Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Scarlet Street (1945)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Scarlet Street (1945)

In Fritz Lang's fatalistic and bleak film noir - one of the moodiest, steamiest, and blackest psychological thrillers ever made, was a remake of Jean Renoir's La Chienne (1931, Fr.), as both were based on the same novel by Georges de La Fouchardière; its three main actors, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea, had all appeared together in Lang's previous noir The Woman in the Window (1944) - a similar but dreamy film about a love triangle and murder.

This was an early classic non-detective film noir about a middle-aged, married, meek retail employee and amateur painter who was living a mundane life and starving for affection. He was easily set up and duped by a femme fatale and her sleazy boyfriend - creating a perverse love triangle. The film's themes included deceit, immorality, love-blindness, extortion and theft, sexual obsession, and murder. Although the main character committed murder and officially went unpunished (a rare instance during the Hays Code) and another innocent man was executed, he was given a dose of poetic justice by having his life thoroughly ruined - no wife, no job, no home, no career, no girlfriend. The cynical film (scripted by Dudley Nichols) was banned in a number of states for a short while for its blatant immorality and brutal ice-pick murder.

  • it told the tragic, nightmarish and cynical story of a meek, middle-aged, clothing store clerk-cashier and unhappily-married, hen-pecked husband and amateur painter who lived in Brooklyn, NY named Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson); he was suffering from a mid-life crisis and hungered for affection due to his nagging wife Adele (Rosalind Ivan)
  • the film opened with views of a rain-swept NYC street, as a fancy automobile pulled up to the curb, where an organ grinder was stationed with a monkey; in an upper level private room during a formal presentation, tuxedoed Christopher Cross was being honored at the Saturday night, men's-only lavish dinner after 25 years of loyal and dedicated service (from 1909-1934); he was presented with an engraved, diamond-studded gold watch ("a 14 karat, 17 jewel timepiece") by his boss J.J. Hogarth (Russell Hicks), the head of the retail clothing company; after the program, Cross, Hogarth, and fellow employee Charlie Pringle (Samuel S. Hinds) smoked high-priced cigars (lit by one match), as Cross promised he wasn't superstitious (although he had his fingers crossed next to his side)

The Boss' Blonde Mistress In A Parked Limousine

Cross: "I wonder what it's be loved by a young girl like that"
  • everyone observed from a window as Hogarth left the party early, meeting up with an attractive blonde (Carol West) (wearing diamonds) not his wife in a parked limousine out front, causing envious remarks: "Get a load of that dame. The boss is stepping out. If I had his dough, I'd step out too"; also impressed and envious as he departed with Charlie Pringle and they stood under an umbrella, Cross pondered to himself: "I wonder what it's be loved by a young girl like that"; he mentioned how he had never had a true girlfriend at a young age; Pringle replied: "When we are young, we have dreams that never pan out, but we go on dreaming"; Cross mentioned his dream-aspirations to become a great painter, but he ended up painting only once a week on Sundays, and living the life of a lowly cashier
  • on the rainy night, Cross decided to walk to the East Side subway station through Greenwich Village to take a train back to Brooklyn and his henpecking wife; he unwittingly fell into a cruel trap and web of intrigue set up (further details were revealed later) by cold-hearted, amoral femme fatale gold-digger and streetwalker Katherine "Kitty" March (Joan Bennett)
  • Cross approached as "Kitty" was being beaten up and thrown onto the sidewalk for $15 dollars by an abusive, straw-hatted attacker - later revealed to be her own slick, scummy and mercenary, lover-boyfriend-pimp Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea); Cross knocked down the assailant with his umbrella before the man ran off; after Cross summoned a policeman who went off to search for the criminal, "Kitty" enticingly asked him to escort her home: "Would you take me home?"; however, she diverted him away from her nearby apartment that she claimed she shared with Millie Ray (Margaret Lindsay)
  • the two got to know each other in Tiny's Bar located on the lower-level below her apartment building, as they both ordered a late-night drink (Rum Collins); she cryptically asked the bartender (Lou Lubin): "You seen Johnny?" and then formally introduced herself; during conversation, although he stated: "I'm old enough to be your father," he had become entranced by the sexy temptress with a clear plastic raincoat; she claimed she was a lonely actress but offered no other details
  • she admired him and inaccurately assumed that he was a wealthy artist-painter (due to his fancy watch and dress-clothes) who was selling his expensive art masterpieces for thousands of dollars: ("I bet you sell your pictures in Europe, France or some place like that"); he went along with the charade and kept secret from her the fact that he was really just a nobody cashier; she conveniently ignored his simple admission: "I don't think of money. I just paint for fun"; later at 2:10 AM, when he said goodbye at her apartment steps, Kitty lied to Chris that the guy named Johnny she had asked about was the boyfriend of her roommate Millie
  • the next day on Sunday, Charlie visited Chris in his apartment, where he had been relegated to painting in the bathroom one day a week by his shrewish wife Adele who disrespected his art hobby; he was interrupted while painting the flower that Kitty had given him the night before; when he wasn't looking, Adele dumped the treasured flower into the trash

Cross Allowed to Paint on Sundays in His Apartment's Bathroom

Photo of Adele's Deceased Ex-Husband Detective Homer Higgins

Chris' Flower Painting

Chris' Nagging Wife Adele (Rosalind Ivan)
  • it was very apparent that Chris was stuck in a loveless five year marriage, while Adele still idolized her former husband, corrupt policeman - Detective "Patch-eye" Homer Higgins (Charles Kemper); she kept a large photograph of him (wearing a medal) that was hanging in the living room above the couch; he had been presumed drowned in the East River (but no body was found) during the rescue of a suicidal woman; after Higgins' 'death,' Chris had rented out Adele's spare bedroom for $24/week, and they became acquainted and were married
  • as requested, Cross wrote a letter to Kitty, asking to see her again; after it was received, the lazy, unkempt Kitty (nicknamed 'Lazy Legs') told Johnny, now revealed as her own con-artist boyfriend, about her newfound acquaintance - Chris Cross, describing him as "rich and famous and very sweet too"; Johnny realized that Cross was enamoured of Kitty and could easily be fleeced: ("For cat's sake, this chump is crazy about ya...This bird is goofy about ya. Write him, date him up"); he encouraged her to set up Chris with an extortionist plan so that they could both profit from the sale of his expensive paintings, some of which might bring $50,000 dollars; Kitty's roommate Millie, a model, entered and expressed her obvious disdain for the lazy Johnny and his bad influences, and encouraged the trampish Kitty to drop him and return to work
Chris' Outdoor Cafe Lunch With Kitty
  • with her persuasive charm as they had lunch at an outdoor cafe, Kitty (who again claimed that she was a "broke" and penniless actress and couldn't pay her rent) asked if he could paint her portrait: ("Why don't you paint my picture?"); Cross philosophized: "Every painting, if it's any good, is a love affair"; she proposed that Chris rent an expensive apartment for her to live in that would also serve as his art studio: ("If you put up the money for a studio apartment, then I'd have a place to live, and you could paint there. Don't you see? You could paint my portrait"); he sheepishly admitted to Kitty that he was an unhappily-married lonely man, and wasn't "in love with her"; he promised that he would try to help her pay the deposit of $500 for an apartment; he stealthily stole $500 from the money vault at work, but on second thought, he put the money back and then failed in an attempt to secure a loan that required a co-signer
  • meanwhile, Cross listened to his nagging wife Adele at home as they both concurred that they were stuck with each other in an unpleasant marriage; she spoke about the smelly paint and the cost of his art supplies, while criticizing his stinginess for not buying her a radio; she called his paintings "silly pictures cluttering up the hall" and "trash" that she wanted to give to the junkman; spitefully, he stole $500 from Adele's insurance bonds from her late husband's life insurance, locked in a bedroom dresser drawer, but was almost caught; it was the perfect opportunity for Cross to tell Adele about his plans to move his painting hobby elsewhere: "A friend of mine is taking an apartment in Greenwich Village, I'll move everything there"
  • Kitty, Millie and Johnny were already negotiating with landlord Mr. Jones (Byron Foulger) to rent for a year (at $150/month) an apartment previously rented as an art studio on a 3-year lease by famous Mexican illustrator Tony Riviera
  • once they moved in, Johnny began to get greedy and demanded $1,000 dollars more from Kitty, who felt she had sufficiently "softened up" Cross for more dough: "Listen Baby, you've got him right where you want him. He's on the hook and can't get off....He's got a wife, hasn't he? Just drop a hint that his wife might find out about this apartment and he'll shell out fast...It's only blackmail, Baby, when you're dumb enough to get caught"
  • when Cross arrived at the flat, the fast-thinking Kitty introduced Johnny as Millie's boyfriend (to Millie's surprise!), even though Cross seemed to recognize him from somewhere before; soon after, he had moved most of his paintings and supplies to the apartment studio; Cross told Kitty about his utter happiness with her: ("I think of you all the time"); Cross was indeed hooked by her - and even proposed to Kitty: ("Well, if something would happen that would make me free, would you marry me?"); she ignored the question and begged for more money ($1,000 dollars) to aid in her employment search; Cross joyfully concurred when Kitty asked: "Oh Chris, you're a darling. I really believe you're in love with me" - and he responded by kissing her three times (as she winced); Kitty complained about Cross' affectionate kiss: ("Chris, you're a caveman. I like you to like me, but well, there's a limit")
  • as Chris left and planned to see her the next day at noon, she reminded him: "Don't forget the money" and kissed him goodbye; the scene ended with a dissolve from Johnny (who was hiding as Chris left) to the image of one of Chris' paintings in the studio - a snake wrapped around a subway girder; Johnny rejoined Kitty and remarked: "Imagine anyone paying money for this stuff?"; as Kitty and Johnny schemed together to scam Chris, they revealed their own clueless natures by not realizing that the downtrodden Chris was just a poor, untalented hobby-artist who worked as a lowly cashier; Johnny even rhetorically asked Kitty: "Are you sure he's not a phony?"
  • Kitty's evil, cruel and deceitful deceptions and Johnny's forced extortions led Cross late that night at work to commit embezzlement (of his employer's funds); he stole $1,000 in cash from his cashier's box, and again was almost caught by his boss who wished to cash a check
  • the scam went into effect - without Chris' permission; the next day, Johnny tried to sell two of his paintings to a pawn shop owner named Nick (Cy Kendall), but they were rejected as "junk" coming from Washington Square; Johnny's second attempt with beret-wearing street vendor-artist Pop LeJon (Vladimir Sokoloff) in Washington Square (Greenwich Village) thought they were amateurish and worth only $25 dollars each if sold on commission; the vendor criticized the paintings as having "no perspective" - an ironic but on-target comment given Cross' lack of perspective and love-blindness about Kitty's true character; Johnny left the paintings with LeJon, without giving his contact information

Johnny's Second Try to Sell Paintings to Vendor Pop LeJon in Greenwich Village

Vendor's Evaluation of Paintings: "No perspective"
  • Johnny met up with Kitty in Tiny's bar, where he doubted that they would make any money selling Cross' "phony" paintings to the vendor; it was revealed that Kitty had given him $900, and he had purchased a watch for himself at the pawn shop, but hadn't retrieved her hocked diamond ring
  • to their subsequent surprise when Johnny returned to the vendor, he was informed that newspaper art critic Damon Janeway (Jess Barker) had bought both paintings, and was interested in all of the artist's studio output for his partner - art gallery owner Mr. Dellarowe (Arthur Loft); Johnny was in a spot because now he had to identify the artist; when Johnny was introduced to Janeway and Dellarow who suddenly appeared at the studio apartment with LeJon, he named Kitty as the anonymous artist, causing Janeway some consternation since he thought the paintings had a "masculine force"

Kitty Impersonating Cross with Janeway - and Charming Him

Kitty After Being Slapped By Johnny For Daring to Disobey Him
  • Kitty impersonated Cross to Janeway (using some of his own quotes, such as "Every painting, if it's any good, is like a love affair"), in order to have his chosen art dealer Dellarowe agree to exclusively sell 'her' abstract modern paintings through his art gallery; they concluded by setting up a lunch meeting the following day; Johnny pressured Kitty to go further and suggested that she use her sexual charms to seduce Janeway: ("You've got him eating right out of your hand") - and even slapped her to obey him when she objected
  • they were interrupted by the sudden arrival of Cross; Johnny quickly excused himself and exited; the jealous Cross tormented Kitty once again by asking if Johnny was the one man she had previously slept with; she became enraged, humbling him and causing him to beg for her to forgive him; although he was upset and couldn't paint, she ordered: "I want you to stay here and paint!"; she then apologized, but the love-sick Cross persisted: "Would you marry me?"; she answered: "Of course I'd marry you if you were free, but, you're not, so..."
  • in the film's most symbolic scene, she changed the subject, and agreed to have him paint her portrait after he asked: "Could I paint you?"; as she reclined back on her bed in a robe, she domineeringly held out her toe-nail polish bottle to the emasculated painter: ("Well, I was going to do this myself, but uh...Paint me, Chris!"), and added: "They'll be masterpieces"

Kitty Ordering: "Paint me, Chris!"

Chris Supplicating Himself on His Knees to Kitty's Demands

"They'll be masterpieces"
  • Adele happened to see her husband's paintings for sale at $500 dollars apiece in the window of Dellarowe's Art Gallery on 57th Street, signed "Katherine March"; she returned home to berate Chris, not for cheating behind her back, but for being untalented and plagiarizing March's work and ideas: ("You've been copying her work for years. Pretending you painted those pictures out of your own head and all the time, you were just copying the work of a real artist"); as she criticized him, he was in the kitchen (where he often did most of the cooking and cleaning); he wore a frilly apron and frightened her by slicing freshly-bought liver and suggestively holding a threatening, phallic-shaped sharp knife
  • when Chris interrogated Kitty about his displayed artwork with her name, she displaye fake tears and he was easily persuaded to forgive her for selling off his paintings in the studio; he was relieved that his paintings were popular without any publicity; furthermore, he gave Kitty permission to take the credit for his paintings (he felt he was symbolically linked to her: "Why, it's just like we were married. Only I take your name"), since he realized she was broke and desperately needed the money
  • he proposed painting Kitty's "self-portrait" - that was later described by Janeway during an exclusive exhibition of her paintings as "Mona Lisa without the smile - something hidden. Sometimes it seems as if she were two people"; she became a rich celebrity - the public face of his art.- while Cross received nothing
  • in the middle of all the deceptive proceedings, there was an amazing and contrived plot-twist; the corrupt, burly detective Higgins with one eye patched - the previous husband of Cross' wife Adele - suddenly resurfaced in Cross' office; he had originally 'disappeared' to cover up the fact that he had stolen $2,700 from the purse of the suicidal woman; because he was already being investigated for taking bribes from speakeasies along the waterfront when the drowning occurred, he had faked his own death to leave Adele
  • pleasantly surprised, Cross now assumed that his marriage to Adele was invalidated, and that he was free to marry Kitty if she found out: ("But if you're not dead, then I'm not really married to Adele, am I?"); at the same time, the destitute Higgins threatened extortion (a payment to keep quiet) and pressured Cross to steal money from his work to pay him; Cross stole $200 from work, and then cleverly (for once) lured Higgins to his apartment late that night (with the promise of Adele's life insurance payout of $2,000 hidden in her bedroom) so that Adele would learn about Higgins' faked death during his dark assault
  • after leaving his home with his packed suitcase, Cross approached Kitty's studio-apartment and caught her and Johnny in a suspicious and passionate embrace (Kitty: "Jeepers, I love you"); he left dejected and began drinking at Tiny's Bar; on their balcony, Kitty and Johnny got into a vicious argument and he called her a "dumb-cluck," slapped her, and threatened to leave her ("I'm fed up with you....I'm through with you");
  • later that night, Cross still believed he had a chance to marry her; he entered her studio-apartment and denounced her for lying about Johnny, and called him "evil"; he then delivered a pitiful and pathetic proposal of marriage to Kitty: ("I haven't any wife, that's finished...Her husband turned up, I'm free...I can marry you now, I want you to be my wife. We'll go away together, way far off so you can forget this other man. Don't cry, Kitty, please don't cry")

About Johnny: "You couldn't love a man like that, Kitty"

"I want you to be my wife"

"Oh, you idiot, how can a man be so dumb?"

"You're old and ugly and I'm sick of you. Sick, sick, sick!"
Cross Brutally Stabbed "Kitty"
  • Kitty responded to Cross' proposal by spurning and humiliating him and revealing her true feelings for him - she regarded him as ignorant, unattractive, and foolish old man: ("I am not crying, you fool, I'm laughing!...Oh, you idiot! How can a man be so dumb?...I've wanted to laugh in your face ever since I first met you. You're old and ugly and I'm sick of you. Sick, sick, sick!")
  • after she ordered him out: ("You want to marry me? You? Get out of here! Get out! Get away from me!") -- Cross lost control of his feelings, leading him to commit murder (mostly off-screen) in a jealous rage by swiftly stabbing her a few times with an ice-pick through her bed covers when she hid from him; Cross left the apartment with his suitcase, and hid as a drunken Johnny returned
  • at work the next day, Cross read the headlines in a newspaper: "ICE PICK MURDER IN GREENWICH VILLAGE - FAMOUS PAINTER SLAIN - Art Colony Shocked by Ghastly Details of Brutal Crime - MOTIVE STILL MYSTERY - Meteoric Rise of Artist From Obscurity to Fame Recalled"
  • Cross' boss Hogarth summoned him into his office to speak to two detectives - not about Kitty's murder, but about embezzlement of company funds; a man named Higgins had tipped them off by phone; after learning that he had stolen the funds for a woman, Hogarth fired Cross from his job for taking over $1,200 dollars, but didn't press any further charges or seek jail time
  • due to circumstantial evidence, Johnny was falsely accused of the murder of Kitty when he was picked up with her new convertible, her money, and her diamond ring; and it was known that he had borrowed the ice-pick from Marchetti's below the apartment to chill some champagne; Cross was not considered a suspect due to his secretive relationship with Kitty, and his false perjured confession on the stand that he was an untalented artist who had only copied Kitty's artwork ("I really can't paint. My copies were so bad I had to destroy them"); Johnny was sentenced to be executed in the electric chair
  • on the night of Johnny's execution at Sing Sing prison when on his way back to the studio-apartment on the train, Cross listened as three reporters traveling to witness the punishment prophetically discussed how unpunished murderers usually were punished, often by themselves; Tom Crocker (Syd Saylor) of the Evening Globe asserted his "pet theory": "Mr. Cross, nobody gets away with murder...No one escapes judgment"; he was adamant that a person's self-punishing conscience would be the ultimate judge, jury, and executioner: ("I'd rather have the judge give me the works than have to do it to myself"); Johnny went to his death, claiming to the end that he was innocent
  • the same night, Cross revealed that he was a broken man - he suffered humiliating disgrace, psychological torment, a shattered identity, and mental anguish due to his guilt, and was plagued by his memories and the voices of the two dead people (Johnny and Kitty): ("Jeepers, I love you, Johnny"); to silence their words, he attempted suicide by hanging himself from a lamp fixture to punish his own wrongdoings, but he failed when rescued by neighbors
  • in abject homelessness as a bum sleeping on park benches in wintry weather, Cross was rousted by cops: (Cop: "Get on down to the Bowery where you belong!"); as Cross ambled off, one of the cops described how Cross had been unable to live with himself for five to six years, and couldn't convince anyone of the fact that he was responsible for two murders and sent an innocent man to his death: ("He has a crazy idea he killed a couple of people five or six years ago. Can't get it off his mind. Always trying to give himself up. Wants to be tried and executed. You know these nuts")
  • the final image was of Cross shuffling by the 5th Avenue gallery at Christmastime when he noticed the 'self-portrait' he had drawn of Kitty was being sold to an elderly matron for $10,000; Cross overheard the art gallery-dealer Mr. Dellarowe during the transaction: "Well, there goes her masterpiece. I really hate to part with it" - the buyer replied: "For $10,000 dollars, I shouldn't think you'd mind, Mr. Dellarowe"

Five to Six Years Later, Homeless and Destitute Cross - Noticing the Sale of Kitty's 'Self-Portrait'

Tormented and Haunted Cross Hearing the Voices of Kitty and Johnny
  • the last lines of dialogue were heard as the tormented, soulless and haunted Cross slowly ambled down the deserted street under a movie marquee - he thought of how his actions had brought Kitty and Johnny together - in the afterlife, as he recalled echoing words of love spoken (off-screen) between them in eternity: Kitty: "Johnny. Oh Johnny." Johnny: "Lazy Legs." Kitty: "Jeepers, I love you, Johnny."

Company Dinner Party to Honor 25 Years of Service as a Cashier

J.J. Hogarth (Russell Hicks) - Presentation of Gold Watch to Chris Cross

Christopher Cross
(Edward G. Robinson)

Cross Fending Off A Male's Attack on a Female

Rainy Night Meeting Between Christopher Cross and Femme Fatale Katherine "Kitty" March (Joan Bennett) For Drinks

"Kitty" With Pimp and Abusive Boyfriend Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea)

Kitty's Roommate Millie (Margaret Lindsay)

Johnny Demanding More Money From Kitty Through Cross - by Blackmail

In the Rented Art Studio, Cross Was Introduced to Johnny - Said to be Millie's Boyfriend

Cross Admitting He Was Very Happy to Be With Kitty

Cross' Unwanted Affectionate Kisses for Kitty

Chris' Snake Painting

Kitty and Johnny Scheming to Sell Cross' Paintings Without His Knowledge

Johnny's Failed Attempt to Sell Two of Cross' Paintings to Pawn Shop Owner Nick

Johnny Fearing That Chris' Art Was "Phony"

Kitty's Stunned Reaction to Being Identified by Johnny as The Artist to Art Critic Damon Janeway (Jess Barker)

Adele's Surprise Discovery of Chris' Paintings in The Front Window of the Dellarowe Art Gallery

Cross - With Frilly Apron and Sharp Knife While Confronted by Adele

Kitty Apologizing to Chris For Selling His Paintings With Her Name on Them

Kitty's "Self-Portrait"

The Appearance of Patch-eyed Homer Higgins, Adele's Alive Ex-Husband

Johnny and Kitty Caught in a Passionate Embrace by Chris

Newspaper Headlines for "Kitty's" Ice-Pick Murder (Illustrated by Her Portrait)

Cross Fired From His Job by Hogarth For Embezzlement of Company Funds

Johnny Accused of Kitty's Murder

Johnny Sentenced as Ice-Pick Killer to Be Executed in Electric Chair

Cross Saved From a Suicidal Hanging


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