Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pick Up On South Street: "What do I know about commies-I just don't like them"

from wikipedia. btw Thelma Ritter and Sam Fuller are headed towards "Who's Almost Who Distinction"
Pickup on South Street is writer-director Samuel Fuller's 1953 film noir released by the 20th Century Fox studio. The film stars Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and Thelma Ritter.
In June 1954, Ritter co-starred alongside Terry Moore and Stephen McNally in a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of the story. 20th Century Fox remade the picture in 1967 as The Cape Town Affair, directed by Robert D. Webb and starring Claire Trevor (in the Thelma Ritter role), James Brolin (in his first leading role), and Jacqueline Bisset.
Widmark plays Skip McCoy, a pickpocket who steals Candy's wallet, which contains a microfilm of top-secret government information. This sets off a frantic search for McCoy by the police and other parties interested in securing the microfilm.
Darryl F. Zanuck showed Fuller who was then under contract to 20th Century Fox a script by Dwight Taylor called Blaze of Glory about a woman lawyer falling in love with a criminal she was defending in a murder trial. Fuller liked the idea but knew from his previous crime reporter experience that courtroom cases take a long time to play out. Fuller asked Zanuck if he could write a story of a lower criminal and his girlfriend that he originally titled Pickpocket but Zanuck thought the title too "European". Fuller had memories of South Street from his days as a crime reporter and came up with his new title. Fuller met Detective Dan Campion of the New York Police Department to research the background material of his story to add realism, with Fuller basing the role of Tiger the police detective on Campion who had been suspeneded without salary for six months for manhandling a suspect.
Fuller turned down many actresses for the lead role including studio favorite Marilyn Monroe, Shelly Winters, Ava Gardner who looked too glamourous, Betty Grable, who wanted a dance number written in, and initially Jean Peters who he didn't like when he saw film of her in Captain from Castile. With only a week to go before the film started, Fuller saw Peters walk into the studio's commissary whilst having lunch. Fuller noticed Peters walked with a slightly bow legged style that many prostitutes did. Fuller was impressed with Peters intelligence, spunkiness, and different roles at the studio when he tested her the Friday before shooting started on the Monday. When Betty Grable insisted on being in the film and threatened problems, Fuller promised to walk off the film. Peters was restored.
In August 1952, the script was deemed unacceptable by the Production Code, by reasons of "excessive brutality and sadistic beatings, of both men and women." The committee also expressed disdain for the vicious beating of the character "Candy", on the part of "Joey." Although a revised script was accepted soon after, the studio was forced to shoot multiple takes of a particular scene in which the manner of Jean Peters and Richard Kiley frisk each other for loot, was too risqué.
The French release of the movie removed any reference to spies and microfilm in the translation. They called the movie Le Port de la Drogue (Port of Drugs). The managers of 20th Century Fox thought that the theme of communist spies was too controversial in a country where the Communist Party was still hugely influential.
When the film was released, Bosley Crowther wrote, "It looks very much as though someone is trying to out-bulldoze Mickey Spillane in Twentieth Century-Fox's Pickup on South Street, ...this highly embroidered presentation of a slice of life in the New York underworld not only returns Richard Widmark to a savage, arrogant role, but also uses Jean Peters blandly as an all-comers' human punching-bag. Violence bursts in every sequence, and the conversation is slangy and corrupt. Even the genial Thelma Ritter plays a stool pigeon who gets her head blown off...Sensations he has in abundance and, in the delivery of them, Mr. Widmark, Miss Peters, Miss Ritter and all the others in the cast do very well. Murvyn Vye, as a cynical detective, is particularly caustic and good, and several other performers in lesser roles give the thing a certain tone.
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had lunch with Fuller and Zanuck and said how much he detested Fuller's other work and especially Pickup on South Street. Hoover objected to Widmark's unpatriotic character especially his line "Are you waving the flag at me?", the scene of a Federal agent bribing an informer and other things. Zanuck backed Fuller up, telling Hoover he knew nothing about making movies but removed references to the F.B.I. in the film's advertising.

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