“The Naked City” (1948)

Jean Dexter, a 26 y.o. pretty/blonde model, is found murdered in her apt. by her maid. Two homicide detectives- a veteran of the force w/ a lilting Irish accent- Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald)- and young rookie- Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor)- are sent to investigate. Suspicion falls on various characters who ALL have some connection w/ a string of burglaries in high-end apts. Then, a burglar is found dead who once had a partner named “Willie.” The climax is V fast-paced manhunt.

The film made history for its use of 100+ exterior locations. It was filmed (in a semi-documentary style) almost entirely on the streets of NYC! Most of these scenes were shot w/o the public’s knowledge; photographer William H. Daniels and his (uncredited) assistant, Roy Tripp, filmed using a hidden camera from the back of an old moving van. In some cases, a fake newsstand w/ a hidden camera inside was set up on the sidewalk to film the actors. The director, Jules Dassin, hired a juggler to distract the crowds from filming. In other cases, a man was hired to climb up on a light post and give a patriotic speech (waving the American flag) to get the crowd’s attention. This is one of the 1st films to list technical (non-acting) credits at the end; this has become the norm since the ’80s.

A young Stanley Kubrick was sometimes present on the set taking photos for Look magazine. Miss Dexter’s apt building is shown as “52 West 83rd Street;” the facade is actually the Lathrop, at 46 West 83rd St. (a short walk from Central Park). The police building shown after she is found was the NYPD police headquarters; the building is still there, located at Centre and Grand Streets (now luxury condos). NYPD’s 10th precinct (where the lead detectives are based) is in the same building at 230 W. 20th St, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The two young ladies outside the dress shop talk re: the Waldorf Astoria Hotel w/ Frank singing; this was likely a reference to Frank Sinatra (often seen at that famous hotel). Halloran’s family (doting wife and young son) lives in a rowhouse in Jackson Heights, Queens (where I lived for about 4 yrs).

If you’re a fan of police procedural dramas (such as “Law and Order,” then this film will definitely be of interest to you! Cops (w/ various quirks/accents) make funny quips, then pound the pavement tirelessly looking for clues. They face disappointment at times, then suddenly are faced w/ danger (of course- that’s the nature of the job). NYC is like another character in the story!

[1] The crime itself is not that interesting, but the style used to tell the tale (with a voice-over narration telling us at the conclusion that this is just one story in a city of millions) is what makes it far superior to most detective stories. That and the fact that New York City is given the spotlight for location photography that really hits the mark.

[2] This film is in many ways a good example of Film Noir–since it portrays a murder and its investigation, has a classic Noir-style ending and has some very “dark” story elements. However, unlike traditional Film Noir, the dialog and lighting are much more like a traditional film–less snappy dialog and more of an emphasis on conventional police work.

[3] The performances are adequate. Don Taylor is bland and doesn’t have any accent but he’s easy to identify with, at least for me, because he’s so pleasant and handsome. Barry Fitzgerald his smile is almost a mile wide, a caricature of itself, a lovable guy.

[4] …the real star of The Naked City is 1948 New York… No accident that The Naked City won Oscars for black and white cinematography and editing.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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