Shades Of Grey: The Naked City

Arguably film noir‘s most fertile playground, the urban landscape offers limitless potential for dark & dirty deeds. From the dingiest alleyway to the swankiest high rise apartment, the city knows no end to intrigue and scandal.

New York City’s rich concrete jungle plays host to the goings-on in Jules Dassin‘s 1948 The Naked City. When an ex-model turns up dead in her bathtub, Barry Fitzgerald‘s veteran detective teams with a newbie cop to crack the case. In “the most exciting story of the world’s most exciting city,” Fitzgerald & company navigate a bumpy sea of liars and hustlers, even an ex-wrestler with a knack for the harmonica.

Academy Award winning photography and editing power us through this 96 minute noir gem. No conflicted heroes or redemption-seeking anti-heroes on display here. Good cops chase bad guys through the streets of the film’s true main character, the City.

Inspired by the photographer Weegee‘s book of the same name, The Naked City ultimately transcends its routine police procedural plot-line with an expertly filmed chase/shoot-out on the Williamsburg Bridge. Refusing surrender, the film’s villain climbs high into the bridge’s structure where he’s framed against the City, dwarfed by its magnitude. No longer the object of any pursuit, even stripped of his very necessity, he is now to the city what an ant is to a mountain.

Jules Dassin also directed Night & The City, previously covered here.  Like that film, The Naked City is available in lavish form from Criterion.

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About Ward Howarth

Ward Howarth is a TV producer and writer based in Richmond, Virginia. He's generally gearing up for what they call "getting down."
This entry was posted in Film, film studies, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Shades Of Grey: The Naked City

  1. F.T. Rea says:

    Excellent film! It set a tone many crime dramas tried to follow.

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