Scarlet Street (1945) is The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, brought to you by a/perture Cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables. The film stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea.
Per IMDb: “When a man in mid-life crisis befriends a young woman, her venal fiance persuades her to con him out of some of the fortune she thinks he has.”
Scarlet Street is a crime drama about two criminals who take advantage of a middle-age painter, not only stealing his work but passing it off as their own. Christopher “Chris” Cross (Robinson) is a quiet, amateur painter and cashier for a major clothier who is celebrated for his dull work. When he was walking home he sees a man attacking a woman and runs him off by whacking him with an umbrella. He goes to get a police officer and the man runs off. Chris makes sure the woman, named Kitty (Bennett) gets home safely. What he doesn’t know is that the man beating her is her brash, scheming boyfriend, Johnny. Chris is married to a privileged nag named Adele who puts her first husband, a police officer who died saving a drowning girl, on a pedestal.
Because of his home life, and the thrill of attention from a much younger woman, Chris becomes enamored with Kitty but he admits that he’s unhappily married. Kitty listens to Chris talk about his paintings and the joy he gets from painting them. She knows he has a little bit of money (or at least his wife does) and with a little push from Johnny, she gets the idea that she can bamboozle him out of money. She talks him into renting an apartment for her under the guise that he could use it as a studio, since Adele doesn’t like him doing the paintings, at all, much less at home. He steals from both his wife’s insurance bonds and from his employer to afford the apartment.
Johnny really digs Chris’ paintings and decides to sell them to get some money. He can’t. However, the paintings catch the eye of a prolific art critic. When he’s approached by the critic, he pushes it off that Kitty is painting them under the name Katherine March and they make a good bit of money. Adele sees the paintings and accuses Chris of copying Katherine March’s work. When Chris confronts her, Kitty basically tells him that she needed the money and sold them. Oddly enough, instead of being ticked off at her, he’s just happy that his paintings are getting recognition. I’m going to stop here because I’ll be giving away a bunch of twists and things you may not see coming.
Of course, it’s a black and white film, being it’s from 1945. I thought Edward G. Robinson more of a gangster film actor but this was a more a subdued, at least for part of it, character from what I was expecting. That’s not a bad thing, I liked him in the role. Back in her day, Joan Bennett was quite a hottie. The other side of the like/dislike spectrum is that whilst I think it was a decent film overall, it’s not that great of a crime drama. It focuses more on deception which could be any drama film. I’d expect more actual crime, not just deception. Not that there wasn’t some in the long run but the build up seemed like it could have been a little heavier on the crime.
It was nominated for the AFI Top Gangster Film list, but I don’t understand why. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I didn’t see it as a gangster film. It wasn’t hard to follow and it was worth watching, to me. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 100% Fresh. I haven’t ever seen a 100% before. IMDb has it at 7.9 Stars out of 10. These ratings are really high, especially Rotten Tomatoes. I can’t rate it that high but, like I said, it was a good film and worth watching with twists and catches. I will rate it 3.5 stars. I saw it on Netflix and you should, too! It’s a classic!
Have you seen it? Do you agree with my assessment? Let me know your thoughts.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“If he were mean or vicious or if he’d bawl me out or something, I’d like him better.” – Kitty March (Joan Bennett)