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Slightly Scarlet (1956)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 15 February 1956 (USA)
An urban wheeler-dealer gets involved in organized crime, corrupt city politics and graft while falling in-love with the fiancée of the newly elected mayor.


Allan Dwan


Robert Blees (screen play), James M. Cain (novel)




Complete credited cast:
John Payne ... Ben Grace
Rhonda Fleming ... June Lyons
Arlene Dahl ... Dorothy Lyons
Kent Taylor ... Frank Jansen
Ted de Corsia ... Solly Caspar
Lance Fuller ... Gauss
Buddy Baer ... Lenhardt


Kleptomaniac Dorothy Lyons is paroled from prison in custody of her sister June, secretary to "reform" political candidate Frank Jansen. Ben Grace, associate of crime boss Sol Caspar, sees this as a way to smear Jansen's campaign. But after falling out with Caspar, Ben tries to help June, who he begins to fall for. Sexy Dorothy also has a yen for Ben. June is reluctantly forced to go along with Ben's schemes, but there may be more to these than meets the eye... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


James M. Cain's scorchingly frank expose of the operators behind big-city graft See more »


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Contrary to what one might have imagined, Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl got on very well on the set and even became good friends. See more »


A man in a bar says that, when the new mayor is elected, "this town will be so quiet you can eat your dinner off the sidewalk." Obviously, he should have said that the town would be clean, not quiet. See more »


Solly Caspar: Let's see if we can beat him down.
[after throwing a body out of an upper story window]
See more »


Featured in Doctors: Being Witched (2016) See more »

User Reviews

Slightly GREAT
26 September 2006 | by spelviniSee all my reviews

The 1956 film "Slightly Scarlet" at first glance looking back from our sophisticated perspective today seems to be a bit of a tongue-in cheek joke.

Directed by Allan Dwan from a Robert Blees screenplay adapted from James M. Cain's novel "Love's Lovely Counterfeit", the 99-minute film is a great combination of color and art direction in a film noir.

Not a highly regarded film noir, in Technicolor and Superscope its palette utilizes a wide range of color to support the individual themes and characterizations.

Our main characters have color scheme that establish them and develop with the story.

Arlene Dahl as Dorothy wears black as she is released from prison and even sports a black bathing suit later in the film.

Rhonda Flemming as June initially appears in Spring-like colors of off-white and yellow, with colors matching her mood as the film progresses. She wears white and blues when she meets Ben Grace for the first time, then black and off-white when they kiss and she begins to fall in love with him. When Dorothy is arrested Rhonda wears a grey sweater and skirt but by the end of the film June wears the same black color as Dorothy emphasizing her relationship to her bad sister.

Although the pivotal action of the film rests on Ben Grace, it is through June that we understand the important elements of the story, and the value of good and bad in this noir world as well as our own.

A study in duality, it falls short by not delivering what it promises but only shifts the pivotal actions onto the male character in the film.

In more than one scene characters tell Ben Grace that he is taking advantage of the situations around him to unfair terms.

Police man Dietz (Frank Gerstle), who Grace gets put into a high-ranking position accuses Ben of playing both ends toward the middle.

A great line from Sole Caspar to Ben Grace sums up his character completely: "Genius you're just a chiseler out for a soft spot. You're not crooked and you're not straight. You take what you can get where you can get it but you don't want any trouble. You'll die at age 66 with three grand in the bank but you'll never be an operator." Looking back its moments of plot change create humor because of the style of acting and the overall writing in the script.

But there is still ample example of real noir elements despite the color of the film.

The title suggests the slightly scarlet is a pun on the pure heart of the lead female as measured against the overall 'sick' nature of her sister, the one who steals.

The quality of the motivation to steal of the second female lead as compared against the organized mob activities of the lead crook is an interesting one. There is the opportunity foe the woman to become the girlfriend of the mob boss, and she seems perfectly matched for the role.

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Release Date:

15 February 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Slightly Scarlet See more »

Filming Locations:

Hollywood, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See full technical specs »

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