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The Big Knife (1955)

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Hollywood actor Charles Castle is pressured by his studio boss into a criminal cover-up to protect his valuable career.

Director:

Robert Aldrich

Writers:

James Poe (adapted for the screen by), Clifford Odets (stage play)
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jack Palance ... Charles Castle
Ida Lupino ... Marion Castle
Wendell Corey ... Smiley Coy
Jean Hagen ... Connie Bliss
Rod Steiger ... Stanley Shriner Hoff
Ilka Chase ... Patty Benedict
Everett Sloane ... Nat Danziger
Wesley Addy ... Horatio 'Hank' Teagle
Paul Langton ... Buddy Bliss
Nick Dennis ... Mickey Feeney
Bill Walker ... Russell
Michael Winkelman ... Billy Castle (as Mike Winkelman)
Shelley Winters ... Dixie Evans (as Miss Shelley Winters)
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Storyline

Charles Castle is a successful Hollywood actor who has opted for screen success over art. He must make critical decisions regarding his career, his marriage, his art & morality. In this screen adaptation of a Clifford Odets play, Castle is pressured by his studio boss and manipulated into a potentially murderous cover-up to protect his career. An indictment of the amoral world of 50's Hollywood and its corrosive effect upon the artist. Written by Thomas Robbin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

SHOCKING SLICE OF HOLLYWOOD LIFE! - The story and drama...the greed and glitter in the life of a famous star! (original print ad) See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 November 1955 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Hollywood-Story See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$423,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$1,250,000, 31 December 1955
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

3 Channel Stereo (RCA Sound Recording) (5.0) (L-R)| Mono (Glen Glenn Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

The part of Charles Castle was originally written for John Garfield. He was supposed to play the part in the film version but died in 1952 of a premature heart attack. See more »

Goofs

In the living room, as Hoff begins "We all love you..." his hands are clasped in front of him. But on the cut, in mid-sentence ("...you're a great artist...") his arms are spread wide. See more »

Quotes

Smiley Coy: What do you think of women, kiddie?
Charlie Castle: Oh, there's room in the world for 'em.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits: Upholstered furniture by Martin/ Brattrud. See more »

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User Reviews

 
The studio system
5 June 2009 | by jotix100See all my reviews

"The Big Knife" caused a sensation when it came out. After all, no one in his right mind would dare to criticize the movie industry, after all, it was the studio and its ruthless executives that were exposed as the bad guys, even at the time where the old studio system was disappearing.

Clifford Odets wrote the original play, which under Robert Aldrich direction doesn't translate to the screen because it feels claustrophobic in many aspects. The movie treatment was by James Poe, did not make the material come alive because of the theatricality of the source.

Charles Castle, an actor working in Hollywood, is about to commit himself to a renewal of his contract to a major studio. That means another seven years of his life working in whatever pictures the higher ups have in store for him. It couldn't come at a worse time; his wife, Marion, who evidently hasn't a good relation with Charles, is fed up with the idea of staying in Bel Air. Marion pleads with him to give up the movie business so they could have a normal life bringing up their young son.

Castle has had his share of adventures in Hollywood, something that Marion is aware of. In addition to that, he has a dark secret, something that involved a terrible accident for which his publicist has taken the blame and has even serve time in jail. A couple of women are also in the picture, threatening Charles' marriage.

To make matters worse, Charles is visited by the head of the studio, Stanley Hoff, who has brought his assistant, the oily Smiley Coy, to help him convince Castle to sign the contract. Charles Castle is finally defeated at the game as Stanley plays his cards right since he has the upper hand. The result is a bitter loss for the actor, who sees no way out of the situation at hand.

Jack Palance, who, up to this film, had only minor parts, rose to the challenge of playing Charles Castle, who in a way, he had the background, having been a boxer, to play. His work, although a bit unsure, was a revelation to the movie going public at the time. Ida Lupino, an excellent actress, is probably the best thing in the picture. Rod Steiger shows up as the studio head Stanley Hoff, a man that knows well his opponent's weaknesses and uses all in his power to get his way. Wendell Corey, in a small part, also does good work. Jean Hagen and Shelley Winters also contribute to the film.

Ernest Lazlo's cinematography works well, as does the musical score by Frank DeVol. Robert Aldrich, a man with a lot of experience in the business, was a natural choice to undertake the direction of this picture. His only problem was a basic one, how to open the play to cinematic terms.


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