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Naked City

A heavy case... A heavy, heavy case... So veteran detective Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) tells novice cop Det.

They've been called to Jean Dexter's apartment, where they discover the former model was chloroformed then drowned in her own bathtub, with no clues left behind by the pair who murdered her. Noir in the way it's shot (inspired by the work of street photographer Weegee), though more of a police drama with a documentary style, Naked City (1948) brims with bold shots of locations across the Big Apple. As a police procedural it's rather dull from a modern perspective, and the plot doesn't give us so much in the way of twists or whodunit mystery, as we more or less know who the bad guys are (one of them gets bumped off by the other right at the beginning). But what makes it worth watching is the imagery of the city, including aerial shots, and it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography. The lilting narration (by the film's producer, Mark Hellinger, who died of a heart attack at 44, apparently just after watching the final cut) has a cynical, ironical edge to it. And the New Yorker stereotypes depicted are amusing for how they bite—the fat kid eating an ice cream cone, the two Brooklyn betties aimlessly window shopping and nattering on, the liars, the nuts, the swindlers.

It's all right, not great, but it has it's moments. I don't recall seeing Barry Fitzgerald in a movie before this one. He commands attention as the old-fashioned, never-jaded gentleman. Dorothy Hart (pictured below) was a treat in her small role; I was surprised to read later that she never made it to lead actress status. The end satisfies. Rating it alongside other late 40s films I've seen, I give it three of five stars.


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