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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.

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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Helen
... Sam
... Arnett
... Fred
... Georgia
... Marty
... Laury Palmer
... Mrs. Kraft
Kathryn Card ... Grace
Tony Barrett ... Danny
... Inspector Wilson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
... 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:

That "Dillinger" guy's most savage role! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

3 May 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Deadlier Than the Male  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Arnett's quote, "Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile...", is from the hymn, "From Greenland's Icy Mountains", lyrics by Reginald Heber. See more »

Goofs

When Mrs. Kraft rolls down the hill in the desert, her head is pointing left when she comes to a stop. After the edit (when the stunt double is replaced), her head is now pointing to the right. See more »

Quotes

Marty: You can't just go around killin' people whenever the notion strikes you. It's not feasible.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Pretty Little Liars: Stolen Kisses (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

From This Day Forward
(uncredited)
Music by Leigh Harline
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User Reviews

 
The femme fatal meets her match.
23 July 2005 | by See 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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