The Scarlet Street

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“The Scarlet Street” is a thriller film from 1945 directed by Fritz Lang. The film is an American version of the French film “La chienne” from 1931, directed by the French director Jean Renoir.

“Scarlet Road” tells the story of Christopher Cross, played by Edward G. Robinson, a shy clerk in a paint company who has a great passion for painting. While walking home one day, Cross saves a young woman named Kitty March, played by Joan Bennett, from a violent attack. This chance encounter leads Cross to develop a crush on Kitty and dream of a better life with her.

“Scarlet Road” is a film noir characterized by a deep atmosphere of suspense and a dark portrayal of human nature. Director Fritz Lang creates a story of deceit, greed and tragedy in which the characters are caught up in their own actions and the consequences of their selfish desires. The film explores themes such as obsession, guilt and the illusion of a better life.

The performances of the actors are outstanding, especially Edward G. Robinson as Christopher Cross, who gives an intense and moving performance. Joan Bennett is also very convincing in the role of Kitty, managing to make the character complex and ambiguous.

“The Scarlet Street” is a classic of the noir genre and a remarkable example of the talent of Fritz Lang as director. The film offers a deep look into the human soul and its weakness in the face of temptation. It is a gripping film that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat until its tragic conclusion.

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Plot

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The plot of “The Scarlet Street” follows the story of Christopher Cross (played by Edward G. Robinson), a middle-aged salesman who spends his days working in a paint company. He is a shy man and dissatisfied with his life, but has a great passion for painting.

While walking home one day, Cross chances upon a young woman named Kitty March (played by Joan Bennett) who is being violently attacked by her boyfriend Johnny (played by Dan Duryea). Cross intervenes and saves Kitty, and begins to develop a romantic interest in her.

Kitty, who is an ambitious and unscrupulous woman, discovers that Cross is a passionate painter and begins to manipulate him. She convinces him that his artwork is outstanding and that he could have a successful career. Kitty, however, takes Cross’s paintings and sells them as her own, keeping all the profits for herself.

Also, Kitty approaches Johnny and convinces him that Cross is a wealthy businessman and that the money she receives from him is his salary. Johnny, greedy and petty, takes advantage of the situation and starts asking Cross for more and more money, threatening to reveal his alleged relationship with Kitty to her husband.

Cross, deceived and in love with Kitty, begins stealing money from her company to finance his “artistic career” and sends the money to Kitty. His obsession with her grows more and more, but his life becomes more and more complicated and turbulent due to his criminal acts.

The situation reaches a breaking point when Cross is discovered by the police and loses everything: his job, his savings and his reputation. Tragedy occurs when Cross, now desperate and out of control, commits an act of violence that will change the course of their lives forever.

“The Scarlet Street” is a dark and dramatic story that explores the themes of obsession, guilt and the illusion of a better life. The protagonist, Cross, is drawn into a maelstrom of deceit and greed that will lead to tragic consequences for all the characters involved.

Movie Characters

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“The Scarlet Street” features several key characters:

Christopher Cross (played by Edward G. Robinson): He is the protagonist of the film, a shy and dissatisfied man who works as a clerk in a paint company. He is fond of painting and becomes obsessed with Kitty March, manipulated by her ambition and deceived in her actions.

Kitty March (portrayed by Joan Bennett): She is the young woman that Cross saves from the violent attack. Kitty is an unscrupulous and ambitious woman. She takes advantage of Cross’s interest in painting and manipulates him into stealing his paintings and money. She is involved in a relationship with Johnny and finds herself at the center of the film’s deceptions and tragic events.

Johnny Prince (played by Dan Duryea): He is Kitty’s boyfriend and an unscrupulous con man. He is convinced by Kitty that Cross is a wealthy businessman and takes advantage of the situation to extort money from Cross. Johnny becomes a major threat to Cross, helping to create tension and tragedy in the story.

Millie Ray (played by Margaret Lindsay): She is Johnny’s wife. She is an unhappy woman and dissatisfied with her marriage. Millie develops an interest in Cross’s painting, believing them to be Kitty’s work. His involvement in the story leads to further complications and drama.

These main characters weave in a web of deception, obsession and tragedy throughout the film, creating a gripping and complex plot in the context of the noir genre.

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Production

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The film “The Scarlet Street” was directed by Fritz Lang and produced by Universal Pictures. It was released in theaters in 1945.

Austrian-born director Fritz Lang is known for his significant contributions to the noir genre and German expressionist cinema. Before Scarlet Road, he had directed other major noir films such as Monster of Düsseldorf (1931) and Lost City (1935). With Scarlet Road, Lang continued to explore the dark and psychological themes typical of the genre.

Universal Pictures, a major Hollywood production house, financed and distributed the film. The collaboration between Fritz Lang and the studio resulted in the creation of a film that reflected the characteristic style and aesthetics of the noir genre.

The film’s production was done on a relatively modest budget, but it was made up for by Lang’s technical mastery of creating bleak and atmospheric atmospheres. The film was shot in black and white, which helped to accentuate the dark and dramatic atmosphere.

‘Scarlet Road’ was well received by critics upon its release and has earned an enduring reputation as one of the classics of the noir genre. The performance of the main actors, the direction of Fritz Lang and the gripping plot contributed to the success of the film.

The production of ‘Scarlet Road’ is a prime example of how studios and filmmakers worked together to make blockbusters during Hollywood’s heyday.

Distribution and Reception

“The Scarlet Street” was released in theaters on December 28, 1945 by Universal Pictures. The film received a good reception from the public and critics, over time becoming a classic of the noir genre.

Critically, ‘The Scarlet Street’ was praised for its gripping story and performances by the lead actors. In particular, Edward G. Robinson was lauded for his poignant and moving performance as Christopher Cross. Fritz Lang’s direction was praised for its ability to create a strong atmosphere of suspense and its dark depiction of human nature.

Despite critical acclaim, ‘Scarlet Road’ has met with some controversy due to its theme and negative portrayal of society. The Production Code Administration (PCA), the body that regulated the film industry at the time, objected to the portrayal of immorally ambiguous characters and the way the film appeared to challenge the moral codes of the time. However, after some editing and cutting, the film was finally approved for distribution.

Despite these controversies, ‘Scarlet Road’ was a box office hit and has gained a fan following over the years. The film helped establish noir as an important cinematic style and inspired many subsequent works.

Today, “The Scarlet Street” is considered one of the best noir films of the 1940s and a classic of the genre. Its tangled story, dark atmosphere and memorable performances continue to resonate with film fans and have left a lasting impression on the history of films.

Style

The style of “The Scarlet Street” reflects the distinctive characteristics of the noir genre and director Fritz Lang’s mastery of using visual elements to create dark and suggestive atmospheres.

The film is shot in black and white, which helps to emphasize the contrast between light and shadow, creating an atmosphere of mystery and tension. The use of expressive lighting and elongated shadows add a sense of drama and ambiguity to the scenes.

Lang also uses careful visual composition to emphasize the characters’ emotions. The use of close-up shots and shots and reverse shots allows you to capture the facial expressions and reactions of the protagonists, making their emotional complexity evident.

Furthermore, the film features a non-linear narrative, with flashbacks and unconventional editing, which help to heighten the sense of suspense and gradually reveal the intricate plot.

Stylistically, “The Scarlet Street” embraces recurring themes of the noir genre, such as alienation, obsession, guilt and delusion. The protagonist, Christopher Cross, represents an ordinary man who is dragged into a dark and corrupt world, thus reflecting the aspect of human frailty. The dark and oppressive atmosphere emphasizes the struggle between good and evil, and the characters often find themselves caught up in the consequences of their choices.

Overall, the style of “The Scarlet Street” is characterized by a masterful use of cinematography, lighting and visual composition to create a tense atmosphere and to bring to life the dark and tragic story of the film.

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Director

The director of “The Scarlet Street” is Fritz Lang. Lang was born on December 5, 1890 in Vienna, Austria, and is considered one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. He is known for his influence in 1920s German Expressionist cinema and his significant contributions to the noir genre.

Lang began his career as a theater screenwriter and director, but found his success in cinema after directing the silent film ‘Destiny’ in 1919. Throughout the 1920s, he made several films that paid homage to the aesthetic of German Expressionism, including “Metropolis” (1927) and “M – The Düsseldorf Monster” (1931).

After his move to the United States in 1934 due to the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany, Lang continued to direct successful films. He worked with major Hollywood studios and directed such films as “Portrait Woman” (1944) and “Scarlet Road” (1945), which have become classics of the noir genre.

Lang’s directing style is characterized by masterful use of light and shadow, incisive storytelling and the ability to create intense and suspenseful atmospheres. His films often explore dark and psychological themes, highlighting moral conflicts and human foibles.

Fritz Lang had a successful career and influenced many subsequent directors. His ability to mix extraordinary visual elements with complex themes has made him a leading figure in the world film scene. He is considered one of the great masters of cinema and his contribution to the noir genre is widely recognized and appreciated.

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