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The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle(1950)

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Information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that W. R. Burnett's controversial story elicited few criticisms from the Breen Office, and that the only significant issue raised by the agency related to specifics in the handling of "Alonzo D. Emmerich's" suicide. At the request of the Breen Office, M-G-M rewrote the suicide scene to show that "Emmerich" was not in full command of his senses when he killed himself. The scene, as it was originally written, showed "Emmerich" completing a suicide note before he killed himself. In the revised scene, "Emmerich" is tormented by his decision and is unable to complete the note. October 1949 Hollywood Reporter production charts list actor James Mitchell in the cast, but he did not appear in the film. Contemporary news items in Daily Variety indicate that Claudette Thornton tested for a role and that Emerson Treacy was cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. News items in Daily Variety in October 1949 indicate that some location filming took place or was set to take place in Lexington and Keenland, KY and in Cincinnatti, OH. A February 1950 Daily Variety news item noted that actor John Maxwell, who plays a doctor in the picture, "made such a hit with preview audiences" that M-G-M reshot a portion of the title credits to include his name. Maxwell had been listed among the bit actors on a CBCS bulletin dated January 1950. Actor Strother Martin made his feaure film debut in the film. The Asphalt Jungle, one of the first motion pictures to realistically show the criminal world from the criminal's viewpoint, is widely regarded by film critics as one of John Huston's best. The film received mostly favorable reviews in 1950, with particular praise given to Huston's direction and the performances of the leading actors. One of the film's detractors, however, was M-G-M production head Louis B. Mayer, who is quoted in a modern source as having once said, "That Asphalt Pavement thing is full of nasty, ugly people doing nasty things. I wouldn't walk across the room to see a thing like that." The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Huston for Best Direction, Sam Jaffe for Best Suporting Actor, Huston and Ben Maddow for Best Screenplay, and Harold Rosson for Best Black and White Cinematography. Jaffe also received the Cannes Award for Best Performance of the Year. Producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr., stars Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen, and novelist Burnett received "Edgar" Awards from the Mystery Writers of America for their work on the film, which was chosen as the outstanding mystery film of 1950. A biography of Huston indicates that Lola Albright was Huston's first choice for the part played by Marilyn Monroe, but that Albright was unavailable. In his autobiography, Huston noted that he consulted with Burnett several times during the development of the script, and that Burnett gave his approval of the final screenplay. The film was colorized by Turner Entertainment Co. in the late 1980s. In July 1989, Huston's heirs made an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a colorized version of the film from being broadcast on French television, but Huston's heirs lost their case in French court. The case pitted the country's longstanding legal protection of authors' rights against the legal standing of contracts signed in the United States between directors and studios. The colorized version was broadcast in 1989, but in 1994, the appeals court in Versailles reversed the 1989 ruling and fined Turner 400,000 francs (then about $74,000) for having broadcast the colorized version. M-G-M released three remakes of The Asphalt Jungle: the 1958 western, The Badlanders, directed by Delmer Daves and starring Alan Ladd and Ernest Borgnine; the 1963 British production, Cairo, directed by Wolf Rilla and starring George Sanders and Richard Johnson (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.0625); and the 1972 all-black cast film, Cool Breeze, written and directed by Barry Pollack and starring Thalmus Rasulala and Judy Pace. An ABC television series entitled The Asphalt Jungle ran from 2 April to September 29, 1961 and starred Jack Worden and Arch Johnson.