Fritz Lang brings his eye for the bleak to this grim but brilliant noir (done before in a 1931 French film, LA CHIENNE, which featured Michel Simon and director Jean Renoir). Robinson, a cashier for a large New York city clothing retailer, spends his spare time painting. At a company banquet held in his honor for two decades of employment, he is characterized...read more
Fritz Lang brings his eye for the bleak to this grim but brilliant noir (done before in a 1931 French film, LA CHIENNE, which featured Michel Simon and director Jean Renoir). Robinson, a cashier for a large New York city clothing retailer, spends his spare time painting. At a company
banquet held in his honor for two decades of employment, he is characterized as one of those faceless people who make things tick but never receive their due, except at dinners like this. When Robinson leaves the party, he finds Bennett being attacked in the street. He fends off the mugger by
using his umbrella as a saber and takes Bennett to have a quiet drink at a bar. Robinson finds this young woman fascinating and can't bear to tell her what he really does for a living, so he lies about it and lets her think he is a renowned artist. Robinson is married to Ivan, a shrewish woman who
heckles him unmercifully for his lack of ambition. It isn't long before he thinks he is in love with Bennett, who continues to lead him on and doesn't make him aware of her relationship with Duryea, a hoodlum living on the edge of legality. Since they reckon that Robinson is a good mark, Bennett
and Duryea conspire to have him rent a studio where he can meet Bennett for their trysts. Robinson does that and hauls several of his art works to the studio. Duryea brings in a professional critic, Barker, to look at the work; he is impressed. The cost of maintaining the separate residence is
cutting into Robinson's savings, and he is at a loss to figure how to pay for his passion. Duryea removes Robinson's name from the art and puts Bennett's signature on the work. Robinson is annoyed at this, but when the pictures are acknowledged to be the work of a talented person, Robinson takes
solace in the fact that someone appreciates him. Robinson begins to embezzle cash from his company, then learns that Ivan's first husband, long thought dead, is actually still alive. That means he can divorce Ivan and marry Bennett. When he races to the studio to tell Bennett the good news, he
finds her and Duryea in each other's arms. He watches surreptitiously until Duryea exits, then walks in and has a confrontation with Bennett. When she taunts him with the news that he's been a patsy all along, he does something he (even more, perhaps, than Duryea) will regret the rest of his days.
One of the quintesstial expressions of the noir sensibility, SCARLET STREET does not flinch from the harsher aspects of its sordid story. Robinson, Bennett and Duryea are all in splendid form, and the incredible visuals entrap the feckless Robinson long before plot circumstances do. The paintings
for the film were done by John Decker, the artist who palled around with such luminaries as Errol Flynn, John Barrymore, and W.C. Fields.
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