one of the coldest performances on screen(her lines to Howard were absolutely chilling), Slezak is vintage Slezak - an oily, good-humoured man looking out for himself, Elisha Cook Jr. gives another good turn as Tierney's buddy, and Howards excels as the drunken woman. The scenes with her and Cook were well-paced and effectively frightening. Born to Kill is nothing great in terms of plot or story - we have seen much of the same before - but under the adroit eyes of Wise and aided by big performances by talented actors and actresses - it rises above the mundane to be a vintage film noir classic. Tieney and Trevor really personified cold wickedness as well as anyone I have seen on screen.

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English | Latin | French

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


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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