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Crime has been a basic staple of the studios since George Raft and Paul Muni appeared in Howard Hawks' the Scarface (1933.) 

A few facts about  Crime movies.

There was another sub category in this genre and that was Film Noir or Cinema Noir.  Film Noir was invariably made in black and white.  The hero and/or the heroine usually had flawed characters.  There was drama and suspense.  The whole tone of the movie was dark and even morbid at times.  Submit your Thriller, Crime or Suspense reviews.

The genre was invented by the French with accomplished actors such as Jean Gabin, Charles Vanel, Jean Servais and Yves Montand playing main characters.

Rififi (1955) directed by American expatriate Jules Dassin better known in the English speaking world for his Never on Sunday movie.  Les Diaboliques (1955) and the Wages of Fear (1953) both directed by Henri-George Clouzot were some of the more successful films that made the international scene. The American studios soon picked up on the idea and many good films were produced in this genre.

Some of the best ones were the Asphalt Jungle (1955) directed by John Houston, This Gun for Hire (1942) directed by Frank Tuttle, White Heat (1949) with James Cagney as a gangster with an Oedipus complex directed by Raoul Walsh.  Kiss of Death directed by Henry Hathaway in 1947 introduced Richard Widmark as a psychopathic killer.  The scene where he, with his sick grin and evil eyes, pushes the old lady in a wheelchair down the stairs is one of the most harrowing scenes ever filmed.  It established him as a major star.

Golden rules they teach you at the crime school and are usually ignored by the movie and TV villains.

Rule one, if you use a gun and shoot someone, wipe it clean and drop it as soon as you can. Even if it is your own gun and it cost hundreds of dollars.  You can always claim that it was lost or stolen.

Rule two, if the police ask you questions; inquire if you are under arrest

Rule three, never ever say anything to the police without your lawyer. Even if it can clear you.

Rule Four, if the police persist in asking you any questions ask for a lawyer. Do not let them browbeat you or intimidate you by saying that if you are not guilty you do not need a lawyer.

Rule Five, do not trust the police especially if they say that they can help you make a deal before things get worse. That is their ploy.

Rule Six, remember that the police are trained to lie to get confessions. It is a fact and is allowed by law.

Rule Seven.  Don't believe it if they say that they have witnesses to put you at the scene of the crime or your accomplice has confessed or your DNA result shows that you are the guilty one so you better make a deal now.  It is usually all a bluff. Ask for a lawyer and shut up.

Rule Eight. do not accept drinks or food from the police while being questioned.  That is a ploy to make you want to go to the bathroom. Then they will ignore your request to make you desperate and make a confession.  If necessary relieve yourself in your pants.  They won't like it and you may get slapped around, but then you are off the hook.

The British director Sir Carol Reed made one of the best and darkest Film Noirs in 1949, The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard.  It was shot on location in Vienna almost right after the war with wrecked buildings and total destruction adding an air of reality to it.  It is a little known fact that Carol Reed  wanted Cary Grant to play the villain instead of Orson Wells and what an even better movie that could have been since Cary Grant, despite his outer charm, had a streak of cruelty which had shone through several of his earlier movies.  However, Cary Grant was too expensive for the studio.

The Hollywood dramas and Film Noirs suffered from an imposed handicap which was the production code.  For those interested, the reason for the production code was as follows.

The movies of the time were generally free from censorship.  In fact, there were nudity and erotic scenes in some early movies. 

In l920's the famous silent movie star, Fatty Arbuckle gave a party in his suite on the 12 th floor of the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco.  During that event a starlet by the name of Virginia Rappe died from an overdose of drinking and other stomach complications.  During those years there had also been other reports about Hollywood celebrities dying from drug overdose and also allegations of homosexuality which was unacceptable in those days.

Soon Hollywood was named Sin City by the media and a huge outcry of indignation from the puritan press and the elected officials followed.  The death of Virginia Rappe had nothing to do with Fatty Arbuckle or the movie industry.  However, the populace was demanding blood.  Fatty Arbuckle was tried three times for Virginia Rappe's manslaughter and was eventually acquitted.  Like, another talented actor Paul Reubens sixty years later, Fatty Arbuckle did not get another acting role for many years.  He managed to direct several movies under an assumed name.  As a matter of interest, suites 1219 and 1220 in the San Francisco's Saint Francis Hotel, where the incidence occurred, are the most sought after rooms.  To book them you have to call the hotel manager directly.

To forestall government action, the movie studios decided to create their own watchdog and a set of rules.  To that end they hired the former postmaster of the United States a man by the name of Will Hays to be the arbitrator of good taste.  A stout Christian, he developed a series of strict rules that the studios agreed to voluntarily follow.  These production codes were known as the Hayes code.  Some of the major point of Hayes code was as follows:

No Nudity, No sleeping by men and women in the same bed, no one committing a criminal act even a minor one should get away with it.  No violence.  No overt suggestion of sexual acts or cohabitation even among married couples.  The last item was cause of some fun.  Many people in other countries assumed that married Americans slept in separate beds, since that was the only way that they were depicted in the movies.  Hays was generally an amiable fellow and was willing to bend his rules but his successor Joseph Breen implemented the rules with an iron hand.

So, it is amazing that Hollywood directors managed to make many wonderful films following these restrictions.  Unfortunately, many good movies had anti-climatic endings when the main character was killed off or sent to jail to satisfy the Hays production code as implemented by Joseph Breen.  Some of the great stars of this period were Robert Taylor, George Raft, James Cagney, Edward G.Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and English import Sidney Greenstreet. 

I would like to pay tribute to three movies of that period, Casablanca a drama and a Film Noir, The Maltese Falcon one of my all time favorites and finally a refreshing surprise was Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson and Barbra Stanwyck.  Billy Wilder selected Fred MacMurray who was a comedian for the title role.  Fred MacMurray a first, refused to play the role.  He was so distressed that he confessed to Billy Wilder that he did not know how to act. Billy Wilder did not pay attention and forced him into the role. With Billy Wilder's direction and help from his two talented co stars, he did a great job.  I would have given them all academy awards, if I were around and had the choice. Well the era ended and so did true Film Noir.

Other Crime movies.

Ever since Scarface in 1933, there has always been a fascination with organized crime.  In the early years of television the Untouchable series made a big star of Robert Stack.  Al Capone and Mafia (La Cosa Nostra) have always been subjects of great interest to the public. Movies such as the Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond in 1960 glorified these characters in a favorable light even though that probably was not the intention of the directors.  In recent years we have seen the Mobsters (1991) with F. Murray Abraham and Christian Slater and the Bronx Tale (1993) with a very believable performance by Chazz Palminteri

Agatha Christie stories have always been a major source of material for the film makers and TV producers. Witness for the Prosecution (1957) another Billy Wilder movie with Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich and the incomparable Charles Laughton remains one of the best adaptations.  This was also probably Tyrone Power's best performance in a short movie career.  In the fifties and sixties Margaret Rutherford played Miss Marples in several enjoyable movies.

Then in the 1960's, Mario Puzo wrote his best seller book The Godfather.  The book was soon made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola.  The movie which starred Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan was extremely successful and was eventually followed by Godfather II and Godfather III. 

Rule Nine. A guilty conscience for life is better than even a single night in the Jail.

Rule Ten. If the police beat you up and you are guilty and even if you are not, take it, keep quiet and ask for a lawyer.

Rule Eleven.  Once the police or the DA make up their mind that you are a reasonable suspect they will stop looking for other explanations or suspects.  Your goose is cooked!