“Human Desire” (1954) starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, & Broderick Crawford

Director Fritz Lang said that his American films of the 1950s were “all about fate.” He never saw the characters as evil; they were “people who succumbed to social evils.” This film was made right after The Big Heat– a must-see for fans of noir and classics. We have the re-teaming of Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame, who work very well together. Human Desire was shot on location in Oklahoma. Director of Photography (DP), Burnett Guffey, won Oscars for From Here to Eternity and Bonnie and Clyde. Suiting the dark subject material, the look is grim and gritty. There is much use of shadows, most notably in the scenes where the lovers are alone. Trains are often heard in the background- wheels, whistles, and even going off the tracks.

Jeff Warren (Ford), a Korean War vet, returns to his railroad engineer job and boards at the home of his older friend/co-worker, Alec Simmons (Edgar Buchanan) and his family. He’s amused by Alec’s daughter, Ellen (Kathleen Case), who has an obvious crush. Vicki (Grahame) is the young wife of a middle-aged rail supervisor, Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford). After the hot-tempered Carl is fired for insubordination, he begs Vicki to intercede on his behalf w/ John Owens, a rich/powerful businessman. Vicki’s mother was Owens’ housekeeper; his influence could get Carl his job back. When Carl suspects Vicki slept w/ Owens, he beats Vicki and forms a plan to get revenge. Jeff meets Vicki, not knowing that she’s married.

You see, the war messed him up. He can’t be in a normal relationship. He has to somehow degrade himself in being w/ Vicki. He’s even willing to commit a crime for her. -Ileana Douglas (actor/film buff)

There is mention of war and killing, though not much detail is provided by Jeff. Under his regular guy persona, something is hidden which draws him toward the troubled Vicki (instead of the carefree Ellen). After Jeff helps Vicki take the drunken Carl home, there is a (semi-erotic) scene. Grahame unbuttons her blouse part of the way, pulls it off one shoulder, and reveals the bruises inflicted by her abusive husband. Later on, when they kiss in the abandoned shed, Ford buries his fingers in Grahame’s hair and yanks her head back (yowza)! While these may seem tame (by today’s standards), I’m sure they surprised audiences in 1954. See comment (below) for the full movie.

[1] This film features interesting photography and lighting typical of this style of film – I especially like the way the train scenes are shot, with the camera strapped to the front of the train, giving a first-person ride along the railroad tracks.

[2] Grahame is a revelation as the amoral wife stung by unfulfillment, sleazy yet sexy. Grahame makes Vicki both alluring and sympathetic.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

3 thoughts on ““Human Desire” (1954) starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, & Broderick Crawford

  1. Have you ever seen “All the King’s Men”? I’m watching it now (Broderick Crawford stars). John Derek’s in it too. If you’ve seen it, what do you think of it as a noir?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.