Kansas City Confidential
Cast & Crew
Lee Van Cleef
For over a week, retired Kansas City police captain Tim Foster watches the Southwest Bank and the flower shop next door to ascertain the timing of each business's delivery trucks. Satisfied that each truck leaves at exactly the same time every day, he then assembles a trio of criminals to help him rob the bank of its deposit: Pete Harris, a gambling addict; Tony Romano, a ladies' man; and Boyd Kane, a cold-blooded killer. Wearing a mask, Foster visits each separately and secures their services by threatening to turn them in to the police. On the day of the robbery, the four men, who also are masked to protect their identities, wait until the flower delivery truck pulls away from the curb, and then pull up in an identical truck. Pretending to be flower deliverers, they rob the armored bank truck of over one million dollars. They then drive the fake flower truck into an unmarked trailer, where Foster informs his crew that they will split the money at a later date, and gives each half of a playing card with which to identify themselves.
Meanwhile, the police track and arrest Joe Rolfe, the innocent deliveryman of the real flower truck. They detain Joe, who was briefly jailed years earlier for a gambling problem, and beat him for days to attain a confession. Although they finally find the duplicate flower truck and release Joe, he loses his job and is ostracized. Desperate to locate the thieves himself, Joe turns to Eddie, an old Army buddy whose life he saved in Iwo Jima. Eddie's shady brother Rick informs Joe that Harris, who recently fled to Tijuana, may be involved. Joe travels there and tracks Harris to a local casino and then to his hotel, where he finds a plane ticket and wire from Foster, instructing Harris to go to Borados. Joe beats up Harris, who admits he was involved in the robbery but has no other information, and then accompanies him to the airport. Just before they board the plane to Borados, however, the police arrive and try to arrest Harris for a gambling debt. When he pulls out a gun, they shoot him, and he dies before he can implicate Joe in the crimes.
Now traveling as Harris, Joe arrives at the Borados resort and meets Foster's lovely daughter Helen. While Joe identifies Romano and Kane as possible conspirators, Foster, who is also at the resort, tells his old friend, insurance inspector Scott Andrews, that Harris, Romano and Kane have gathered there and may be connected to the bank robbery. Hoping to remove his cohorts and receive a reward, he convinces Andrews that they can nab the thieves together. Joe, meanwhile, drops the ripped playing card in front of Romano, and later catches the thief in his bungalow. Joe beats up Romano, who agrees to act as his partner and wonders whether they can trust Kane. The next day, however, Romano interrupts Joe's talk with Helen and leads him to his bungalow, where Kane beats him up, revealing that he knows Joe is not Harris. Just before Kane can kill him, Helen enters and gives Joe the gun that he dropped earlier. Hoping to protect Helen, Joe then warns her to stay out of his business. That night, each man receives a note instructing him to meet at a boat, where Foster has arranged for Andrews and the police to arrest them.
As he leaves for the boat, Helen visits her father and asks him to help "Harris," whom she loves. Foster informs her that "Harris" is an ex-convict, but Helen remains devoted. Foster then follows the three men to the boat. Onboard, Joe persuades Romano, who is holding him at gunpoint, to kill Kane instead in order to get a larger share of the money. Romano does so but then turns his gun on Joe. Foster enters and saves Joe, and though Foster claims to be a policeman, Joe reasons that he must have set up the job because he knows that Joe is not Harris. Joe suddenly pushes Romano, who shoots Foster but then is killed when he and Joe struggle over his gun. Joe revives Foster, who asks him not to tell Helen about his involvement. Andrews then arrives and after Foster states that Joe merely tipped him off about Harris, Joe goes along with the lie in order to save both himself and Foster's reputation. Later, after Andrews informs Helen that her father gave his blessing to her romance, she embraces Joe.
Lee Van Cleef
Carleton G. Young
House Peters Jr.
Jack Del Rio
George E. Diskant
Harold R. Greene
Edward L. Ilou
Kansas City Confidential
Kansas City Confidential (1952) depicts a violent criminal underworld. The New York Times criticized the film for its excess use of violence: "An uncommon lot of face slapping, stomach punching, and kicking in the groin, the standard manifestations of the virulence of mobsters and criminals on the screen." The New York Times also criticized the film for its implication that there are corrupt police officers, a theme that would later become common in motion pictures. Director Phil Karlson says, "This was so far ahead of itself that I say these pictures have been copied and recopied so many times. Unfortunately Phil Karlson never got the credit for it because I've never been a publicity hound. I come from the school where what we want to be judged by is up on the screen, not by how well I know so-and-so or so-and-so."
Karlson filmed Kansas City Confidential in a semi-documentary style and this added a sense of realism and immediacy to the picture. Film critic Leonard Maltin commented, "Looking at Kansas City Confidential, Scandal Sheet (both 1952), and especially the breakneck-paced The Phenix City Story (1955), one gets the impression that Karlson could have been a noir master." Unfortunately, Karlson never graduated to the A-picture level. His biggest commercial success was 1973's Walking Tall.
Jack Elam, Neville Brand, and Lee Van Cleef play the three criminals who take part in the armed robbery in Kansas City Confidential. All three men were well known for playing heavies in films and on television. Lee Van Cleef's career took off in the mid-1960s when he appeared in several "Spaghetti Westerns" with Clint Eastwood, including For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
Producer: Edward Small
Director: Phil Karlson
Screenplay: George Bruce and Harry Essex. Based on a story by Harold R. Greene and Rowland Brown
Cinematography: George E. Diskant
Art Direction: Edward L. Ilou
Music: Paul Sawtell
Principal Cast: John Payne (Joe Rolfe), Coleen Gray (Helen), Preston Foster (Timothy Foster), Jack Elam (Pete Harris), Neville Brand (Boyd Kane), Lee Van Cleef (Tony Romano), Dona Drake (Teresa).
by Roger Fristoe
Kansas City Confidential
That was a sucker move, burning down your boss. You had him all wrong. He never crossed you.- Tim Foster
What makes a two-bit heel like you think a heater would give him an edge over me?- Tim Foster
Okay wise guy, you found me. Now what?- Pete Harris
What's eatin' you?- Joe Rolfe
You been giving me the fisheye all night.- Pete Harris
The working title of this film was Kansas City 117. A written foreword notes that the story deals with a supposedly "...'perfect crime,' the true solution of which is not entered in any case history, and could well be entitled 'Kansas City Confidential.'" This was the only film made by production company Associated Players and Producers, which was owned by Edward Small, Sam Briskin and Sol Lesser. Hollywood Reporter news items note that much of the film was shot on location in Guatemala, Tijuana and Catalina Island in southern California. According to a February 1953 Hollywood Citizen-News article, an entertainer named Tony Romano sued United Artists, Associated Players and Producers, and Small for $600,000 for the "public scorn and ridicule" he suffered after they used his name to portray a "gangster, convicted felon and three-time loser." The disposition of the suit is not known.