The Naked City (1948)

naked city poster 1948 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Precursor to TV police procedurals, edgy noir

So-so acting

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Naked City

Studio:  Mark Hellinger Productions/Universal International Pictures (UI)

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  March 3, 1948 (Premiere)/March 4, 1948 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

naked city murder barry fitzgerald don taylor

Yep…I can confirm…she is dead

A woman named Jean Dexter is murdered and left to die in her bathtub.  Rookie homicide detective Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) and his mentor Detective Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) are leading a team to investigate the murder.  When they discover that Frank Niles (Howard Duff) has a secret relationship with Jean while having a fiancée named Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart), they begin to uncover a case of lies and deceit that will rock the worlds of the people involved.  There are eight million stories in the naked city…this has been one of them.

Directed by Jules Dassin, The Naked City is a crime procedural thriller.  The film received Academy Awards for Best Cinematography—Black-and-White and Best Film Editing with nominations for Best Writing—Motion Picture Story.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2007, and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #380).

naked city howard duff dorthy hart

Meet the world’s worst liar

I knew The Naked City by name, but I didn’t know anything about it.  The film served as a basis and the “eight million stories” moniker that was used in the film and the series has landed in popular culture (though today, you’d probably be hard pressed to find many who have heard it).  I watched The Naked City, and found it is an early trip into police procedurals that air daily now.

The whole series might as well have the Law & Order “bum-bum” sound under it.  It features a narrator (which is pretty quaint), but the murder and the investigation into the murder still feels rather modern.  Fingerprints, police legwork, and questioning suspects is commonplace on TV now, but this film feels a lot different than other films from a similar period.  The violence of the crime and the semi-realistic portrayal of the violence feels amped up from the film’s crime movie peers.

The movie is pretty stodgy.  Barry Fitzgerald plays the old-timer detective who has almost all the answers while guiding his protégé played by Don Taylor.  The movie feels like it is intentionally stiff to feel more “real”, but it also could just be the acting.  Howard Duff plays the main suspect who does have more range and Dorothy Hart is his trod-upon fiancée.  The movie features a rather expansive cast due to interviews and investigations and some of the actors are decent while others are rather poor.

naked city jimmy halloran vs villie garzah ted de corsia don taylor

This questioning isn’t going as I hoped…

The movie is pretty heavily noir with a lot of shadows and a rich black & white shooting style.  Open shots of New York City are fun…to compare and contrast how it looks today as opposed to the 1940s.  The style of the film is also rather blunt and scenes like the opening crimes are rather shocking…along with the shootout at the end.

The Naked City was a fun surprise that was more entertaining than I expected.  As a fan of police procedurals, I’m bias and it is nice to see the origins of some of those series.  CSI, Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and Miami Vice could easily trace their roots to some of the style established in The Naked City…and it is worth seeking out and remembering that as you hear one of the multiple stories in the city.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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