The Killers (1946)

I know, I know. This is the third Burt Lancaster film noir I’ve written about in the last month. I can’t help it: Lancaster was in some of the finest noirs ever made. I’ll endeavor to exorcise the Burt demon by making him the subject of this week’s Sunday Dozen. He was in as many great films as Bogie, after all.

The Killers was Burt Lancaster’s screen debut and the movie that made a star of Ava Gardner. It even received some Oscar love as Robert Siodmak was nominated for best director and Anthony Veiller for best screenplay. Film noirs were rarely nominated. Its literary origins may have had something to do with it.

The Killers was based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway who was hot hot hot in 1946. It appeared in this issue of Scribner’s Magazine:

Ava Gardner plays a femme fatale who leads Burt Lancaster astray into a life of crime. He’s a former boxer who finds himself on the run but is discovered by these guys:

Those are the killers of the title played by Charles McGraw and William Conrad. They had two of the best voices in movie history. McGraw’s was gravelly and Conrad’s was deep, deep, deep. They became film noir fixtures.

How noir is The Killers? It’s told in flashbacks as Edmond O’Brien investigates Burt’s death that’s how noir it is.

The Killers was remade by Don Siegel in 1964. It’s one of the few remakes that nearly equals the original. I’ll write about the 1964 version in this space next week.

Grading Time: The Killers is the noir’s noir, so I give it 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A.

Let’s get all arty and shit.

We begin with the quad poster.

It’s time to be a card and go to the lobby.

We return to the land of color lobby cards for a black and white movie.

I dig Ava in that canary yellow outfit. Did she wear it for Frank?

It’s time for a marginally relevant musical interlude:

Back to The Killers. Here’s the trailer:

I couldn’t find any Eddie Muller intros, so his TCM frenemy Ben Mankiewicz  gets the last word.

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