Cry of the City (1948): Robert Siodmak’s Film Noir, Starring Richard Conte, Victor Mature and Hope Emerson (as Phallic Woman)

Robert Siodmak directed Cry of the City, a taut, grimly fatalistic noir, based on the novel by Henry Edward Helseth, “The Chair for Martin Rome”; Ben Hecht (uncredited) contributed the final script.

Cry of the City
Cry of the City.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Martin Rome (Richard Conte), a hardened criminal, is recovering from shootout where he killed a police officer. At the hospital, he is secretly visited by his fiancée, Teena Ricante (Debra Paget).

Also arriving is shady lawyer, Niles (Berry Kroeger), who represents another crook held for a jewel robbery during which a woman was tortured and murdered. Niles tries to coerce Rome into confessing, supposedly in exchange for a deal to escape the electric chair, by threatening to harm Teena. But Rome reacts by trying to strangle the lawyer.

In order to protect Teena from Niles and the police, Rome charms his nurse, Miss Pruett (Betty Garde), into providing the her a hiding place in her own apartment.

Rome secures a trustee (Walter Baldwin) to help him escape and goes to Niles’ office, demanding money for his and Teena’s get away. When Rome forces the lawyer to open the safe, he discovers the stolen jewels and makes Niles confess that the woman accomplice in the murder and robbery was a surly heavy-set masseuse, Rose Givens (Hope Emerson, again cast as a “phallic” woman). In their fight, Rome knifes Niles and takes the jewels, concealing them in a locker in a subway station.

Rome is being pursued by police lieutenant Candella (Victor Mature), and his partner, Lieutenant Collins (Fred Clark). Candella knows Rome’s family well, having grown up in the neighborhood.

Rome then uses old girlfriend, Brenda (Shelley Winters), to track down Rose Givens’ address. His injuries are causing him to weaken so badly that she enlists an unlicensed foreign doctor to attend to him in her car.

In the end, as Rome tries to smooth-talk Teena into going away with him, but Candella tells her about Rome’s past. Rome tries to escape, and Candella is forced to kill him.

Overall, the film is not as powerful as Siodmak’s other noirs, such as “The Killers” or “Criss Cross,” but, partly shot on location, it till conveys more vividly and realistically city’s ghetto life than other features of that era.

Like many of Siodmak’s noir features, the characters  are obsessive men, consumed by deep hatred that turns them into committed criminals.

The film’s musical score, Alfred Newman’s Street Scene, had debuted in the 1931 movie of the same name and became iconic in gangster pictures of that era.

Victor Mature as Lt. Candella
Richard Conte as Martin Rome
Fred Clark as Lt Collins
Shelley Winters as Brenda Martingale
Betty Garde as Miss Pruett
Berry Kroeger as W. A. Niles
Tommy Cook as Tony Rome
Debra Paget as Teena Ricante
Hope Emerson as Rose Givens
Roland Winters as Ledbetter
Walter Baldwin as Orvy
June Storey as Miss Boone
Tito Vuolo as Papa Rome
Mimi Aguglia as Mama Rome
Konstantin Shayne as Dr Veroff
Howard Freeman as Sullivan
Joan Miller as Vera
Dolores Castle as Rosa
Kathleen Howard as Miss Pruett’s Mother


Directed by Robert Siodmak
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay by Richard Murphy, Ben Hecht, based on The Chair for Martin Rome
1947 novel by Henry Edward Helseth
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Lloyd Ahern
Edited by Harmon Jones
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

Release date: September 29, 1948

Running time: 95 minutes