Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Naked City (1948)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

(no opening title screen)

(Ending Title)

The Naked City (1948)

In director Jules Dassin's hard-boiled, semi-documentary, urban docu-drama crime/noir film - this was the first studio feature shot on location in New York City - and the film that inspired the 50's ABC-TV series - with its famed ending quote delivered by Hellinger as an epitaph for the murdered woman: "There Are EIGHT MILLION Stories In The Naked City - This Has Been ONE Of Them." The crime procedural film followed - in detail - the investigation into a murder of a blonde fashion model.

It was an influential crime drama that served as a model for hundreds of big-screen films and TV shows. Due to its complicated distribution and poor handling, the original print of the film was altered, and some of the film negative suffered from extensive physical deterioration. However, the film (and its score by Miklós Rózsa) was recently preserved and restored to its original condition.

It received two Academy Awards: Best B/W Cinematography (William H. Daniels) and Best Film Editing (Paul Weatherwax).

  • the opening scene provided aerial views of New York City - accompanied by narration from the film's producer, journalist Mark Hellinger (who conducted six months of interviews with the NYPD to gather accurate details and characterizations): "Ladies and gentlemen - the motion picture you are about to see is called The Naked City. My name is Mark Hellinger. I was in charge of its production. And I may as well tell you frankly that it's a bit different from most films you've ever seen. It was written by Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald, photographed by William Daniels and directed by Jules Dassin. As you see, we're flying over an island. A city. A particular city. And this is a story of a number of people - and a story also of the city itself. It was not photographed in a studio. Quite the contrary. Barry Fitzgerald, our star, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart, Don Taylor, Ted de Corsia and the other actors played out their roles on the streets, in the apartment houses, in the skyscrapers of New York itself. And along with them, a great many thousand New Yorkers played out their roles also. This is the city as it is. Hot summer pavements, the children at play, the buildings in their naked stone, the people, without makeup. Well, let's begin our story this way. It's 1:00 in the morning on a hot summer night..."
  • while others slept in the early morning hours, some night-workers (on the graveyard shift) continued to work in factories; a woman mopped the marble floor in the lobby of the deserted Roxy Theatre as she complained about "dirty feet"; newspaper linotype editors/writers entered in their stories for the morning's paper; a radio DJ spinning records wondered if anyone else was listening besides his wife; at the ritzy Trinidad Club, a couple ordered dinner
  • a brutal murder scene in an apartment was also seen briefly in shadows through a window; two murderers used chloroform to knock-out the female victim, and then drowned her in a bathtub; the Narrator casually noted: "And while some people work, others are rounding off an evening of relaxation. And still another is at the close of her life"; by dawn, Texas beef had arrived by freight car in NYC, and postal trucks left their facility for mail delivery; milk bottles were being deposited on front steps: ("Everything as usual. The morning routine")
  • at an East River dockside, the two killers were conversing - one of them was drunkenly bemoaning the fact that it was his first murder: ("I done a lot of things, but I never killed nobody. I'm gonna stay drunk a long time"); his partner knocked him out with a two-by-four plank and discarded his body in the water [Note: Much later, the body was identified as belonging to Peter Backalis, a small-time jewel thief.]
  • an hour later at 6 AM, a veteran homicide cop Det. Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald), was introduced in his apartment's kitchen preparing breakfast and singing an Irish folk tune; city-dwellers were leaving their homes and going to work; at 52 West 83rd Street in Manhattan, 42 year-old widowed housekeeper Martha Swenson (Virginia Mullen) entered the victim's apartment and discovered her body submerged in the bathtub
  • in the city's police department, the Bureau of Telegraph received a call from the housekeeper about the homicide; Roosevelt Hospital was alerted and sent an ambulance to the victim's address; the Medical Examiner, the Tech. Research Lab, and the Homicide Division were also notified; in the 10th Precinct Station in the Chelsea District, in the 3rd Floor Homicide Division, the investigators went to work; Detective Lt. Muldoon received news of the case from his superior Captain Donahue (Frank Conroy)
  • the manhunt for the killers was led by Lt. Muldoon, along with his 26 year-old newbie partner Det. Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor), a Long Island family man; the victim was attractive and promiscuous 26 year-old, unmarried blonde Jean Dexter, an ex-dress-shop fashion model in a shop on W. 57th St; Jean's name used to be "Mary Batory" before moving to New York; the housekeeper and house superintendent Mr. Ned Harvey (Joe Kerr) were reprimanded by Muldoon for moving the body from the bathtub onto the bed before the police arrived; Halloran found a bottle of sleeping pills under the bed
  • the medical examiner offered his findings to the investigators: it was "no accident. No suicide. Bruises on her throat, shoulders and arms. Those slight burns around her mouth and nose were caused by chloroform. She was anesthetized, after a struggle, then dumped into the tub alive... the white foam around her mouth. It's proof she drowned"
  • at the scene of the crime where fingerprints were being taken, a pair of expensive men's pajamas was found in the laundry hamper; according to the upset housekeeper, the PJs belonged to "Mr. Philip Henderson" who lived in Baltimore, MD and was one of Miss Dexter's older "admirers"; the mystery man was described as 50-ish, tall, and thin; the ring worn by the victim was a rare "black star sapphire" - a present claimed to have been sent from her brother in India; it was discovered that the jewel box of the victim's valuable jewelry was missing from the dresser's top drawer
  • the Narrator interjected: "An investigation for murder is now underway. It will advance methodically, by trial and error, by asking a thousand questions to get one answer, by brain work and legwork...."
  • at the local pharmacy/drug store, the doctor who prescribed the victim's sleeping pills found under the bed was determined to be Dr. Lawrence Stoneman, with an office in the Chaffee Building; shortly later, Halloran entered the Chaffee Building and spoke to Dr. Stoneman (House Jameson), who was upset by the news of Jean Dexter's death; he recalled that she lived a "fast" lifestyle: "She needed a good spanking. Took stimulants by day and needed sleeping pills at night"
  • meanwhile, the housekeeper also recalled that besides the mysterious "Mr. Henderson," another male caller was named Frank Niles
  • Halloran also visited the dress shop (Grace Hewitt's) and questioned the proprietress (Celia Adler), who explained that her employee Jean was after men with money; she was fired because she made the wives of male customers uncomfortable because she was so attractive: "When Jean Dexter modeled, many of them left my shop a little too interested in her. Their wives didn't like it"
  • next, Halloran questioned Jean's pretty, long-legged model friend Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart), a current employee at the shop; when Halloran asked: "Do you know anybody who has cause to dislike her?...How about Mrs. Henderson?... Mr. Henderson and Miss Dexter are quite friendly, aren't they?"; Ruth claimed she didn't know a "Mr. Henderson"; then she was completely surprised by news of Jean's murder
  • in the police station during a tense and confrontational series of questions, Lt. Muldoon interrogated Jean's deceitful ex-boyfriend Frank Niles (Howard Duff); he claimed that he had known Jean for about a year during a business relationship; she would help him with his business as a merchandising consultant, and was sometimes paid a bonus ("from time to time") for modeling or "entertaining somebody" (being pimped out); he was taken aback that Jean had been murdered - he said that he had lunch with her the day before
  • during the interrogation, Frank Niles denied really knowing Jean's model friend Ruth Morrison; and then, he was caught in deceptive lies when Halloran ushered Ruth into the office, and she announced: "Frank and I are engaged"

Frank Niles (Howard Duff)

Det. Lt. Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald)

Ruth: "Frank and I are engaged!"
The Murder Victim's Crafty Ex-Boyfriend Frank Niles Questioned by Muldoon
  • the Narrator proposed some questions: "Is Henderson the murderer? Did a taxicab take him to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station? Who is Henderson? Where does he live? Who knows him?"; an alert bulletin was posted with the Baltimore police to ascertain more information about the murder suspect named "Philip Henderson"
  • during further questioning of the slippery Frank, he rationalized that he lied about knowing Ruth because he wanted to keep his fiancee out of the murder case, and he claimed that Ruth was jealous of Jean; he was caught telling more falsehoods about his service in the military during the war; he excused his lies due to "foolish pride"; it was then ascertained that Frank's business (for the last 6-7 years since college) was also non-existent: ("He ain't got a business. It's a dodge. No credit rating"); Muldoon labeled Niles as "the biggest and most willing liar I ever met"
  • Niles claimed he had an air-tight alibi the night of Jean's murder (it was verified that he was at the Trinidad Club), and then attempted to excuse his long series of lies: "My parents had money and position. But since I got out of college, I haven't been much of a success. I'm trying to keep up a front. But I'm only a small-time liar, Lieutenant"; he explained how his money was from small-time card-gambling, inside tips on the stock market, and from borrowed loans; when asked to identify Henderson, his description was completely at odds with the one given by the housekeeper: ("Medium height. Husky. Wore glasses. Looked to be about 35"); after leaving the police station, "two men in three shifts" were placed on Niles to follow him; however, it was admitted that the police had "very little to go on"
  • Muldoon surmised that at least two men committed the murder (that occurred between 1 and 2 AM) - they held Jean Dexter while she was chloroformed before she was placed into the filled bathtub; he theorized from her bruises: " finger marks on both arms. That means a man stood behind her and held her arms with both hands, while Henderson, or someone else, applied the anesthetic"
  • as workers commuted home after a day's work, the murder case was splashed in the day's newspaper: "YOUNG MODEL FOUND SLAIN IN BATHTUB - Beauty Dies Fighting Off Wild Killer"; once Halloran returned home on the subway, he spoke to his young wife Janey Halloran (Anne Sargent) who demanded that he physically discipline their disobedient son Billy ("a real whipping, with a strap") - she called it "a man's job"; he was glad to be recalled to work by Lt. Muldoon
  • in an emotional sequence, Muldoon and Halloran arrived at the City Mortuary to speak to Jean's estranged Polish parents from Lakewood, NJ - the Batorys (Adelaide Klein and Grover Burgess); Mrs. Paula Batory was spiteful of her daughter: "I knew she'd turn out no good. All these young girls. So crazy to be with the bright lights. No bright lights for her now, is there?... I hate her. I hate her....So fancy she was. Even had to change her name...A million times I warned her. I hate her. I hate her for what she's done to us"
  • they identified her body, and then later mourned her death while sitting by the river; when Muldoon asked about Jean's ring given to her by her brother in India - the Batorys affirmed that Jean was an only child; they also claimed: ("We don't know any Henderson. We haven't seen Mary even for six months. She was too busy to come see us. Who knows what she ran around with?...Wanting too much. That's why she went wrong. Bright lights and theaters and furs and nightclubs. That's why she's dead now. Dear God, why wasn't she born ugly?...Oh, what a heartache. You nurse a child, you raise it, pet it, you love it, and it ends like this")
  • the Narrator intoned (voice-over): "Another day, another ball of fire rising in the summer sky. The city is quiet now, but it will soon be pounding with activity. This time yesterday, Jean Dexter was just another pretty girl, but now she's the marmalade on 10,000 pieces of toast"; the newspaper headlines now read: "MYSTERY DEEPENS IN DEXTER SLAYING"; the Narrator added: "There's no pattern yet to the Dexter case. Just a number of loose threads"
  • meanwhile, Jean Dexter's contact address-book was used to try and identify the enigmatic Mr. Henderson; it was thought that Henderson had possibly bought the victim's star-sapphire ring; a police order was issued: "Canvass every expensive jewelry shop in the city"; cops fanned out across the city to locate the shop that sold pajamas like the ones attributed to "Mr. Philip Henderson" found in Dexter's laundry hamper
  • Frank Niles was trailed and spotted entering a Madison Avenue jewelry shop, where he sold an expensive cigarette case for $600 dollars, but it wasn't on the list of stolen items from Dexter's apartment
  • a grocery boy in the neighborhood was caught entering the victim's kitchen by a back door; when confronted, he confessed: "Yes, I did it. I killed her. I want to be punished. I'm guilty. My hands are stained with her blood"; however, he claimed he had stabbed the victim; Muldoon ordered the confused individual to be admitted to the Psychiatric Dept. of Bellevue Hospital
  • there were a number of revealing developments in the case:
    • the pair of pajamas (attributed falsely to Henderson) were found to have been bought the previous week in a shop on 34th Street - not by Henderson, but by the victim herself
    • the cigarette case sold by Frank Niles to a jewelry shop had been stolen from Dr. Stoneman, Jean Dexter's physician; a burglary of Stoneman's apartment the previous March had resulted in $2,800 worth of stuff stolen
    • with the $600 dollars, the 'amateur crook' Niles had purchased a one-way plane ticket for Mexico City leaving the next day at noon
    • the black star-sapphire worn by Jean when she was killed didn't belong to her; it was identified as owned by Mrs. Edgar Hylton at 478 Park Avenue, who was robbed the previous December of a total of $6,200 worth of merchandise from her apartment - a second robbery
  • Captain Donahue conjectured: "Start in a murder case and we're up to our neck in stolen jewelry"; it appeared that Jean Dexter might have been the recipient of stolen jewelry from the two reported jewelry robberies
  • at the matron's Park Avenue apartment, Mrs. Hylton (Enid Markey) was overjoyed about the return of her stolen ring; she told how it was a graduation gift to her "career girl" daughter who went to Vassar; to everyone's shock, the ring was revealed to belong to her socialite daughter (from her first marriage) - Ruth Morrison - who arrived for dinner with her mother; Muldoon asked Ruth the obvious question about the ring on the victim's finger: "How (did) your ring came (come) to be on her finger?"; Muldoon also inquired about Ruth's engagement ring: ("Pearl in an old-fashioned setting"); she said it was given to her by Frank six weeks earlier; the ring was among other items stolen in a third robbery the previous January from Mrs. Charles Franklin in New Rochelle, NY
  • the two detectives - now presuming that Frank Niles had given 'hot' stolen jewelry to both the deceased and to Ruth Morrison - immediately paid a visit (with Ruth) to Niles' 6th floor apartment; when they arrived, they found Frank unconscious and chloroformed on the floor, as his attacker fled down the outer fire escape and shot back at them; Halloran chased after him, but the assailant disappeared onto a nearby station's departing elevated subway train
  • Niles had been chloroformed with the same anesthetic used on Jean Dexter: ("The party that killed Jean Dexter tried the same business on you"); when questioned about what the "burglar" wanted, Frank stated he thought he was being robbed of an expensive cigarette lighter; after he produced the lighter found in his pocket, Halloran identified it as stolen merchandise from a night-time theft of Forrest C. Broughton on 85 West 68th Street - a fourth robbery three weeks earlier
  • then, Ruth asked Frank where he had bought her engagement ring: ("My engagement ring - where did you buy it?"); he answered he had bought it from "a private party"; when asked where he got the cigarette case he was seen selling to a Madison Avenue jewelry shop in the morning, he refused to answer, and he also turned quiet when asked about his plane ticket and trip to Mexico; he denied ever stealing anything: "You've got the wrong man if you think I stole those things, Lieutenant. I wouldn't steal a piece of bread if I was starving"

Frank Falsely Claiming He Had Been Burglarized by the Assailant

Ruth to Frank: "My engagement ring - where did you buy it?"

Ruth Slapped Frank For Being a Pathological Liar
  • to shift blame, Frank claimed that he had received all three items (the cigarette case, the cigarette lighter in his pocket, and the engagement ring) from Jean: ("Those things were presents. Presents!"); when Frank wouldn't come clean and admit he was a liar and a thief, Ruth realized he was completely pathological fraudster and she couldn't ever marry him - she hysterically and repeatedly slapped him across the face: ("You're lying. You're lying! You're lying! You're lying! You're lying! You're lying!"); the detectives arrested Frank for the multiple jewelry thefts, but couldn't acquire any more information about his assailant - a possible accomplice?
  • the key question was: What was the connection between all the jewelry burglaries and the Dexter murder?
  • another lead was the discovery of a corpse fished out of the East River - identified as Peter Backalis: ("Medical examiner says he died of drowning. Had a head injury and was full of whiskey. His verdict is accidental death"); coincidentally, he died between 3 and 6 AM, only a few hours after Jean Dexter's death (at about 1:00 AM), and had served two years in Sing Sing for stealing jewelry [Note-Spoiler: Backalis was one of Jean Dexter's killers who was bludgeoned to death shortly after her death by his partner.]
  • Muldoon allowed Halloran to follow his hunch regarding Backalis; he met briefly with the deceased man's parole officer Charles Meade (G. Pat Collins), and also spoke to Backalis' arresting officer Patrolman Albert Hicks (James Gregory); Halloran learned from Hicks that Backalis' last known partner was Willie Garzah - a burly ex-wrestler who stole, among other things, a worthless harmonica that he probably played; Muldoon assigned two other detectives to help Halloran in his quest - Det. Henry Fowler (Paul Ford) and Det. Dace Constantino (John McQuade)
  • while looking on the Lower East Side for "Willie" - an "acrobat" who played the harmonica, Willie was ultimately identified as "Willie, The Harmonica Player - Willie Garzah" (Ted de Corsia); he was reported to be living with his brother Ed Garzah (Anthony Rivers) on Staten Island; Eddie was found at a construction site, and claimed he hadn't seen his "no-good" brother for three months: ("He tried to sell me a diamond ring for my wife. I told him to go blow"); Eddie suggested looking up Willie's wrestling picture often printed in the newspaper
  • with an old publicity photo, the detectives continued to canvass the Lower East Side to locate Garzah, repeatedly asking the question: "Ever see a man, looks like this?"
  • meanwhile, Frank Niles was being questioned in Det. Muldoon's office; a Boston jewelry shop owner named Mr. McCormick (Nicholas Joy) entered and punched out Frank; McCormick described how the "smooth-talking crook" Niles had sold him over $3,000 dollars of stolen jewelry; Frank had convinced him that he was honorable with a fake "letter of introduction" written by Dr. Lawrence Stoneman, vouching for him that he was selling his ill sister's jewels; Muldoon asked Niles: "How do you get a letter of introduction from a man like Stoneman?"
  • Muldoon was exasperated with Niles' continual lies and stonewalling, and threatened him one final time: "The picnic is over. You've told your last lie. You're knee-deep in stolen jewelry. You're involved in the Dexter murder. You've been tryin' to obstruct justice all along the line. Now you're goin' to tell me what I want to know, or if it's the last thing I do in this department, I'll get you 20 years. Now, that's the truth, Sonny Boy. And you know I'm not bluffin'. Who's Henderson?"
  • after demanding the identification of Jean's mystery boyfriend, Frank Niles finally revealed that "Henderson" was Dr. Stoneman - the older married physician who had been prescribing her sleeping pills, and had reported his own home's jewelry robbery - one of many
  • Muldoon and Frank and other detectives entered the Chaffee Building to personally confront Dr. Stoneman in his office; he had expected their arrival, but disavowed killing Jean (he had a solid alibi); he mumbled to himself: "I'm finished now"; Muldoon asked: "What's your relationship to Niles and Dexter?"; he implicated himself as involved with both of them, after becoming infatuated and obsessed with Jean: ("A lamb led to slaughter. An idiot robbed of self-respect. I saw her a year ago in that dress shop and from then on, I was drunk with her, lost. For six months now, I've known they've been using me. I was their tipster. Me, Stoneman...They used my social connections"); he was blackmailed into revealing his high-society contacts and wealthy patients to Jean and Niles, who then burglarized their homes or apartments; afraid of scandal, Stoneman didn't report anything to the police; he even arranged the robbery of his own home; he further explained that Niles and Jean were only "the fixers" - "They hired other men to commit the actual robberies"; distraught, Stoneman almost hurled himself out of his office window, but was prevented from killing himself
  • Frank Niles had no choice but to identify who committed the burglaries - and who killed Jean Dexter and why: "Willie Garzah. He and Backalis. They wanted more of a cut from the robberies. Garzah killed Jean, and later that night he killed Backalis. I loved Jean. I had nothing to do with it. It was Garzah"
  • meanwhile in an inter-cutting sequence, Halloran had located Jean Dexter's killer - murder suspect Willie Garzah, who was in the middle of a sit-ups workout in his apartment; Halloran failed to take him into custody when he was grabbed, held at gunpoint, and knocked unconscious with a "rabbit punch" before Garzah fled: ("All I need to do is put you to sleep. Then I'm off. Try and find me. This is a great big, beautiful city. Just try and find me. That was a rabbit punch, copper. And it's strictly illegal")
  • in the film's memorable, thrilling, and heart-pounding dramatic climax, a manhunt perimeter was set up in the area of Garzah's neighborhood; the last remaining accomplice Garzah ran through a graveyard and Lower East Side tenements, brick-walls and backyards, into an open-air market, and then onto a pedestrian sidewalk; when he bumped into a blind man's guide dog, he shot and killed the attacking animal - and his location was revealed to the cops nearby; Garzah raced on foot onto the Williamsburg Bridge where he realized that he was cornered and trapped; wounded in the left arm by gunfire from Halloran, he still refused to surrender; he decided to climb up to the very top of the bridge tower; Muldoon ordered his men to not follow him: ("Hold it! Hold it, boys! Come on down. We want no dead heroes. There's no place he can go to now")
  • Muldoon shouted out a warning and an offer to surrender: ("Garzah, come on down! You've got a chance if you come down now! I'm tellin' my men not to shoot!") - Garzah refused to comply and kept climbing upwards; in defiance, he shot at the officers far below him, and fell to his death after being hit by more police bullets
Ending: Death of Cornered and Wounded Murder Suspect Willie Garzah After He Fled to the Top of the Williamsburg Bridge
  • the ending epilogue with the Narrator's voice-over was similar to the opening prologue: "It's 1:00 in the morning again. And this is the city. And these are the lights that a child, born to the name of Batory, hungered for. Her passion has been played out now. Her name, her face, her history were worth five cents a day for six days. Tomorrow a new case will hit the headlines. Yet some will remember Jean Dexter. She won't be entirely forgotten. Not entirely. Not altogether."
  • during a pause, day-old newspapers ("DEXTER MURDER SOLVED!") were being swept up from the gutter by a trashman, as the Narrator's voice-over ended the film: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."

View of NYC at 1:00 AM

Shadowy Scene in an Apartment - Unconscious Fashion Model Jean Dexter Murdered

The Discovery of the Murder Victim in a Bathtub by the Shocked Housekeeper Martha Swenson (Virginia Mullen)

(l to r): Det. Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) and Det. Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald)

The Results of the Medical Examiner Given to Muldoon (on right): "No accident. No suicide"

Halloran Questioning Dr. Stoneman (House Jameson) Who Wrote Jean Dexter's Sleeping Pills Prescription

Dress Shop Proprietress (Celia Adler)

Jean Dexter's Model Friend Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart)

Suspects in Muldoon's Homicide Case

Photographs of the Victim's Bruises

Commuters Reading the Newspaper Report of the New Murder Case

Jean Dexter's Mourning Polish Parents - Mr. and Mrs. Batory

Crazy Neighborhood Boy Falsely Confessing to the Murder

Mrs. Edgar Hylton (Enid Markey) on Park Avenue - Her Stolen Star Sapphire Ring Was Returned to Her

Mrs. Hylton with Her Daughter Ruth Morrison (Who Was Wearing a Stolen Engagement Ring)

Frank Chloroformed on the Floor of His Apartment

Halloran Questioning Backalis' Arresting Officer Patrolman Albert Hicks (James Gregory)

Halloran Questioning Willie Garzah's Brother Eddie (Anthony Rivers)

In Muldoon's Office, Jewelry Shop Owner Mr. McCormick Confronted Frank Niles About Selling Him $3,000 of Stolen Jewelry

Muldoon to Frank: "How do you get a letter of introduction from a man like Stoneman?"

Frank's Confession that "Mr. Henderson" was Dr. Stoneman - Jean Dexter's Blackmailed Lover

Muldoon Confronting Dr. Stoneman (aka "Mr. Henderson") in His Office

Dr. Stoneman Admitting His Collusion in Burglaries of High-Society Clients with Frank Niles and Jean Dexter

Frank's Confession That Garzah Killed Jean Dexter

Willie Garzah (Ted de Corsia) In His Apartment Performing Situps

Detective Halloran' Confronted By Killer Willie Garzah (Ted de Corsia)


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