Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker
DETECTIVE STORY (1951). Director: William Wyler.

24 hours in a police precinct focusing on Detective James McLeod (Kirk Douglas) and his efforts to bring down Karl Schneider (George Macready), who helps bring unwanted babies into the world so he can sell them [in the play, Schneider was a simple abortionist]. McLeod seems so crazy to get this guy that his superior, Lt. Monaghan (Horace McMahon), wonders if there's some personal connection to the case, and in an ironic development, discovers that there is -- and it concerns McLeod's wife, Mary (Eleanor Parker). Will these revelations bring about the too-rigid McLeod's ruination? Detective Story is an absorbing and often powerful movie and features some fine performances from Douglas, Macready, McMahon [Quick Millions], and especially the wonderful William Bendix as McLeod's colleague, Brody. Lee Grant [Damian: Omen 2], in her first film, is fine as a likable if bewildered shoplifter; Craig Hill scores as an embezzler in love with the wrong woman; and Cathy O'Donnell offers a sensitive portrayal of another woman who's in love with Hill. There are also some flavorful short appearances by Gladys George [Flamingo Road] and Gerald Mohr; Joseph Wiseman, only in his second film, is perhaps less effective. Eleanor Parker, possibly miscast to begin with, is a bit too showy and mannered at times, although she has her moments. In general, Wyler's assured direction gets the most out of the story and characters and the film holds the attention throughout. O'Donnell and Mohr appeared together in Terror in the Haunted House.

Verdict: Another very fine Wyler feature. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - great film, need to see again. One of Kirk's best roles, as well as Eleanor Parker's...she was a terrific actress but if wasn't for the Baroness in Sound of Music, she would not be remembered. I forgot Lee Grant was in this--didn't she get a supporting actress Oscar nod? She won it years later for Shampoo. I think she still works occasionally...

William said...

She just came out with her memoirs, which I want to read. Glad you reminded me of it. A friend of mine, Doug McClelland, wrote a book about Parker and he noted that she tended to get lost in her roles and for that reason never quite became a major star.