Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Kiss of Death (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Kiss of Death (1947)

In Henry Hathaway's definitive crime noir - its methodically-paced script was written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, based upon a 100-page manuscript-story by former prosecutor and New York novelist/playwright Eleazar Lipsky. The film was presented as one entire flashback by an unidentified female voice - later revealed to be the main character's girlfriend-wife.

The film's main plot was about the dilemma facing ex-con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) who was born with a predisposition toward crime. His father was shot dead during a robbery attempt when he was 10, and his rap sheet by age 29 included three convictions and prison time. More recently when in desperate straits, he attempted a heist of a jewelry store (the film's opening sequence) that was botched, and was sentenced to 20 years. After three years of imprisonment at Sing Sing (in Ossining, NY), he finally decided to be a "squealing" stoolie as a way to reform himself, receive parole and go straight as a family man - but then he faced the deadly consequences of double-crossing and ratting out a homicidal and sadistic hit-man killer Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) who was acquitted and hunting him down.

[Note: The character of the Joker in the 1940s DC Comics was thought to have inspired Widmark's maniacal portrayal. Others modeled Widmark's characterization, beginning with actor Frank Gorshin's appearance as The Riddler in the Batman TV series in the mid-1960s, and later iterations - Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989) and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008).]

Two of the film's scenes were deleted - a rape sequence and a suicide (by a gas oven) - due to restrictions of the Production Code. To convey authenticity, all of the film's scenes were shot in the state of NY - the actual locale of the story:

  • during the film's opening title screens, a small-caliber handgun was removed by a disembodied hand from a desk blotter, resting above a "SHOOTING SCRIPT"; below the gun, the film's title was revealed - in bold capitalized type-written letters; the credits were show in a flip-book style through the opening pages of the script, with more typewritten characters
  • the film's longest voice-over (presented by a female voice) was in the initial sequence - just before a jewelry heist orchestrated by an ex-con named Nick Bianco: "Christmas Eve in New York. A happy time for some people - the lucky ones. Last-minute shopping, presents for the kids, hurry home to light the tree and fill the stockings - for the lucky ones. Others aren't so lucky. Nick Bianco hadn't worked for a year. He had a record, a prison record. They say it shouldn't count against you, but when Nick tried to get a job, the same thing always happened: No prejudice, of course, but no job either. So this is how Nick went Christmas shopping for his kids"
Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) in Hallway and Elevator After Jewelry Store Heist, and On the Street After Being Shot in the Leg
  • in the opening sequence, to support his family, unemployed crook and ex-con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) "went Christmas shopping" on Christmas Eve with two other thugs in the Chrysler Building's exclusive 24th-floor jewelry store (Grant A. Peacock); the jewelry heist was botched when the tied-up store attendant was able to set off an alarm; during a very tense and claustrophobic scene, the robbers tried to casually ride down the many floors in a crowded elevator to the lobby, although they realized they were trapped; when they were blocked from exiting the front doors, Nick fled through a side door business, assaulted a police officer, and was shot in the leg as he raced away on the street before getting to the getaway car; he was subsequently arrested
  • the female voice-over stated: "The same thing happened 20 years ago to Nick's father. He died with a policeman's bullet in him. Nick saw it. It was one of his earliest memories"
  • in New York City's Criminal Courts Building, the Ass't District Attorney Louis D'Angelo (Brian Donlevy) met with Bianco (now recovered from his leg wound) and reviewed his long rap-sheet: "Bianco, Nick. Age 29. At the age of 17, burglary in the first. Plea: Guilty. Sixty days in the city reformatory. Four years later, grand larceny in the first, charged. Convicted of grand in the second at the trial. Two and one half to five years in Sing Sing. Third charge: Robbery in the first while armed. Witness failed to appear. Case dropped."
  • D'Angelo offered Bianco leniency if he "squealed" on his three accomplices during the jewel heist, but Bianco stubbornly refused and said he would never rat-out his partners-in-crime; D'Angelo urged and reminded Bianco, with well-meaning consideration, that he now had a wife and two infant daughters (Consetta or "Connie" and Rosario or "Rosie") to think of; the uncooperative Bianco again refused the offer, believing (falsely) that his shady lawyer Earl "Early" Howser (Taylor Holmes) would be able to release him sooner than the DA's plea deal
  • while in a holding cell awaiting trial, Bianco met sociopathic, maniacal, cold-blooded killer Tommy Udo (Oscar-nominated Richard Widmark in his screen debut), with a nervous hyena-like giggle; after each one's separate sentencing, they were handcuffed to each other on the train to Ossining, NY; Bianco had been sentenced to 20 years in prison at Ossining's Sing Sing Prison

Killer Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in Holding Cell with Bianco

Handcuffed Together on the Train to Sing Sing Prison
  • three years into Bianco's sentence, communications with his depressed wife abruptly ended (his letters were returned "NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS"), and Bianco soon learned, from a newspaper archives in the prison library, that his 31 year old "brooding" wife had committed suicide; the article stated the girls (aged 4 and 5) were sent to an orphanage
  • during a visit from ex-babysitter/housekeeper Nettie Cavallo (Coleen Gray in her first credited film role), now a music store clerk, she was revealed as the film's voice-over narrator; after his wife Maria's suicide, his daughters had been placed in an institution outside of the city; he also learned that Maria had been drinking due to her unhappiness; he insisted on learning what had really happened: ("I'm the kind of a guy you can't hurt"), and Nettie reluctantly told Bianco that his fellow-gangster friend Pete Rizzo had taken advantage of Nick's absence and had attacked (raped?) Maria just before she committed suicide; Nick told Nettie to tell his two children that their father was working in South America
  • to be able to see his children, Bianco now changed his mind and contacted Asst. DA D'Angelo to provide information about the jewel robbery: ("Tell him that Nick Bianco wants to cash in on his insurance policy"); however, after three years had lapsed, D'Angelo was in "no position" to extend his previous offer of help, but promised he would help Bianco to see his two daughters
  • Bianco ratted on his three accomplices, Big Ed Williams (Anthony Ross), Tony Mangone (Wendell K. Phillips), and Pete Rizzo (the unseen driver), and then, instead of sending Bianco back to prison, D'Angelo decided to hold him over in the city jail, to continue to have him serve as a cooperative informant "stoolie"; to protect Bianco from retaliation, D'Angelo proposed to cover why Bianco had been brought from prison to the city - he was to be booked for a previous, unprosecuted Thompson Fur job four years earlier that he had pulled off with his accomplice Rizzo
  • the double-crossing idea was to have the mob believe that Rizzo had now been the rat that squealed; Bianco was instructed to phone his "shyster" lawyer Howser and "tell him you think somebody has squealed"; Bianco noted that the good-guy authorities on the other side of the fence could also play "dirty," but D'Angelo justified himself: "We hurt bad people, not good ones"
  • D'Angelo accompanied Bianco to a Catholic Sisters'-run orphanage to meet his two precocious young daughters (Consuela and Gloria O'Connor); during their reunion, he gratefully hugged them and watched them as they participated in their music class
  • Bianco met with Howser (the go-between lawyer with criminal connections), who believed his implied claim that Rizzo had talked about the Thompson Fur heist; he arranged for Tommy Udo to take care of Rizzo
  • in the film's most frightening sequence, Udo entered the apartment of elderly, crippled Mrs. Rizzo (Mildred Dunnock) (the mother of alleged informant Pete Rizzo) and found her seated in her wheelchair; she claimed her son Pete was out until after dinner, but Udo found evidence that he had cleared out his room and left town; he accused both her and her son of lying ("double-crossin' squealers, both of ya"); when she refused to answer any more questions, he approached menacingly and sadistically threatened: "You know what I do to squealers? I let 'em have it in the belly so they can roll around for a long time, thinking it over"; he called her a "lyin' old hag" after ripping out a lamp's electrical cord and tied her to her wheelchair; as she protested, he then proceeded to roll her out of her apartment to the top of a long flight of stairs - and chuckled to himself as he shoved her forward to her death
Sadistic Murder of the Alleged Informant's Mother Mrs. Rizzo (Mildred Dunnock)
  • after the murder, Udo phoned Howser to confirm the elimination of Ma Rizzo: ("You ain't gonna be bothered with that squealer for a long time"); he suspected that Pete Rizzo had fled to South America
  • meanwhile, Bianco was released on parole, and on the evening of his release, he visited the rented apartment of Nettie Cavallo; she was thrilled to see him freed from prison, and they embraced and kissed at the start of a strong romance; they had to postpone dinner plans after a phone call from D'Angelo instructing Bianco to meet someone ringside at St. Nicholas Arena; he refused to tell Nettie where he was going and tried to reassure her: "I want you, and I want my kids too. But you've got to trust me. I'm on a job. I might not see you for a while"
Nick Bianco's Rekindled Relationship with Nettie
  • after the prizefight, Bianco 'accidentally' bumped into the violence-loving Udo (accompanied by his abused girlfriend who was ordered away); since both had served time in Sing Sing, they became reacquainted at NYC's Club 66 with bottles of champagne and jazz music; Udo confessed to having shot and murdered Larry Young (and then stole his gold college ring); he had been arrested and his mug shot was taken, but then the young panhandler "squirt" named Sammy who witnessed the murder changed his testimony after Udo dealt with him, and Udo was released
  • after their evening together, Bianco reported back to D'Angelo about the "Larry Young job" with enough information to indict Udo and ultimately convict him; Nick was released from another further obligations to D'Angelo for the time being
  • after a transition, Nick was married with wife Nettie and his two children, and living in a house in Astoria, Queens; he had taken employment in a brickyard; Nettie confessed her unconditional love for Nick - going way back in years: "I'm mad about you. That's all I think of - you. I've wanted you ever since I was a girl long ago. When I used to look at you, I'd feel just like now. Every time you kiss me, I almost pass out"
  • but then Nick received a phone call from D'Angelo, informing him that he was required to testify "on the stand" on the third day of Udo's upcoming murder trial; the evidence consisted of Sammy's testimony and the stolen ring, and it would be Nick's last obligation to the state; D'Angelo was confident that Udo would be convicted; however, Nick was worried that his newfound 'family man' reputation would be ruined
  • the verdict in the Udo case was announced as "not guilty" - and Bianco was immediately concerned that Udo would be coming after him; D'Angelo promised to protect Nick from Udo: "We got a tail on him, but he's pretty fast. He might shake him, so keep your eyes open. You'd better come in and see me tomorrow. We're ready to do everything we can to help you, Nick"
  • for the entire night after the verdict, Bianco was paranoid, jumpy and restless; when Nettie suggested he go away for awhile, Bianco told how Udo was relentless when seeking revenge, even against family members: "Remember what happened to Rizzo's Ma?"; he also rejected the idea of the entire family resettling elsewhere: "Too many mugs know me. They're all over. All the guys I met in jail. All the 'heisters' I've known ever since I was a kid. They don't stay in one place. They're in every town that you can figure, coming and going. I'm the guy they don't like anymore. The minute they saw me, they'd go straight to Udo. Wherever we went, we'd be just sitting like this, waiting, waiting for him"; although the police would help them, Nick was extremely worried about his family's well-being: "You got a tough break marrying a guy like me"; Bianco decided that Nettie and the children would pack and temporarily move to the country "on vacation" while Nick sought out Udo; the next day, he took them to the train station and bid them goodbye

Nick's Sleepless Night After Udo's Trial Verdict of Not Guilty

Nick to Nettie: "You got a tough break marrying a guy like me"

Nick Sending Nettie and the Kids Away "On Vacation"
  • that evening, D'Angelo arrived at Nick's darkened home to alert him that the tail on Udo had been lost; he offered to take Nick in for protection (for both him and his family), but he also confiscated Nick's gun, leaving him defenseless; when Nick stated: "It's him or me now," D'Angelo warned that he might be charged with Udo's murder even if he claimed 'self-defense"; Bianco realized his challenge and told D'Angelo: "He's nuts, and he's smarter than you are"; Nick was adamant that he had to protect himself and not wait around for Udo to trip up and make a mistake: "I'm through trusting you, the police or anybody but me. There's only one way to get Udo, and that's my way"; when charged with violating his parole (for having a gun) and put under arrest, Nick knocked out D'Angelo with one punch, and took his gun
  • Bianco went out to search for Udo in past locations (a bordello, Club 66, etc.), and later that night located him with two other henchmen (Don Giovanni and Robert Karnes) entering East Harlem's Luigi's Restaurant; he phoned D'Angelo from across the street to alert him that he had found Udo - and then affirmed: "I told you we were gonna play this my way"; he asked for police support to be ready at the 37th Precinct Police Station, and to await a second phone call if his plan "didn't work"
  • at midnight, Bianco entered the restaurant and confronted Udo, who made a prolonged entrance from behind a curtain in a backroom; Bianco expected Udo to be angry with him for being a "crummy stoolie," but Udo claimed he wasn't angry about Bianco's "squealing" due to his not-guilty verdict: "They acquitted me, didn't they? We're goin' right on bein' pals, you and me"; but then Udo mentioned Nick's wife and girls: ("You've got a wife and kids, ain't you, pal?...They're gonna have some fun too...You and me and your wife and your kids") and implied threats toward them; Bianco reminded him that he had further incriminating information on Udo and would use it if he didn't leave his family alone: ("Leave me and my family alone, or maybe I ain't through singing....You talked your fool head off, and I ain't forgetting any of it. You gave me enough to burn you 100 times over if I can get the other witnesses to back me up...Touch my family, and you will hear singing like you never heard before")
  • Bianco dismissed Udo by ordering him out: "Go on. Beat it. Peddle your papers. Go on! Blow!"; the gang of three retreated to their parked black sedan across the street, to await Bianco's exit; from the restaurant, Bianco phoned the nearby 37th Precinct (on E 125th St.) to alert D'Angelo to arrive with police in exactly 2 minutes at Luigi's: ("I tried to scare him off. It didn't work. There's only one thing for me to do now. I'm gonna hand him to ya on a silver platter. I'm gonna give him to ya the way you want him - with a gun in his hand"); Bianco's plan was to exit from the restaurant - and to encourage gunfire from Udo so that he could be arrested: ("He'll shoot to kill. Maybe he does; maybe he doesn't"); as he prepared to step outside, Bianco emptied his gun and gave his gun to the restaurant receptionist
  • in the dramatic finale, as planned, the psychopathic Udo shot and badly wounded Nick at point-blank range with four gunshots, as the police arrived, surrounded his fleeing car and arrested him after shooting him; on his back with multiple gunshot wounds, Nick asked D'Angelo: "Did you get him?" and was assured: "And alive"
  • the film concluded with Nettie's voice-over glossing over the consequences: "Sometimes out of the worst comes the best. Mr. D'Angelo got what he wanted. Nick got what he wanted. And I got all I ever wanted. I got Nick."

Title Screen Sequence - Handgun on Desk

Assistant District Attorney Louis D'Angelo (Brian Donlevy)

Bianco - Resistant to Squealing to the Asst. DA

Bianco's Lawyer Earl Howser (Taylor Holmes)

Obituary Notice Regarding Nick's Wife's Suicide

Prison Visit with Nick by Ex-Babysitter/Housekeeper Nettie Cavallo (Coleen Gray) After His Wife's Suicide

Bianco Hugging His Two Daughters in Orphanage

Udo's Call to Howser to Confirm the Murder of Mrs. Rizzo

The Crazed Tommy Udo at a Prizefight and at Club 66 with Nick Bianco

Nick's New Married Life With Nettie and Two Children in Queens, NY

The Udo Murder Trial

Udo's Prolonged Emergence from Behind Curtain in Backroom of Luigi's Restaurant

Tommy Udo in Luigi's Restaurant Confronted by Nick Bianco

Bianco Phoning D'Angelo to Alert Him to Appear Two Minutes Later With Police Outside Luigi's Restaurant

Shooting of Bianco and Capture of Tommy Udo Outside Luigi's

Nick: "Did you get him?"

D'Angelo: "And alive. Thanks, Nick."


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