User Reviews (80)

Add a Review

  • rupie1 September 2000
    This top-notch police story rises far above the norm for its type. A true example of ensemble acting, the film incorporates many well-known character actors all putting in first-rate work, led by the superb efforts of Kirk Douglas and William Bendix, the latter in what may be his best screen role. This may be one of the earliest examples of the "typical day" genre, in which multiple story lines occurring in a single day in a certain locale are melded into a whole (a genre exemplified by the "Hill Street Blues" and "Barney Miller" of tv). An excellent script and good direction, aided by interesting characters, keep the dramatic tension moving along briskly to the searing conclusion. This is not your run-of-the-mill police story, and is definitely worth a see.
  • In one day in the 21st Precinct of New York, many criminals are booked after being arrested: a shoplifter is brought after stealing a purse in a department store; two burglars with extensive criminal record are captured by a policeman burgling an apartment; the small time embezzler Arthur Kindred (Craig Hill), who is primary, is arrested without any resistance. The tough Detective McLeod (Kirk Douglas), who loves his wife Mary (Eleanor Parker), is an honest detective with strong principles and code of honor and zero tolerance. He is near to conclude a case against an abortionist, Dr. Karl Schneider (George Macready), with the testimony of a witness that is coming to identify Dr. Schneider in the precinct. However, the woman is bribed and the upset McLeod hits Schneider, and he insinuates to McLeod's chief, Lt. Monaghan (Horace McMahon), that the problem is personal and gives the name of Mary McLeod. Lt. Monaghan invites Mary to come to his office for investigation, when deep innermost secrets of her past are disclosed leading to a tragedy.

    "Detective Story" is amazingly intense and full of emotions in spite of being shot practically in only one scenario in the interior of the precinct. Kirk Douglas gives an outstanding performance, developing a complex character that sees his principles destroyed in a couple of hours with a great intensity. Eleanor Parker is also fantastic, in the dramatic and heartbreaking role of Mary McLeod. The direction of William Wyler is perfect as usual. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "Chaga de Fogo" ("Sore of Fire")
  • An assortment of detectives and an assortment of criminals, all gathered together under the oppressive 21st Precint roof. It's a day that nobody present will ever forget - for better or worse...

    Directed by William Wyler (Best years Of Our Lives, Ben-Hur & Wuthering Heights) and starring Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O'Donnell and Joseph Wiseman.

    Detective Story is based on the smash hit Broadway play by Sidney Kingsley, adapted by Phillip Yordan and Robert Wyler, it's with much relief to me that the worry of it being a stagy production never actually materialises. Practically set on one bleak, but quite excellently appropriate set (creation courtesy of Hal Pereira & Earl Hedrick), Detective Story manages to rise above the very simple plot by boasting interesting characters in a pot boiling story just waiting to reach its peak. Each character has much to offer the film, be it oddly quirky or overtly intense, within the confines of this particular precinct, the characters create engrossing drama.

    It's a difficult film to sell without giving too much away, by outlaying the character persona's and mental fortitude's, I personally feel that it will dull the impact of this influential crime genre piece. It's got real raw emotive acting, particularly from Kirk Douglas as Jim McLeod and Eleanor Parker as his wife Mary, while the technical aspects (watch Lee Garmes' camera glide like a third party witness) are impressively high. And with it embracing as it does, morality themes, it also doesn't lack for interest to the cranial head scratching crowd.

    It's by definition to me an all encompassing picture, one that is now sure to be a perennial viewing in my home. It's not a standard crime picture, and it most definitely is a talky film, but this works incredibly well, so one can only hope that many others will feel the same as myself, in that namely that it is indeed a fine and essential genre piece. 8/10
  • A play which tells the story of a day in the lives of the several people who populate a police precinct translates more or less transparently between mediums, though with its theatrical pace results in a vigorous, enthralling drama with a solid, receptive cast. Kirk Douglas, playing the central cop, a brooding maverick who can't stand having to stop at the line between law and vengeance, is very intense in particular, the breadth of view of a crystallizing soul masqueraded by rigor and command, which makes for some delicate scenes with his wife, Eleanor Parker. The very natural William Bendix is one of the other officers in the precinct, a cop with a delicate sensibility, the clear contrast to the uncompromising protagonist. But the film's brightest highlights are the few moments dominated by the brilliant Lee Grant, whose character seems non-sequitary yet has a refreshing outside-world quality. Dense with lively exhibitions of the sort of devil-may-care influx that transits and languishes through a workday of plainclothes detectives, it is a police procedural not in the traditional sense. There is no central case over which our detectives toil. There is simply an allotment of arrests and conflicting views on the confines of police work.

    While this Edgar-winning cop drama stays in effect a filmed play, William Wyler uses the innate limitations of such a project as a creative outlet, as well as his widely known grating approach multiple retakes. The cooped up setting is not just a space where all manner of characters eyeball each other and interplay. It complements the lurking gist of the story's thematic elements and overall to the film's dramatic impact. The staging of the individual scenes, which a lot of the time plays on foreground-background relationships, is intensified by Lee Garmes's deep-focus cinematography, a consistent device used by Wyler throughout his body of work no matter how much he diversifies in genre and tone.

    The core of Wyler's consistency throughout his tremendous career is his insistence on emotional truth, thus his enraging approach to directing actors, and thus his track record with directing Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning performances. Wyler's discretion of angle exposes or intimates more character than the last and apprehends the decisive sensibility to give significance to the experience of seeing the film. He didn't coin anything new. He didn't use unprecedented angles or logistically fussy dolly takes. He's discerning from the acknowledged bill of fare of long shot, medium shot and close-up as the atmosphere of the scene calls for.
  • Adapted from a stage play by Sidney Kingsley, "Detective Story" depicts a day at a New York police precinct in the early 1950's. The film resembles a feature-length episode of "Barney Miller" without the jokes as the detectives bring various shoplifters, petty thieves, and embezzlers into the station for booking. However, the film does not lack humor as a broad hammy performance by Joseph Wiseman and an only slightly subtler take on a Brooklynese shoplifter by Lee Grant lighten up the often heavily dramatic proceedings.

    The central character, Detective Jim McLeod, is an unforgiving, by-the-book veteran, who sees the world in black and white, good versus evil, with no shades of gray in between. Kirk Douglas brings McLeod to life in one of his finest, most powerful performances. Douglas's Oscar-caliber work is matched by a fragile, deeply felt performance by Eleanor Parker as McLeod's wife, who harbors a secret from her past that, unknown to either McLeod or his wife, connects back to an on-going police case. The scenes between Douglas and Parker are among the best in the film.

    Veteran director William Wyler retains most of the play's action in the central precinct room and only occasionally breaks from the claustrophobic set for a breather. Lee Garmes photographed "Detective Story" in crisp black and white, and some of the shots of New York City could be framed and hung on a wall. With a cast of top character players that includes Gladys George, William Bendix, Frank Faylen, and George Macready, the multi-character, multi-plotted "Detective Story" is a powerful, well-acted film that somehow is less often seen than its quality warrants.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Adapted from a Broadway play, "Detective Story" is in the Grand Hotel genre; two of the New York actors here made their film debuts—Joseph Wiseman, as the insane, homicidal burglar, and Lee Grant, as the gay and spirited Brooklynese shoplifter…

    "Detective Story" is not so much a tale of detection but a focusing on the life and character of just one detective, James McLeod (Kirk Douglas).

    McLeod is no ordinary detective, he is a fanatic, dedicated to the law and excessively brutal in dealing with criminals… He is particularly upset about abortionists, and it gradually becomes apparent that this is a psychological block in his mind… Some tragic happening in his past has caused him to look upon abortionists in a pathological light, and the abortionist in this film, played by George Macready with his patent brand of quiet, sinister refinement, has a hard time in the hands of McLeod…

    The abortion angle of the original play was taken to the screen, partly because of censorship, and partly because the close-up, immediacy of the camera requires rage to be clearly more explained than on the stage…

    Therefore, the film abortionist is also the manipulator of an adoption ring and a farm for unwed mothers… Whenever he appears at the precinct the abortionist is accompanied by his lawyer, although he might also have hired a bodyguard, since the fist-swinging McLeod is not above encircling his suspects…

    As the story progresses, the reasons for McLeod's vicious temper and his hatred for crime are revealed as deriving from his love-hate attitude toward his father, a man of crooked tendencies… His mania makes life hard for his gentle wife Mary (Eleanor Parker) to whom he is nevertheless greatly attached…

    Detective McLeod is understandably shattered when he discovers that his wife was once herself the subject of an abortion, and that the man who performed the illegal operation was the abortionist now at his mercy, Karl Schneider (George Macready).

    "Detective Story" is light on plot line but rich in its different cast of characters… It is, in fact, a series of character studies, one major and many minor…

    Kirk Douglas carries the burden of McLeod and makes the tormented policeman painfully believable—it is almost a nonstop, swirling performance… Around him Wyler arranges an expert team of actors: William Bendix as a tough but warm-hearted veteran cop; Horace McMahon as the precinct lieutenant who tolerates the frenzy of McLeod because he realizes he is doing his job honest1y and well; Eleanor Parker as the wife, driven to near-distraction by her husband; and several weirdly amusing criminal types, of whom those played by Wiseman and Lee Grant are shining examples, all of them moving through the dirty, oppressive atmosphere of a police station on any given work day
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Detective Story 1951

    Virtue and abortion don't mix well--more like matter and antimatter than oil and water-- and in "Detective Story," virtue is as flexible and pretty as a cinder block, and abortion is as covert and murderous as, well, as an abortion at its worst, back when it was an illegal, horrifying ordeal. In this adapted theater piece, we expect the leading players to be scarred, or dead, and they are, though tender love does blossom and save one young couple. "Detective Story," it turns out, goes way beyond being a detective story.

    Virtue? Kirk Douglas has more than a man can handle. At first this seems only to make him a terrific detective for a post-War New York Police Department, but he ends up being mostly terrifying. Yes, he is tireless and experienced and clever. He knows when to be ruthless and when to be kind, he has a nose for evil, and he is a good guy with the other detectives. We admire him. But the pieces start to fall askew. When he interferes with the kindness of a colleague (played with great sympathy by William Bendix), insisting on prosecuting a young man when even the victim doesn't want to, we see a heartless man, and a reckless one, with a damning instinct. And we know he has to either die or see the light and change. In the end he does both.

    Abortion? Two decades before the 1970 repeal of abortion laws in New York State, it's an unsanctioned death, a criminal malpractice, and it is presented as a horrifying personal and social tragedy, a kind of sin. It appears from all angles--the abortion doctor with his canny lawyer, the detective's wife and her boyfriend from the past, the one who got her pregnant, and eventually the detective, who came after the fact but is the one most harmed by it, thanks to his blind stubbornness.

    The woman, the detective's wife (played by Eleanor Parker) has buried the memory, almost, and in the scene where she has to finally tell her husband about it, the detective's world is too black and white to cope. Suddenly she's a tramp, and does he protest that he was a virgin when he married her? Hardly. (I'm sure he wasn't.) Does it even matter that she got pregnant with this earlier man (who at one point is in the room), and that she aborted the child (described as an induced stillbirth)? No, all that matters to Douglas is that she had sex with someone before him. Voila! In his eyes she is now mere filth.

    But she is not filth, and we all know it. She begs him, explains to him, cries for him, but he doesn't see the virtue in her. She, in turn, sees the blackness in his brain and realizes, in a compact epiphany, that he will never change. And so when she says she's leaving him forever, he believes her. This final collision between his unbending rules of propriety--in crime and in love equally--with the pliable, reasonable realities around him, is his ruin.

    This is all messy, deep, troubling stuff. Stir it up at a brisk pace, shoot it using sharp, stark camera-work, and you have a really tight, first rate, significant film. It has slipped under the radar as a masterpiece for several reasons, including, maybe, an excessive perfection that starts to feel slick--an odd trap for a filmmaker to need to avoid, but one often facing William Wyler, one of the slickest and most stylelessly perfect of directors. The shooting barely leaves the suite of offices--there is that brief ride in the paddy wagon--but it doesn't need to. Even the beautiful moment in the cab, where Douglas shows his most human side to his very human wife, they remain parked right outside the station. It's not an action film. In fact, it's not really a crime film, nor a film noir (despite the gloom, and the date on it). It's about man's inability to see beyond himself. His obsessive virtue, with no heart, is a capital offense, because he becomes stupid. He forgets to dodge the bullet.

    This is also a movie about a justice higher than law. The detective's wife, who has broken the law, is herself broken by events, but she leaves the movie a free woman, resolved and strong. The abortion doctor is to be booked the next morning, and with luck he'll be jailed. Bendix, who shows the highest virtue of anyone in the movie, survives--he's the one who says a prayer over the dead detective's body, dead because Douglas cannot survive the blackness in his brain.

    A key ongoing sideplot is resolved just after Douglas is shot. Bleeding and in mortal pain, he releases an unlikely first offender who he earlier wanted to prosecute. This feelgood last act is not left to the good Bendix, but to Douglas, who gets to see the light before the lights go out. The young criminal's real savior in the long run, however, is pure true love, and we buy into that more easily, especially in the form of Cathy O'Donnell, who sure knows how to be pure and in love, just see "They Live by Night" from three years earlier. So when the movie ends we are done with stark, fast penetration and desperation. The precinct is in emotional shambles. But a corner has been turned, and in the gorgeous parting shot, we are taken to the street at night, from above, and the young couple and their shadows meld back into the swarm of real world, our world.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Kirk Douglas was in the forefront of a set of movie stars in the post war period (with Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Burt Lancaster, and (a little later) Paul Newman) who had more emotional problems than initially appeared in their characters. Douglas looked competent and able in every part, but sooner or later something would show his less attractive personality. When he played Midge, the great boxer, in CHAMPION, his selfishness expands and expands as his reputation does. His motivations for joining forces with Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp in GUNFIGHT AT THE O. K. Corral is based in part on a rivalry with John Ireland as Johnny Ringo, a rival of Doc Holiday for a woman. And his Detective Jim McLeod is a modern day Inspector Javert, ashamed of his father's criminal behavior that drove his mother insane - and determined to root out all evil, no matter how big or small it is.

    DETECTIVE STORY, a successful play by Sidney Kingsley, has classical unity, as it takes place all in one day - which happens to be the final day of McLeod's life. He is the central detective in the story, and we see him early enjoying a moment of joy with his wife Mary (Eleanor Parker). But once he is in the precinct he is all business, involved in three cases: the arrest of two burglars responsible for nine burglaries; the arrest of a young man (who is actually clean-cut) for embezzling from his employer, and the completion (after a year) of a serious abortion case against one Karl Scneider (George Macready), a former doctor now a New Jersey farmer. Schneider has been responsible for at least one patient's death in the past, and another of his patients is currently in Bellevue Hospital in critical condition. Since Schneider has been lucky so far, McCleod is furious and keeps pushing the envelope to get him. As it turns out Schneider happens to have information on McCleod's household - which his attorney threatens to reveal to the press. The precinct commander (Horace MacMahon) is forced to get to the bottom of this mystery.

    There is no compassion whatsoever from Douglas to any criminals. He explains that when he was starting out he arrested two young punks, but took pity on them and let them go. Three days later, one killed a store owner in a robbery. Douglas says he won't make that mistake again. He never seems to notice that the other punk was not (apparently) in the robbery - murder, and presumably could have turned over a new leaf.

    So he won't give a break to the young embezzler, who stole from his employer to try to wine and dine an old girlfriend who no longer wants to know him - even though the money can be replaced. McCleod's partner Brody (William Bendix) is more gentle (the young man reminds him of Bendix's dead son). But McLeod won't change.

    Then comes the shocker - Macmahon discovers the secret that Parker and Gerald Mohr (Parker's old boyfriend) have concealed - which Macready would have been equally willing to conceal if Douglas had not persecuted him. It destroys the peace of mind and Douglas's home-life in two shattering moments in the movie.

    As for the pair of burglars, one of them is a total simpleton, but the brains of the outfit (Joseph Weismann in a great over-the-top part) is far more colorful...and more deadly. In fact, Weismann and Douglass are perfectly balanced for the conclusion of the movie: literally they settle each other's hash with a couple of shots.

    A first class direction job by William Wyler, and the cast (with good performances in support by Luis van Rooten, Lee Grant (her first film part), and Gladys George). And a really good, if stagy, conclusion to a fine film.
  • William Wyler, who won three Oscars for Best Director ("Mrs. Miniver", "The Best Years of Our Lives", "Ben-Hur"), and been nominated a record 12 times between 1937 and 1966, is not often thought of as one of our "great" directors. Truly, he was. Here, with the filmization of Sidney Kingsley's stage play about a NYC police station, focusing on the amazingly bad day which has been happening to Detective Kirk Douglas, Wyler shows his skill and diversity.

    Kirk Douglas is the vision of a crumbling spirit disguised by toughness and authority. He towers over a stellar cast, including Eleanor Parker as his wife, William Bendix as one of the other officers in the precinct, and Lee Grant as an inexperienced shoplifter. The one actor who truly stands out from the rest is Joseph Wiseman, who is simply a spark plug made up as an actor, giving an astounding recreation of his stage role as an on-edge, cheap suit-wearing thief. He displays the physical dexterity of James Cagney in the physique of a beanstalk, and proves to be more dangerous than any other movie crook we'd seen in the past.

    In one of the great Oscar follies of our time (and there were many), the 1952 voters neglected to nominate Douglas as Best Actor, or Wiseman in a supporting slot. Nominations were given out for Wyler's direction, the screenplay, and for Parker and Grant, lead and supporting actresses respectively. None for Best Picture, the other nominations were passed over in favor of "A Place in the Sun" and "A Streetcar Named Desire". And who was picked for Best Picture? Well, staying true to AMPAS's mission of picking only the most harmless movie of the year ("Driving Miss Daisy", "Chariots of Fire", "Shakespeare in Love"), instead of the best, they picked "An American in Paris", which will be remembered by film historians as merely a rehearsal for "Singin' in the Rain". Oh, well.
  • Kirk Douglas has always excelled in roles where he plays the maverick loner, walking the fine line between anger and insanity. Thus his role as Det. Jim McLeod in "Detective Story" is a real showcase for his acting talents. This is not a crime drama in the conventional sense where there is any real action or crime to solve, even though you have a room full of New York City police detectives on screen for just about the whole movie. Instead it is a character study of Jim McLeod, played by Kirk Douglas. McLeod's motivation in his work is not to solve crimes or even protect the innocent. Instead, he is motivated by a desire to root out evil by his definition of the word. Evil is something McLeod claims that anyone can easily spot. McLeod's world view doesn't differentiate between the one-time bad act of a basically good person, such as Arthur Kindred (Craig Hill), a young man who impulsively stole from his employer in a last ditch attempt to impress a girl he believed he loved, versus the misdeeds of a lifetime criminal, such as the homicidal maniac Charlie (Arthur Kindred), that has also been apprehended by the detective squad that same day.

    When confronted by a mistake in the past of the person nearest to him, his own wife, McLeod is equally unforgiving. His rage and disgust is so great, you're not sure what bothers him more - the discovery of his wife's past or the failure of his own nose to sniff out the misdeed prior to this. By the time McLeod realizes his own inflexibility and lack of empathy have cost him what he loves the most, it is too late to undo the damage, and this leads to one last tragedy.

    This is Douglas in an early fine if not huggable role, and is recommended viewing for that reason alone. William Bendix makes up for the lack of likability in Douglas' character as Detective Lou Brady, who likes to temper the letter of the law with a little humanity. Then there's a very young Lee Grant as a shoplifter who just can't stop babbling. Finally, there's Horace McMahon as Lieutenant Monaghan, head of the detective squad and the kind of boss we'd all like to have.
  • Some films are so full of life they have to be seen again and again. I first saw this one in my early teens and loved it, despite difficulty in understanding it. Decades later I still love it, and always will. It has its flaws: everybody overacts (beautifully), as if on stage. The writing is a bit too well-structured, almost like clockwork, the characters are a bit too symbolic and easy to categorise. The comic relief kicks in just on schedule. The psychological diagnosis is too precise. And yet, this is one of the greatest films ever made. It has a sense of respect for the totality of life, and makes tragedy almost poetic. Fascinating though the plot may be, the essence of this film goes beyond plot. It's a symphony of cacophony. The playwright would have made a fine composer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I enjoyed this film, Though the ending was abruptly sad. You hoped that The detective and His wife could work things out. His death seemed too shocking and premature. Some one needed to tell Him that "things get better", that you shouldn't jump to permanent solutions for temporary problems. But maybe in the 1950s, better was still a long way off. The story is really a slice of life in a big city police precinct, with all kinds of sad and pathetic and even humorous and sympathetic characters. Whether Police, victims or criminals, you feel for these people, who are all having some degree of a bad day, though the police live with it everyday. The story arch goes from Barney Miller, to suddenly, The Wire. I looked through all these reviews and I noticed that no one mentioned how Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas both only played cops a few times, Kirk in this film, and Michael in Basic Instincts. In both films their characters' psychological hubris is their downfall. Interesting!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Potential spoiler alert) Yes, it's a melodrama. Yes, some of the issues are quite dated, such as the idea that if a young woman had sex before marriage, that made her a "tramp." Yes, Kirk Douglas' acting is over the top. BUT... it's needed to be that way! His character is over the top; on the edge; losing it. What makes him a tragic character is the fact that he has several chances to avoid his downfall, but his flaws overtake him.

    I've seen this film many times over the years. I enjoy it not only for the great performance by Kirk Douglas, but the as-always outstanding direction by William Wyler. Another treat is seeing the very young Lee Grant as a minor character that her sensitive acting turns into a more important role than it seems at first. The entire cast is outstanding.

    By the way, it's also interesting to see what was considered basic p.d. operations in the age before Miranda. And, hopefully, Kirk's character wouldn't make it past his first week as a detective if he were working today!
  • I just saw this great black and white movie for the first time last night. What a powerful movie and what a great cast!!!

    If someone had told me that this movie was a William Wyler movie, I would not have believed him, since it is so different from his other movies.

    Basically set in the intake and holding room of one NYC police precinct, it presents a large and diverse cast of powerful stories about miscreants (or would be miscreants) in a one basic location.

    This movie received Oscar nominations for: Best Actress--Elenor Parker Best Supporting Actres--Lee Grant in her first motion picture Best Director----William Wyler and Best Writing, Screenplay--Philip Yordan & Robert Wyler

    Is this movie the first of it kind in bringing many characters into (basically) a single room??

    Kirk Douglas was at his best, as far as his raw physical acting is concerned. It came out about the same year as Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole.

    William Bendix also gives one of his best performances here too.

    Lee Grant is in the room for shoplifting a $6 purse. She is great as an "observer" of all the things going on around her as she waits to be "booked." In that way, she acts as sort of a Greek chorus to the main events.

    If I had seen this movie as an 8-year-old kid, I would have totally missed the wonderful magic of the movie and the way it was constructed.

    One of the central parts of the story has to do with illegal abortion, yet the word "abortion" is never used in the movie and probably would have been misunderstood if it had been. In 1951, probably few people even talked about.
  • winstonfg17 August 2012
    I'm 55 years old and I watched this film for the first time tonight, and ... well the title says it: Powerful, claustrophobic, intense, this is definitely 100 minutes you won't regret; and it could only ever have been done in black-and-white.

    Kirk Douglas is given reign to do what he does best without ever quite going overboard (as he was apt to do later on) and he's wonderfully supported by a cast that act out of their skins; particularly Horace McMahon, who I'd never heard of before watching this, but I'll be looking out for now, and a very young Lee Grant - probably more familiar to most as catch-all guest star of many 70's TV shows - who is almost unrecognisable in her role as the shoplifter/onlooker.

    Bendix, Parker, Wiseman, O'Donnell, Mohr... there are too many to list, but each plays their part to the hilt, and the result is a film-noir tale of the highest order. Yes, it has the feel of a play, and it might be difficult for younger viewers to understand the mores of the time; but it suspended my disbelief almost from the first frame and held it to the last.

    This is ensemble acting at its best, and if, like me, you somehow missed it along the way: go get a copy.
  • bkoganbing24 January 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    Before coming to the screen, Sidney Kingsley's Detective Story ran in the 1949-1950 season on Broadway for 581 performances. It's hard to believe because Kirk Douglas is so right for the part, but on Broadway the role of uptight police detective Jim McLeod was played by Ralph Bellamy.

    Lee Grant, Michael Strong, Joseph Wiseman, and Horace McMahon are the four that came over from the original Broadway cast. These and the others that William Wyler cast for the film, fill their parts almost to perfection. But this one is really Kirk Douglas's show.

    Kirk essays the part of a modern Inspector Javert in playing McLeod. Remember that in Les Miserables, Javert was also the son of a criminal and feels he has a burden to live down. Like Javert, McLeod has this maniacal attitude towards the criminal element. The world however is not black and white as McLeod discovers to his thorough destruction. I have no doubt that Sidney Kingsley was influenced by Victor Hugo's classic in writing this play.

    Note a lot of the Irish names among the squad, note also the fact that this is 1951 and the attitude about abortion was a whole lot different back then. Douglas's pet peeve is back alley abortion provider George MacReady. Many women died from the hands of such folk as MacReady, this was before Roe vs. Wade.

    MacReady is also harboring one dirty big secret about someone very close to Douglas. In his black and white world, the revelation of it breaks Douglas.

    Eleanor Parker is Douglas's loving wife who is showed to be less than perfect and neither her or Kirk can deal with his rage. William Bendix in one of his best screen parts, plays Douglas's veteran partner who's tough and compassionate.

    Lee Grant as the mousy little shoplifter got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her screen debut. Unfortunately she fell afoul of the blacklist and didn't make it back to the screen for over fifteen years. After that her parts were anything, but what you see here.

    Joseph Wiseman plays the psychotic burglar and you won't forget his character rages either. But Douglas is wound so tight in his role, it's anyone's guess who is the bigger psycho.

    Detective Story is a realistic look at an NYPD squad back in the days before Miranda. It serves as the model for other police dramas right up to and including NYPD Blue. It's one of Kirk Douglas's best developed characters on screen. Reason enough to see it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Detective Story" is an unconventional police drama as it focuses predominantly on one officer's troubled emotional state and the ways in which it affects his life both professionally and personally.

    The setting for the story is a busy detective squad's office in New York's 21st precinct police station where numerous suspects are routinely brought in to be interviewed and charged with a variety of crimes. Detective Jim McLeod (Kirk Douglas) works in this environment but for some time his main preoccupation has been the pursuit of a slimy abortionist called Dr Karl Schneider (George Macready).

    McLeod is a belligerent character who detests criminals and believes that beating confessions out of them is perfectly justifiable. He's tortured by his past, as his father was a criminal who treated his mother so badly that she ended up in an insane asylum and a suspect who he once showed mercy to subsequently committed a murder. This left McLeod with a very rigid perception of right and wrong and since that time his treatment of wrongdoers has been consistently harsh.

    Endicott Sims (Warner Anderson) who is Schneider's lawyer visits McLeod's superior officer Lieutenant Monaghan (Horace McMahon) and announces that his client is prepared to voluntarily hand himself in to face the murder charges against him. Sims is very anxious, however, that Schneider should not be physically harmed whilst in police custody.

    When Schneider arrives at the police station, an accomplice who has agreed to identify him, changes her mind because Schneider has bought her off with a fur coat. McLeod then sets out with his suspect to a nearby hospital to see one of the doctor's patients who can identify him. During the journey, McLeod is told that the young woman has died and so his case against Schneider has virtually collapsed. The doctor is very smug about this and the volatile McLeod reacts by beating up his suspect.

    Sims had hinted that McLeod had personal motives which made him likely to be violent with his client and Schneider tells Monaghan that McLeod is pursuing him relentlessly because of a man named Tami Giacoppetti (Gerald Mohr). These remarks lead Monaghan to investigate the matter further and he discovers that McLeod's wife Mary (Eleanor Parker) had previously known married gangster Giacoppetti, became pregnant by him and subsequently lost her baby whilst being operated on by Schneider. It also emerges that the accusations made against McLeod by Sims and Schneider were unfounded because McLeod had known nothing about this episode in his wife's past.

    McLeod gets incredibly angry when he hears Mary's confession about her previous contact with Schneider and Giacoppetti and cruelly calls her a tramp. This episode leads to Mary leaving and McLeod being unable to either forgive her or come to terms with losing her and the consequences of this prove to be tragic.

    "Detective Story" is based on Sidney Kingsley's play of the same name and most of the action takes place in one room. This looks stagy but actually works well as it adds even more intensity to the already very dramatic events being depicted. McLeod's story is told at the same time as a number of subplots are being played out and this style of presentation realistically portrays the gritty and sometimes chaotic nature of the detectives' work. Among the other characters featured are a woman who is caught shoplifting, a young man who's stolen money from his employer and two men who've carried out a burglary.

    Kirk Douglas is very believable as a man whose intolerance and bitterness feed an inner turmoil which makes him prone to violent outbursts. The supporting cast are also consistently good.

    The adult themes dealt with in this drama led to some problems with the Production Code but fortunately a satisfactory resolution was achieved so that this powerful story could be told in a way which retained its realistic edge.
  • JohnHowardReid12 September 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    Copyright 1 November 1951 by Paramount Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Mayfair: 6 November 1951. U.S. release: November 1951. U.K. release: December 1951. Australian release: 15 August 1952. Paramount delayed the Australian release because they wanted the film showcased at the Prince Edward. Sydney opening at the Prince Edward: 15 August 1952 (ran six weeks, second only to Here Comes the Groom as that theater's highest-grossing picture of 1952. Yes, Detective Story sold many more tickets than A Place in the Sun). 9,314 feet. 103 minutes.

    NOTES: The stage play opened on Broadway at the Hudson on 23 March 1949, running a most successful 581 performances. Ralph Bellamy played McLeod. Lee Grant, Joseph Wiseman, Michael Strong and Horace McMahon reprized their Broadway roles for the film version. Also in the play were James Westerfield, Meg Mundy, Alexander Scourby, Maureen Stapleton, Edward Binns, our favorite actor Robert Strauss, Lou Gilbert, Jean Adair, Warren Stevens, Joan Copeland, Les Tremayne and Harry Worth. Playwright Kingsley directed, Boris Aronson designed the set, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse produced.

    Nominated for AMPAS Awards for:— Best Actress, Eleanor Parker (won by Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire); Best Supporting Actress, Lee Grant (Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire); Best Directing, William Wyler (George Stevens for A Place in the Sun); Best Screenplay (A Place in the Sun). Number 5 on the Ten Best American Films of 1951 selected by The National Board of Review. Number 4 on the composite list of the Ten Best Films of 1951 compiled by The Film Daily in its annual survey of U.S. film critics.

    COMMENT: Even today, Sidney Kingsley's Detective Story is a compellingly forceful piece of theater. Full credit must go to Wyler and his writers for retaining the structure, atmosphere and power of the play, yet making it seem so cinematic that we are rarely aware that we're watching a stage play not a film.

    Wyler is assisted in this masterful illusion by as fine a troupe of players as has ever been assembled for a transfer from Broadway to Hollywood. Kirk Douglas gives the performance of his career. So does Eleanor Parker; and also Horace McMahon (who was rarely handed a film role of comparable importance to this one).

    And if George Macready were not already one of our favorite villains, we would be giving him a Guernsey too.
  • The film is the story of a great detective who didn't know he was trailing his own heartbreak . Brought by William Wyler , Academy Award Winner who gave ¨The best years of our lives¨ and Pulitzer Price Winner Sidney Kingsley , author of ¨Dead end¨ and featuring of the cast that made from the smash Broadway play so sensational about a love with no punches pulled . The picture talks the events at a N.Y.C. police precinct .

    Excellent casting with Kirk Douglas as an angry , grumpy and violent police with obsession to imprison a doctor played by George MacReady , Eleanor Parker as the loved wife with a terrible secret , William Bendix as a good , agreeable policeman , Joseph Wiseman as a hysterical thief and Lee Grant who was prized in Cannes festival to the best female interpretation . Cameraman Lee Garmes makes an exceptional cinematography reflecting splendid images in white and black photography plenty of lights and darks , typical of noir cinema . And uncredited John F Seitz who filmed the last three weeks of production . Lee Garmes along with Nicholas Musuruca , John Seitz and John Alton cinematographers are the fundamental artifices of this expressionist cinema or ¨Film Noir¨full of dark and portentous frames . William Wyler direction is magnificent , blending documentary and police critical , he realized this exciting adaptation at a theater until the actors learned the dialog and , after that , he made a quick shooting . The film was nominated for Academy Award Winner to screenplay , Philip Yordan , Robert Wyler , (director's brother) , Eleanor Parker as main actress and Lee Grant as secondary actress . Support cast is frankly excellent such as Horace McMahon, Joseph Wiseman, Michael Strong and Lee Grant , all of them re-enacted their stage roles . Being film debut of Lee Grant and Burt Mushin .

    The motion picture was compellingly directed by the great maestro William Wyler . Wyler was considered by his peers as second only to John Ford as a master craftsman of cinema and the winner of three Best Director Academy Awards . Wyler was a great professional who had a career full of successes in all kind of genres as Film Noir : ¨Detective story¨ , ¨The desperate hours¨ , ¨Dead End¨ ; Western : ¨The Westener¨, ¨Friendly persuasion¨ , ¨Big Country¨ , but his speciality were dramas as : ¨Jezebel¨ , ¨The letter¨ , ¨Wuthering Heights¨ , ¨The best years of our lives¨, ¨Mrs Miniver¨, ¨The heiress¨ , ¨the little Foxes¨ , ¨The collector¨ and Comedy as two films starred by Audrey Hepburn : ¨How to steal a million¨ and of course ¨Roman's holiday¨ with Audrey at her Oscar-winning best and immortal comedy-romance. Furthermore , his greatest hit was the Super-Oscarized ¨Ben-Hur¨. ¨Detective story¨resulted to be a great film , nowadays very well considered . Rating : Better than average . Well worth watching .
  • Detective Story (1951)

    **** (out of 4)

    William Wyler's brilliant drama about a police detective (Kirk Douglas) who breaks his back trying to put criminals behind bars but there's a secret from his wife that's going to toss all his beliefs in the air. The last time I watched this film was when I was around eleven years old and it left a vivid aftertaste in my mouth after all these years. At the time I was just expecting another "old, dated" film but the realistic nature of this film remains quite powerful and very brutal even in today's jaded world. The entire cast delivers strong performances from the lead Douglas to the smallest of parts in the film. These performances certainly help the film seem all the more real, which is an added bonus. The best performance is of course the one by Douglas who brings all that energy and power to the film. Watching his character slowly breakdown and eventually lose it is something hard to forget.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is mostly talk, which is no surprise since it's taken from a play. I usually don't go in for that sort of thing but the characters were so intense that it kept my interest. Having said that, it still could have used a little more action and a change of venue more than on one quick scene. This was truly a play, not a crime movie in the normal sense. By the way, the story was changed from the play. In the play, the doctor was an abortionist. To my memory, that isn't mention in the movie (yeah, Hollywood's always been run by Liberals, so they would hide that "fact" about the abortions). In the movie, the doctor is simply portrayed as a poor one who delivers babies on his own as some sort of adoption ring for unwed mothers, or something like that.

    The scandal is that that Kirk Douglas' wife had a baby two years out of wedlock before her relationship with her husband. Today, this would be no big deal, sad to say. Douglas plays the intense main character, "Dr. James McLeod." His character is actually "super intense" and some of the other cops are pretty tough-sounding guys, too.

    The movie also made a goat out of a gung-ho "law and order" cop, making him look heartless. I guess this film was ahead of its time as we have seen that over and over since the 1960s.

    Some of this movie reminded of the old TV comedy series, "Barney Miller," where all these oddballs would wind up at the police station. However, in this film that sort of thing wasn't played for laughs. There is no humor in this movie.

    Excellent acting - and a deep cast - made this film watchable, but not enough to be a "keeper" for me. However, if you enjoy stage plays, you should enjoy this movie.
  • Maybe Detective Story worked on Broadway, but by the time it reached the screen – pretty much at the apex of the contemporaneous noir cycle – it must have come across as stagy and stale. (If it didn't then, it sure does now.) And of course this bolt of fustian was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (it's just the sort of all-star, self-important drama that would be feted), garnering Oscar nominations for its director, William Wyler, its screenplay and two of its actresses, Eleanor Parker and Lee Grant (none won). But now it looks embalmed compared to other movies that, in 1951, were barely acknowledged – Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival),Cry Danger, He Ran All The Way, The People Against O'Hara, Roadblock, The Racket.

    Play and movie serve up a slice of life cut from the squad room of a New York City precinct. The slice contains several toppings: The quirky (Grant as a `booster,' or shoplifter), the poignant (Craig Hill as a clean-cut embezzler, Cathy O'Donnell as the girl who loves him), and the vicious (Frederic Wiseman as an ethnic burglar). Rounding out the law-and-order roster are William Bendix as Douglas' partner (Bendix alternated between oafish roles and salt-of-the-earth types; this is the latter) and Frank Faylen, a dry shelter of restraint in this monsoon of overacting (Wiseman's the worst offender, but the star of the film makes him sweat for the title).

    Kirk Douglas is that star, and the spine of the plot is his vindictive pursuit of George Macready, a lousy abortionist (his patients die). Douglas is rigid and righteous, not to mention short of fuse; Chief of Detectives Horace McMahon is forever warning him to simmer down. When Douglas sends Macready to the hospital, McMahon investigates the roots of the antagonism. He brings in Douglas' wife (Parker) who has a past of which her husband is at first ignorant and finally unforgiving....

    Douglas is offered up as a man beset by demons, among them his dead father, but there's so little background divulged that it's no more than a Freudian tease. At the end, several story lines converge melodramatically and clumsily, culminating with a literal and metaphorical Act of Contrition. It's a case where the downbeat ending – a good, old-fashioned Greek catharsis – doesn't atone for the writing, acting and movie-making sins that led up to it.
  • Powerful, and i would say even more so, when it first came out drama. A ll the more remarkable in that for most of the time, it takes place on one set, a police station. Almost like a filmed play, which it was based upon.The acting from almost every one in the cast is good, especially Kirk Douglas who gives one of his ultimate trademark " Angry young man"portrayals and Eleanor Parker is nearly as good as his wife with a secret or two. I may be a little biased as i am a big Kirk Douglas fan, nobody could do the " simmering anger bubbling beneath the surface" part like him.A very under rated actor,a very good film, that can still pack a punch.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Although talky, this was an interesting film 2/3rds the way through. I believe we are only out of the squad room twice, once at the beginning, and once in a moving truck (I don't count the rooftop scene) but it was still a little too much squad room. I know that might be the point and that it was based on a play, but the other viewers comparing of "staginess" are certainly right.

    I enjoyed Kirk until partway through, Wiseman totally overacted it. He would have been really interesting if he just toned it down a little, I can only blame the director. Wiseman moves and acts like he is trying to reach the "back of the house". Did they tell him it was a movie? For me, the whole film derails towards the end.

    Aside from the fact that surely even in the 30s and 40s they didn't have crazy rapists sitting right next to shoplifters for hours on end, and free to move around, I can look over that. However, Grant comes off somewhere between retarded and simply obnoxious, Eleanor Parker goes from totally loving wife to empty robot when she wants to leave Kirk--then back again--then back to the robot,Kirk's acting is more unbalanced than his character, and the end shooting is just insane.

    The viewer who had to stage this in school has a right to ask, what is the point in all this mess. An interesting "detective story" that turns into a melodramatic soap opera. Too bad.
  • I was always interested in seeing this movie and thanks to a storm in NYC and my disinterest in going to work, I finally watched this movie.

    I was very disappointed. I found the movie to be highly and needlessly dramatic by all involved. I thought all the characters were cardboard-based, especially Lee Grant, who overdoes her New Yawk accent so much it made a shiver go down my spine. Douglas & Parker have a decent scene or two but for the most part do not connect with each other.

    Best scene by miles was one where Gladys George (she was the nuts widow in "The Maltese Falcon") goes to the precinct to pick a criminal from a line-up. She is on screen for maybe 90 seconds, but they were the realest thing in this sappy and stagey movie.

    I have a lot of respect for William Wyler and the cast, normally, but this one misfired, for me at least.
An error has occured. Please try again.