“There are eight million stories in the naked city…this has been one of them.”
So concludes the narrator/producer Mark Hellinger at the end of 1948’s The Naked City, the justifiably famous film noir/police melodrama that features a fascinating -and prolonged- glimpse at the New York City of the then present but for us distant past.
I’ve seen the film before and was riveted by the sights and sounds and people presented in the movie, many of them little more than faces in the crowds. The movie’s look at New York City circa the late 1940’s should appeal to all history buffs, but the story is equally interesting.
We begin with the city itself, late at night, and we are presented with various places that are, for the most part, deserted at this late hour. Then, the meat of the story: Two thugs in a blonde woman’s apartment have subdued their victim using chloroform. Their reason for being in the apartment is not immediately clear, but their intentions with the beautiful woman are: They decided to place her in the bathtub, to “make sure” she doesn’t live the night.
The next day, her body is discovered and the investigation begins. We follow the police, principally Detective Lieutenant Dan Muldoon (a typically delightful Barry Fitzgerald) who sifts through the evidence and interrogates suspects and Detective Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) who does most of the case’s foot work.
Without giving too much away, the case has its ups and downs and the protagonists have to deal with witnesses both good and bad and, in an especially poignant scene, the parents of the victim. All the detective work leads to a fantastic climax that in many ways is reminiscent of the climax of King Kong (!!!!).
So, if you’re a fan of mystery films and/or are curious to get an extended, loving look at a New York City that for the most part no longer exists, I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking out The Naked City.
A couple of bits of Interesting trivia:
The movie eventually led to Naked City, the popular television show that ran from 1958 to 1963 and featured an amazing array of them up and coming actors.
Don Taylor, one of the two main protagonists in the film, went on to have a fascinating career as a director. He was responsible for several interesting 1970’s to 1980 era sci-fi films, including (but not limited to!) Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Damien: Omen II, and The Final Countdown.