Day 7 of Noirvember: Killer Trivia

The Killers (1946) is one of film noir’s most popular and best-known features, ticking many of the boxes of characteristics that have come to be expected of movies of this era, and chock full of a veritable who’s who of noir veterans: Burt Lancaster, Charles McGraw, William Conrad, Albert Dekker, Jack Lambert, Edmond O’Brien, and Jeff Corey. The story, in a nutshell, concerns the murder of ex-boxer Pete Lund (Lancaster) and the efforts of an insurance investigator (O’Brien) to unearth the circumstances that led to the crime.

Today’s Noirvember post serves up my Top 10 trivial tidbits about this movie that writer Ernest Hemingway termed “the only good picture ever made of a story of mine.”

The Killers was Burt Lancaster’s film debut. He’d been discovered a year earlier, while riding in an elevator in New York’s RCA building. A fellow passenger in the elevator car turned out to be an associate of a Broadway producer who suggested that Lancaster audition for an upcoming play. He got the part.

Jack Lambert, who played the dull-witted Dum Dum Clarke, was once called “the man with the meanest eyes in Hollywood.”

Ava Gardner was the only choice for Kitty. (Good choice.)

Several actors were considered for the part of Pete Lund, including Wayne Morris, Van Heflin, and Sonny Tufts. Ava Gardner was the only choice for Kitty, the femme fatale who turns Pete’s head.

The film was inspired by the 1927 short story of the same name written by Ernest Hemingway. The beginning of the film was taken directly from Hemingway’s work – it focuses on two hit men, played with frightening malice by Conrad and McGraw, who arrive in a small town to carry out a murderous task. The remainder of the film had nothing to do with Hemingway’s story.

The Killers was produced by Mark Hellinger, who worked as a theater critic, screenwriter, and journalist before becoming a successful producer. He was also the producer for two other noirs, Brute Force and The Naked City. He died of a heart attack in 1947 at the age of 44.

The Killers was nominated for four Academy Awards – Best Director: Robert Siodmak, Best Film Editing: Arthur Hilton, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture: Miklós Rózsa, and Best Adapted Screenplay: Anthony Veiller. In every category, The Killers lost to The Best Years of Our Lives.

The film was remade in 1964 and starred Ronald Reagan, Angie Dickinson, and John Cassavetes. This iteration told the story from the point of view of the hitmen.

If you’re around my age, you well remember Virginia Christine as Folgers’ Mrs. Olsen.

Virginia Christine, who played Pete’s girlfriend (before he caught sight of Kitty), was perhaps best known for a role she played years later – she portrayed Mrs. Olsen as the spokesperson for Folgers Coffee. She also was seen as a blind secretary in the remake of The Killers.

Albert Dekker, who was seen as gangleader “Big Jim” Colfax, majored in pre-med at Maine’s Bowdoin College, with plans to become a doctor, but he was encouraged by a school friend to pursue a theater career after he appeared in several school plays.

As a child, Edmond O’Brien aspired to be a magician, and used to put on shows as “Neirbo the Great” (O’Brien spelled backwards). He learned some of his tricks from famed illusionist Harry Houdini, who lived nearby.

And that’s that!

Join me tomorrow for Day 8 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 7, 2019.

6 Responses to “Day 7 of Noirvember: Killer Trivia”

  1. I would add a great bit of trivia and that is Mark Hellinger was in the scene at the Green Cat bar when Kitty meets Riordan

  2. Mark Hellinger is seen at the Green Cat bar when Kitty meets Riordan

  3. 🙂 Ava Gardner is all you had to say ! 🙂 🙂

  4. Conrad and McGraw deserve an Oscar for the most menacing duo ever!

  5. Years ago, there was a restaurant in Stratford Ontario whose restrooms were designated by a framed photo of Burt on one door and a framed poster of Ava on the other. I thought it was clever and fun.

  6. God, I’m obsessed with this film.

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