"There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them." That's the end of the movie, and it's a famous line. The start of the movie shows people going about their lives in New York City. Waking up, catching the subways, working, going home. And, for one young woman late at night shown in her dark apartment through window blinds, being murdered.
This is a gritty police procedural with New York City as the star. It's right after the end of WWII, it's summer and it's hot. Trucks still deliver blocks of ice, and a cold draft root beer costs five cents. Jean Dexter was a good time girl who wanted to be rich. She could be very friendly with men who had money. She's found in her overflowing bath tub, but she also had been chloroformed. Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) is assigned to the case. To help him he gets Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor), a young cop new to the homicide squad. Their painstaking, methodical search for evidence leads them all over the city. A picture of a clever jewel robbery ring aimed at society figures takes shape, and eventually leads to a brutal member of the gang who decided he wanted a bigger cut. The last ten minutes of the film is a classic chase scene through the streets of Brooklyn and up onto the Williamsburg Bridge.
What makes this movie so special is that it was entirely shot on location, on the streets, in the tenement backyards, in real offices and apartments, in the New York morgue and on top of the Williamsburg Bridge towers. You can see people in the background turn and look startled as the actors chase past them, or bump into an actor in a crowd scene and hurry on. Mark Hellinger was a famous New York columnist who turned movie producer. This was his last film before he died. Among other movies, he produced Brute Force and The Killers. He provides the ironic voice over. The movie is a little dated in the dialogue and with some of the characters, but on balance it's well worth watching. Jules Dassin keeps things moving. Fitzgerald underplays. Ted de Corsia doesn't have a lot of screen time, but he makes a vivid, brutal, sweating killer.