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Barbara Stanwyck was an actress of formidable talent, she was subtle, and elegant, yet she could bluster and lose control and do it with so much grace and grandeur. In Crime of Passion a 50's noir potboiler, Stanwyck plays a popular San Francisco newspaper columnist named Kathy Ferguson. Fiercely independent, Kathy prides herself on the fact that she's a career girl, and that she hasn't resorted, like most other women of her generation, to settling down to cook and clean for a man. All this changes however, when she meets and falls in love with hunky detective LA Police detective Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden). Whisked off to suburban Los Angeles, Kathy finds it hard adjusting to life as a policeman's housewife, and she's frustrated at her husband's lack of ambition. It doesn't take long for the droning petty misery of suburban life and the stifling social puddle of the detective's wives to steadily unbalance her. Without her husband's knowledge, she uses her feminine wiles to help advance his career - cleverly conspiring to associate with Alice Pope (Fay Wray) so as to get close to Chief of Detectives Tony Pope (Raymond Burr), Bill's boss. Bill remains ignorant of Kathy's dangerous schemes even when they result in him being unfairly pushed ahead of his more-qualified Captain, Charlie Alidos (Royal Dano). Things really spiral out of control when Kathy starts to put the moves on the retiring Chief Pope, in the hope that he will place Bill first on the LAPD's short list for his job. Although the story isn't remotely believable, and the Lady Macbeth-like themes are indeed quite bizarre, the film is mostly worth watching for Stanwyck's fine performance as Kathy.Read more ›
Crime of Passion is directed by Gerd Oswald and written by Jo Eisinger. It stars Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr and Fay Wray. Music is by Paul Dunlap and cinematography by Joseph LaShelle.
It's a strange one in many ways, in that it's a film of considerable intelligence and wry social critique. It even folds inwards the role of the film noir femme fatale, marking it out as fascinating. Yet it never fully delivers for dramatic purpose, leaving it as a modest entry in the last throes of the classic era film noir cycle.
Plot sees Stanwyck as Kathy Ferguson, a strong and intelligent newspaper columnist who really doesn't suffer fools gladly. However, when she helps the police with a crime she meets and falls in love with Lt. Bill Doyle (Hayden), and after a whirlwind romance she marries him and finds herself in a picket fence suburban hell. Tiring of Bill standing still, happy with his place in society, Kathy takes drastic action to elevate their life to greater heights...
Such is the quality of lead cast members doing what they did best, film manages to hold the attention from a narrative perspective, and with LaShelle's photography firmly dealing in the 50s noir realm of darkness in daylight, there's a claustrophobic atmosphere wrung out to accentuate Kathy's suburban Suzy Homemamker suffocation. The wry observations of social standings and the woman's role in the 50s home is given skilled direction by Oswald (A Kiss Before Dying), the feminist viewpoints standing tall at the front of the play.
Unfortunately all the brains and technical attributes involved in production can't hide the fact that it's very rarely exciting or suspenseful, practically crawling to a sedate resolution that isn't exactly satisfying. There's a lot of good here, making it worth a watch for fans of the stars or for those that like some brains in their noir diet. But you may end up as frustrated as I was come the end... 6/10
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United Artists presents "CRIME OF PASSION" (9 January 1957) (84 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Kathy (Barbara Stanwyck) is a smart and tough 1950's advice columnist at a San Francisco newspaper, with her name plastered on billboards all over the city --- One day, Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden), a Los Angeles detective, walks into her office and there is instant attraction --- After marrying Bill, Kathy gives up her career and becomes a homemaker --- However, she is not your typical 1950's homemaker --- After hosting several cocktail parties in their San Fernando Valley home, she realizes that Bill is content with his position, and shows no ambition in furthering himself --- Kathy will not sit idly by while everyone around her is "moving up in the world" --- She personally takes upon herself the task of pushing Bill's career along, even if it comes down to murder.
Sterling Hayden: ever the maverick, ever the individual - he preferred to sail his yacht around the world rather than act in movies. Yet despite his lack of interest in film, he was lauded and chased by the very finest directors: John Huston, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola & Stanley Kubrick. In each of his roles, Hayden's individuality showed forth whatever the genre of film: noir, adventure, western & swashbuckler.
Under the production staff of: Gerd Oswald [Director] Jo Eisinger [Screenwriter] Jo Eisinger [Story] Herman Cohen [Producer] Robert Goldstein [Executive Producer] Paul Dunlap [Original Film Music] Joseph LaShelle [Cinematographer] A. Leslie Thomas [Art Director]
BIOS: 1. Gerd Oswald [Director] Date of Birth: 9 June 1919 - Berlin, Germany Date of Deatth: 22 May 1989 - Los Angeles, California
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
WHAT SCHEMES MAY COME....11 Dec. 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
Neat, tidy little B-picture about a woman who tries to push her husband up the ladder of success only to have it backfire on her. San Francisco newspaper writer Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) meets and quickly marries macho LA detective Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden) and finds herself plopped down in the middle of suburbia. This is all well and good until she finds her role relegated to the living room with the brainless other wives while the "boys" play poker in the kitchen. Being from a newspaper, she's used to being one of the boys and not one of the "little women". She finally snaps after one too many of these evenings and starts scheming to move her husband up in the department so she can be proud of him and mingle intelligently with the upper crust where she feels they belong. Her plans go beautifully until she runs up against her biggest obstacle, Bill's boss police chief Raymond Burr. They become close and one night he shows up at Kathy's while Bill's away and confides that he needs to retire and is looking for a replacement. Kathy siezes the opportunity to sell Bill as the replacement and commits the ultimate sacrifice via a one-night-stand with Burr thinking she's cinched the "deal" for Bill. But Burr has other plans---leaving Kathy horrified and guilty over what she's done. Her next move will be murder. Stanwyck always excelled at portraying strong, driven, ambitious women and Kathy is no exception. But the film has an obvious feminist slant unusual for the time. The director and Stanwyck make it clear what motivates Kathy and why she she goes over the edge. She loves her husband enough to go all out for him but smart enough to know that she will benefit too. She's too strong a woman to just sit around and mindlessly gossip over dresses, diets and phony aspirations. Her aspirations are real because she knows what she wants for herself and her husband. And it doesn't include cream cheese and olives. For Stanwyck fans, this is an interesting addition to her gallery of headstrong women with an agenda. It's not a "great" film but it's good and worth watching.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Latter Day Barbara Stanwyck In Engrossing Crime Story5 Oct. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
"Crime of Passion", it seems is never included in the pantheon of Stanwyck classics during any retrospective of her legendary career however it makes an interesting addition to her body of film work in the mid 1950's when meaty roles for maturing actresses like Stanwyck and Bette Davis were becoming increasingly scarse. Having to spend alot of her creative time in this period appearing in westerns or television, "Crime of Passion", in a way represented a return to the type of role Barbara had made her own, the non nonsense practical woman who could match a man every step of the way in intelligence and drive. While no great classic the film benefits from a powerful performance by the seasoned Stanwyck who always knew how to play both vulnerable and tough when the situation called for it. In "Crime of Passion", she begins as a fast talking, non nonsense newspaper columnist Kathy ferguson who has no time for romantic attachments. Underneath however is a woman who wants to be loved and when the opportunity for the usual option of marriage and family offers itself Kathy impulsively jumps at it. However following that "traditional", path has its pitfalls which leads Kathy into a nightmarish world of ambition, infidelty and murder. Here is where the real power of "Crime of Passion", sits as it shows an ambitious driven woman who to "improve", the very different man she marries, is prepared to involve herself in murder to make it happen. Alot of societies expectations of this mid 1950's era, of who and what men and women "should", be are vividly brought to life in this screenplay which makes "Crime of Passion", an intriguing snapshot of another time and set of expectations.
The story opens with Kathy Ferguson (Stanwyck), leading the sort of independant, no frills life she enjoys. She is a columnist on a San Francisco newspaper offering advice to the love lorn. She is successful and respected and operates very well within a traditional man's world of journalism. When some LA detectives are brought in on a case where Kathy has been offering advise to the woman of a wanted man Kathy's life is changed forever when she encounters affable Police Lt.Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden), along with his arrogant superior Capt. Charlie Alidos (Royal Dano),who believes women should only be concerned about cooking and caring for their husbands. Bill makes a refreshing change from the usual ruff and tumble crowd Kathy is used to and before much time has passed Kathy finds herself not only resigning her position on the newspaper to be with Bill, but also marrying him and moving out into the suburban life in the San Fernando Valley. However domestic bliss as the house wife with the picture postcard suburban home soon pales for Kathy as she begins to realise very quickly the mind numbing existence she is trapped in. Not only does her domestic routine appear drab and predictable but is seems that Bill very quickly settles into this type of non challenging existence and has no desire to try an improve himself. Kathy's own intelligence is also put to the test when she must endure endless evenings of silly small talk with the other police men's wives who's thoughts dont go beyond new dresses and things to do with their homes. Kathy quickly realises she needs to take matters into her own hands to get Bill into the type of responsible positions she feels he is capable of away from this suffocating existence. Kathy sees that the real person who could make a difference is Police Captain Tony Pope (Raymond Burr)and she sets out to win over both him and his wife Alice (Fay Wray)in her plan to get Bill promoted out of his mundane job. Becoming increasingly desperate to improve things in their lives Kathy learns that Tony Pope is planning on retirement so she uses every means at her disposal to win his job for Bill. Being of a similiar character Kathy and Tony square off against each other with few illusions which ultimately results in them having a short affair which Kathy naively believes will secure Bill the coveted place in the Police hierachy. Tony however has his own private views on who should succeed him in the top position and when it becomes obvious to Kathy that Tony has no intention of naming Bill as his successor things definately turn ugly. Discarded as a momentary fling by Tony Kathy resorts to the most permanent of solutions for her problems,... murder. However this supposed solution to her situation has the opposite effect where all her schemes unravel and she eventually not only looses her marriage but finds herself convicted of murder in the first degree.
A vintage noir drama "Crime of Passion", certainly is with the usual twists and turns in the sometimes incredible proceedings but it is the performances that make it interesting viewing. Barbara Stanwyck is right at home in this type of character who is ruler of her own destiny and is smart and forward thinking. Despite her at times odd chemistry with the much more placid Sterling Hayden playing her husband the two generally combine well together while Hayden would certainly never be listed among Stanwyck's more memorable leading men. Raymond Burr in a pre "Perry Mason", acting role does well as the hardnosed Police Chief who sees through Kathy's devious thinking and pays the ultimate price for standing in her way. The scenes between Burr and Barbara Stanwyck surprisingly bristle with a real sexual tension one does not expect from one of televisions most loved personalities. "Crime of Passion", also has on offer two veteran actresses playing most interesting supporting characters here in Fay Wray as Alice the unsuspecting wife of Burr's character who befriends Kathy and Virginia Grey as Sara Alidos, Kathy's rival in her quest to have Bill promoted. Both veteran actresses have some of their best later career scenes here in particular when they are performing with Barbara Stanwyck. Perhaps the main weakness in "Crime of Passion", is the sudden turn arounds that Barbara Stanwyck's character experiences. Never for one moment can you really see her Kathy Ferguson settling for a life in suburbia however that does makes an interesting point about the role of even ambitious women at this time which most often tied their futures in with marriage and families. Also Kathy's sudden transformation into a murderess even when she realises all her plans would certainly come to nothing is a bit hard to fathom when watching it. However the often unlikely proceedings make this story great viewing and it contains an interesting late career Barbara Stanwyck performance. This film effort did at least did provide this veteran actress with a role far better than many of the others she was forced to take around this time, like alot of other maturing actresses in order to remain working.
I always enjoy Barbara Stanwyck's work in any genre she tackles and film noir is idealy suited to her. Certainly "Crime of Passion", came along quite late in her starring career but I believe late Stanwyck is better than no Stanwyck at all. Watching her play a scheming minx is always enjoyable and when blackmail or murder are thrown in you are guaranteed a enjoyable viewing experience. Supported by an interesting and most able supporting cast the star here manages to make something worthwhile of both her character and the proceedings. For a good dose of intrigue and to see the original tough lady Barbara Stanwyck in one of her many anti-heroine roles you are sure to enjoy United Artists "Crime of Passion".
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Marry in Haste.....6 Jun. 2004
Mcgivern Owen L
- Published on Amazon.com
"Crime of Passion" is a solid basic film noir. It lacks much of the dark exteriors, night shots, strange camera angles and gloomy interiors of a complete noir film but this is still the real thing. Barbara Stanwyck is a successful newspaper columnist in San Francisco. She impulsively marries an L.A. cop, Sterling Hayden. The suddenness of the marriage might signal some future "problems". The newlyweds settle down to a neat little suburban house, which would appear right at home on an "Ozzie and Harriet" set. Hayden is happy as a clam but not the Mrs! She wants more! She quickly becomes bored with the stilted little dinner parties and catty gossip of the other police wives. Who could blame her! Then Stanwyck over reaches! She has an affair with her hubby's boss. The intent was getting him a promotion. The guy is none other than Raymond Burr, the soon to be Perry Mason of 50s TV fame. Can we imagine Perry getting involved with a hot girl like Barbara? This reviewer is straining not to give away the ending, so I'll just reveal that matters start to unravel. At least one person winds up dead! The gossip columnist is out of her league. Her ploy does not exactly work. The hard-nosed ending is quite satisfying and in line with 40s and 50s cop/noir films. A star is subtracted for the rather sudden "resolution". 2 final notes: True crime fans may be appalled at one especially egregious example of shoddy police work. Does anyone remember the term "protection of evidence"? No wonder O.J. walked 35 years later! Silver and Ward's "Film Noir" states that CP was a prime example of the "malaise infecting suburbia" in the 1950s. While that does not apply to Hayden it certainly does to his conniving spouse. If only she had stayed in San Francisco!
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Criminal Intent23 May 2002
- Published on Amazon.com
This movie might have single-handedly brought on woman's lib. When middle-aged San Francisco reporter Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) meets hunky middle-aged LA cop (Sterling Hayden), she chucks her career for love. This lands her in the San Fernando Valley in the dining room listening to the unbearably grating chatter of her husband's cop buddies wives. Naturally, this drives Kathy completely bonkers (If I heard the words "cream cheese and olive" one more time, I might have gone bonkers with her), and she becomes determined to get her husband to the top <cue ominous music> at any cost! Naturally, mayhem ensues. This movie is only saved by the performance given by Barbara Stanwyck. She manages to make Kathy Ferguson a real person; she shows the real longing, desire (Barbara eyes Sterling Hayden like the prime slab 'o beef he is, and makes her intentions very clear), and smarts this woman has, and how frustration at being sidelined by society can bring out fierce competition in someone (today she'd be called manic-depressive). What's funniest about this movie is that it's so subversive. On the surface, we are supposed to be shocked, shocked I tell you, that Kathy does what she does in the name of her husband's career. On the other hand, life in the valley in the 50's is painted as so soul-destroyingly vapid, you wonder how she managed not to go on a killing spree. A really seldom seen gem that any fan of film noir should check out.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Who says 1950's suburban housewives lived dull and simple lives?3 Oct. 2005
Daniel C. Markel
- Published on Amazon.com
This review is for the 2003 MGM DVD
Barbara Stanwyck stars as Kathy Ferguson, an ambitious, independent woman who writes a relationship advice column for a San Francisco newspaper. While on the job, she gets a different assignment dealing with a Los Angeles police investigation and through some savvy detective work, helps the out of town detectives crack the case. One of the policemen is Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden) and they quickly fall for each other. But at the same time, Kathy just accepted a job with a prestigious New York paper and is clearly conflicted between going east or continuing a relationship with Bill. On impulse they elope and Kathy becomes a housewife for Bill in suburban Los Angeles. It doesn't take too long for Kathy to realize that she's too ambitious and too liberated to be a stand-by-your-man spouse and quickly devises some schemes to push Bill up the business ladder. This sets up the rest of the film where things go wildly out of control.
The movie is in some ways a slice of life picture of life in the later 1950's. The social gatherings are segregated so that the women calmly chat in one room while the men recreate and discuss business in another room. I'm sure some people viewing this movie today would argue that the Kathy Ferguson character was an oppressed victim rather than a greedy, drunk for power wife. The movie has plenty of good acting, especially from one of my all time favorite actors Raymond Burr. The irony of the movie is that this "relationship coach" turned out to be the most dysfunctional character imaginable. It's overall a very good movie, but not a great one for me. Perhaps its because the ending plays it too much by the book and also it's a bit heavy handed since it portrays housewives in the `50's as shallow, simple minded, and boring.
As for the DVD, the B&W full screen picture was near pristine with minimal graininess or contrast problems. The DVD did not have any bonus material.