Classic Film Guide

Asphalt Jungle, The (1950)

Great film noir by director John Huston, this one featuring actor Sterling Hayden's best performance - his character leads the group of 'specialists' assembled for a heist (he would later play a similar role in director Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956)). The crime story is based on a novel by W.R. Burnett (Wake Island (1942)); Huston co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Maddow. The cast, which is outstanding, includes Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, and even an early appearance by Marilyn Monroe. Huston & Maddow earned an Oscar nomination for their Screenplay, as did Huston for his direction. Harold Rosson's B&W Cinematography was also nominated. Like screenwriter Maddow, actor Jaffe would earn his only Academy recognition for his work on this film; his Doc Riedenschneider character is the mastermind for the jewelry robbery that begins fine, but ends badly when their fence (Calhern) double crosses them. Added to the National Film Registry in 2008.

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