Panic in the Streets (1950): Kazan’s Oscar-Nominated Message Thriller, Starring Richard Widmark

In 1950, Elia Kazan directed “Panic in the Streets,” a taut noir thriller with a poignant social message that goes beyond the feature’s plague‑scare plot.

The movie played to great acclaim at the Venice Film Fest, and while the critics liked it, it was nonetheless a commercial flop, partly due to its large budget (it was shot on location).

Splendidly shot in black-and-white in and around New Orleans, Louisiana by the lenser Joe MacDonald, the film is penned by Richard Murphy and Daniel Fuchs, based on the story by husband and wife team, Edna and Edward Anhalt, who won an Oscar Award.

A public health officer, Captain Reed (well played by Richard Widmark) and police officer (Paul Douglas) try to track down two fugitives (Jack Palance and Zero Mostel) that might be carrying a deadly virus.

They have only one day to prevent to prevent an epidemic of pneumonic plague after Reed determines a waterfront homicide victim offers crucial clues.

The movie is also known for featuring the screen debut of Jack Palance and Tommy Rettig (who plays Reed’s son), and Zero Mostel in one of his last appearance before being blacklisted.

The excellent ensemble also includes Barbara Bel Geddes as the health official’s wife, who craves to have a child.

 

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Motion Picture Story: Edna Anhalt and Edward Anhalt

Oscar Awards: 1

Motion Picture Story

Oscar Context:

The other nominees in this category were William Bowers and Andre de Toth for “The Gunfighter,” Giuseppe De Santis and Carlo Lizzani for “Bitter Rice,” Sy Gomberg for “When Willie Comes Marching Home,” and Leonard Spiegelglass for “Mystery Street.”