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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Naked City

One of eight million stories

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1948) There are eight million stories in the Naked City, and this is one of them, narrator and producer Mark Hellinger announces, informing the audience that this film of semi-documentary format, from a story by Malvin Wald and directed by Jules Dassin, was entirely shot on locations in New York City. Later it inspired the ABC-TV program, airing from 1958-63, of the same name.

During the night two men murder a woman while elsewhere factory workers perform the night shift and a dj spins the tunes; most people are asleep. Later a man knocks a drunk on the head with a piece of wood and throws the body into the East River as ordinary people are waking up to begin their day of doing ordinary things. But, the narrator states, "For this woman," Martha Swenson, 42, a widow and houseworker, "the day will not be ordinary" after she discovers her employer, Miss Jean Dexter, 26, dead in the bathtub.

From the 16th precinct station, Lt Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) - an Irish-American detective of 38 years with the police department, 22 of them in the homicide division - takes over the case along with 26-year-old detective Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor). The medical examiner determines: "No accident. No suicide."

A search for fingerprints comes up with only smudges; a bottle of prescription sleeping pills is recovered from under the bed; jewelry is missing but a rare black-star sapphire ring was on the victim's finger; a pair of fancy men's pajamas is found. Mrs Swenson provides the police with the names of two men Miss Dexter entertained in her apartment: Philip Henderson (about 50) from Baltimore and Frank Niles (Howard Duff). "A heavy case," admits Lt Muldoon.

Questions, legwork and brainwork, begin to produce clues. First, during an interrogation Frank Niles, after hesitating to acknowledge his acquaintance with Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart), a model with "lovely long legs" who worked in the same fashion shop with Miss Dexter, admits to being her fiancé; then he's caught fabricating a military war record and a business. However, he has a solid alibi of having been at the Trinidad Club, where he spent $50, at the time of the murder.

Dr Stoneman (House Jameson) tells the detectives that he made the prescription for Miss Dexter, whom he saw as a patient only once, though he tried to caution her about her use of stimulants. At the mortuary Jean's parents, Mr and Mrs Batory, of Polish extraction, identify their daughter; before bursting into tears, Mrs Batory repeatedly exclaims: "I hate her … for what she's done to us," bringing on this scandal. "Wanting too much," the mother says, Jean's wanting to be rich and happy in the big city, changing her name, "That's why she went wrong." As for having a brother in India, Jean was an only child.

From a study of the photographs of the victim's body, Lt Muldoon concludes there must have been an accomplice, "J.P. McGillicuddy" as he calls him. The following morning, the narrator intones, the story of Jean Dexter's murder became "the marmalade on 10,000 pieces of toast."

A collection of stolen items proves to have threads connecting themselves to various persons of interest. Lt Muldoon and detective Halloran accompany Miss Morrison to Niles's apartment where they find him unconscious (same anesthetic used as on Jean Dexter) as a heavyset but agile man eludes Halloran down the fire escape and onto the el.

When the body of Peter Backalis turns up in the East River, Halloran investigates the coincidences of two drownings on the same night, leading him to a new angle on the Dexter murder involving former wrestler Willie Garzah (Ted de Corsia), "the gimmick in this case." The conclusion has a dramatic fall from the height of a bridge above the city where Jean Dexter's name and face were worth five cents a day for six days.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)