Act of Violence


1h 22m 1949
Act of Violence

Brief Synopsis

An embittered veteran tracks down a POW camp informer.

Photos & Videos

Act of Violence - Portrait Publicity Stills
Act of Violence - Publicity Stills
Act of Violence - Publicity Art

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 1949
Premiere Information
New York opening: 22 Jan 1949
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,387ft

Synopsis

At a Memorial Day celebration in the small town of Santa Lisa, California, contractor Frank R. Enley, a World War II Veteran, is honored for bringing a new housing project to the town. On the same day, Joe Parkson, a mysterious and disabled war veteran, arrives in Santa Lisa hoping to find Frank and kill him. Following the ceremony, Frank bids his wife Edith and young daughter Georgie farewell and goes on a fishing trip with his friend, Fred Finney. Only moments after he leaves, Edith receives a telephone call from Joe, who says nothing and hangs up. Joe later visits Edith looking for Frank, and when she tells him the he has gone fishing at the lake, he leaves without explaining himself. At the lake, Joe, carrying a loaded gun, rows out to where Frank is fishing, but is unable to fire a shot at him. When Bobby, the bartender at a shoreline bar, tells Frank that a stranger with a limp was looking for him, Frank immediately realizes who it is and rushes home in a panic. At home, Frank takes every precaution to secure his family's safety, and tells his wife that Joe is an old army pal whom he does not wish to see. Late that night, Frank admits to his wife that he moved the family away from Syracuse, New York, to get away from Joe. He also tells Edith that during the war he and Joe were imprisoned in a Nazi prison camp, and that Joe is mentally ill. One day, when Frank leaves town to go to a builders and contractors convention in Los Angeles, Joe forces his way into the house and tells Edith that her husband is responsible for his disability and the death of some of his army pals. Frightened by the visit, Edith leaves Georgie in the care of her neighbor, Martha, and rushes to Los Angeles. There, Frank admits that he revealed Joe's escape plans to the Nazis to win special treatment for himself. Meanwhile, back in Santa Lisa, Joe learns that Frank is in Los Angeles and decides to search for him there. After checking out of his Santa Lisa hotel room, Joe is surprised by the arrival of Ann Sturges, his girl friend, who has followed him in the hopes of preventing him from killing Frank. When Joe rejects Ann's pleas, Ann finds Edith and warns her about Joe's revenge plans. In Los Angeles, Joe finds Frank at the convention and the two scuffle. Frank manages to escape, and while taking refuge in a bar, meets a prostitute named Pat. Pat takes Frank to Johnny, a killer-for-hire, who uses force and alcohol to persuade Frank to hire him to kill Joe. The following day, Frank returns to Santa Lisa, and, regretting his decision to hire Johnny, tries to warn Joe about the impending attempt on his life. Frank warns Joe only seconds before Johnny fires his gun, and then steps forward to take the bullet himself. Though wounded by the gunshot Frank manages to grab Johnny as he speeds off in his car, causing it to crash into a lamppost. Both Johnny and Frank are killed in the crash, leaving Joe with the responsibility of telling Edith the tragic news.

Cast

Van Heflin

Frank R. Enley

Robert Ryan

Joe Parkson

Janet Leigh

Edith Enley

Mary Astor

Pat

Phyllis Thaxter

Ann [Sturges]

Berry Kroeger

Johnny

Taylor Holmes

Gavery

Harry Antrim

Fred [Finney]

Connie Gilchrist

Martha [Finney]

Will Wright

Pop

Tom Hanlon

Radio voice

Phil Tead

Clerk

Eddie Waglin

Bellboy

John Albright

Bellboy

William "bill" Phillips

Veteran

Dick Simmons

Veteran

Larry Holt

Georgie Enley

Leslie Holt

Georgie Enley

Garry Owen

Attendant

Dick Elliott

Pompous man

Irene Seidner

Old woman

Ralph Peters

Tim, a bartender

Douglas Carter

Heavy-jowled man

Frank Scannell

Bell captain

Rocco Ianzo

Teenage boy

Rex Downing

Teenage boy

Mickey Martin

Teenage boy Teenage boys

Bill Cartledge

Newsboy

Don Haggerty

Policeman

Paul Kruger

Policeman

Jim Drum

Policeman

George Backus

Policeman

Wesley Hopper

Policeman

Nolan Leary

Man's voice

Barbara Billingsley

Woman's voice

Harry Tenbrook

Man in bar

Everett Glass

Night clerk

Phil Dunham

Drunk

Fred Santley

Drunk

William Bailey

Drunk

Wilbur Mack

Drunk

Howard Mitchell

Bobby, a bartender

Cameron Grant

Man at bar

Ralph Montgomery

Man at bar

Walter Merrill

Man at bar

Roger Moore

Wino

Mahlon Hamilton

Wino

Candy Toxton

Wife of veteran

Florita Romero

Girl in church

George Ovey

Bystander at accident

Jimmy Kelly

Bystander at accident

David Newell

Bystander at accident

Fred Datig Jr.

Bystander at accident

Margaret Bert

Bystander at accident

Mary Jo Ellis

Bystander at accident

Ann Lawrence

Bystander at accident

Andre Pola

German voice

Rudolph Anders

German voice

Roland Varno

German voice

Robert Skelton

Cab driver

Photo Collections

Act of Violence - Portrait Publicity Stills
Here are a few close-up Publicity Stills from Act of Violence (1949), starring Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, and Van Heflin. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Act of Violence - Publicity Stills
Here are a few atmospheric Publicity Stills taken for Act of Violence (1949), starring Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, and Van Heflin. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Act of Violence - Publicity Art
Here is a specialty drawing created by MGM for newspaper and magazine reproduction to publicize Act of Violence (1949), starring Janet Leigh and Van Heflin.
Act of Violence - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from MGM's Act of Violence (1949), starring Robert Ryan, Van Heflin, and Janet Leigh. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Film Noir
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 1949
Premiere Information
New York opening: 22 Jan 1949
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,387ft

Articles

Act of Violence


Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is living a life most men would envy. A former war hero, he now enjoys a thriving business as a respected contractor, is happily married to a beautiful woman (Janet Leigh), and has an easy-going lifestyle that allows him to get away often for weekend hunting trips in the mountains. Suddenly, Enley's world is turned upside down by the arrival of Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), a crippled war veteran who knew Enley during the war. Parkson begins a reign of terror on the Enley household, stalking them and playing psychological games. What does he want? Why is he doing this? It soon becomes apparent that Parkson knows a deep, dark secret about Enley, something that greatly contradicts his war hero status.

One of the first post-war film noirs to examine the effects of World War II on returning soldiers, Act of Violence (1948) is especially significant for tackling another controversial topic for its time - wartime ethics on the battlefield. The director, Fred Zinnemann, was just beginning to emerge as a major director and Act of Violence and his next two films, The Men (1950) and Teresa (1951) were all unique in that they addressed specific problems faced by returning war veterans.

In his autobiography Fred Zinnemann, the director wrote, "Perhaps the most vivid memory of making Act of Violence concerns the many sleepless nights we spent shooting exteriors in the eerie slums of downtown Los Angeles. The theme - the fatal flaw in a good man's character - is best expressed in R.L. Stevenson's remark 'A man's character is his destiny,' or, as one of the players puts it, 'You've done it once, you'll do it again.' Zinnemann also added that "the script offered a great range of possibilities for visual treatment; they were thoroughly explored by Bob Surtees, our cameraman....This was the last movie I directed for MGM, and the first time I felt confident that I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it."

According to author Eddy Muller in Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, "Robert Richards's screenplay was adapted from an unpublished story by Collier Young, an ambitious assistant to Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn. Young would soon embark on a career as an independent producer with his bride-to-be, Ida Lupino. The film was originally going to be a small indie production starring popular radio personality Howard Duff (who would, coincidentally, succeed Young as Ida Lupino's husband). Then Mark Hellinger picked it up, with the notion of pairing Gregory Peck with Humphrey Bogart." In the end, the project ended up at MGM with Van Heflin and Robert Ryan in the leads.

While Heflin and Ryan are excellent in their roles, Act of Violence is especially interesting for its female supporting cast - Janet Leigh, who was at the beginning of her career, and Mary Astor, who was near the end of hers. In her autobiography, A Life on Film, Astor recalled filming her scenes for Act of Violence while simultaneously shooting Little Women: "For two weeks or so I was with the Zinnemann company playing a sleazy, aging whore, with Van Heflin and Robert Ryan. It was such a contrast that it was stimulating - and reviving....I worked out the way this poor alley cat should look, and insisted firmly (with Zinney's help) that the one dress in the picture would not be made at the MGM wardrobe, but be found on a rack at the cheapest department store. We made the hem uneven, put a few cigarette burns and some stains on the front. I wore bracelets that rattled and jangled and stiletto-heeled slippers. I had the heels sanded off at the edges to make walking uncomfortable. I wore a fall, a long unbecoming hairpiece that came to my shoulder. And I put on very dark nail polish and chipped it. I used no foundation makeup, just too much lipstick and too much mascara..." So Astor, in her Act of Violence makeup and wardrobe, walked over to the Little Women set one day to see how things were going. The director, Mervyn LeRoy, didn't know Astor was moonlighting and according to the actress "took a startled look at me, came over to me, shocked, and said, 'What the hell have you got that kind of an outfit on for? What's the matter with you anyway - you look like a two-bit tart!' I was pleased." Astor also noted that "playing some of the scenes with Van Heflin, working with an artist like Zinnemann - after years of literally nothing - was a tonic. The way we worked, talking about it, thinking about it, using, discarding, trying something else. It was good. It was the way it ought to be - always."

Astor's co-star, Janet Leigh, revealed in her biography, There Really Was a Hollywood, that Act of Violence was "my most demanding role to date," adding, "I was fortunate to be in the company of these talents, and I knew it, and I worked like a demon to prove worthy. It was hard; there wasn't one easy scene. The tension began in the beginning and kept mounting to a crescendo, and I constantly had to overcome the liability of actually being too young for the part...If anything ever went wrong during a rehearsal or a shot, I automatically said, "I'm sorry," immediately assuming it was my fault. And it was many times. But not always. The cast and crew initiated an "I'm sorry" kitty. Every time I said it, I had to put a penny in the jar. It contributed three dollars toward the end of the picture party."

Producer: William H. Wright
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Screenplay: Robert L. Richards
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: Conrad A. Nervig
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Van Heflin (Frank R. Enley), Robert Ryan (Joe Parkson), Janet Leigh (Edith Enley), Phyllis Thaxter (Ann Sturges), Mary Astor (Pat), Berry Kroeger (Johnny), Taylor Holmes (Gavery), Connie Gilchrist (Martha Finney).
BW-83m. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
Act Of Violence

Act of Violence

Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is living a life most men would envy. A former war hero, he now enjoys a thriving business as a respected contractor, is happily married to a beautiful woman (Janet Leigh), and has an easy-going lifestyle that allows him to get away often for weekend hunting trips in the mountains. Suddenly, Enley's world is turned upside down by the arrival of Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), a crippled war veteran who knew Enley during the war. Parkson begins a reign of terror on the Enley household, stalking them and playing psychological games. What does he want? Why is he doing this? It soon becomes apparent that Parkson knows a deep, dark secret about Enley, something that greatly contradicts his war hero status. One of the first post-war film noirs to examine the effects of World War II on returning soldiers, Act of Violence (1948) is especially significant for tackling another controversial topic for its time - wartime ethics on the battlefield. The director, Fred Zinnemann, was just beginning to emerge as a major director and Act of Violence and his next two films, The Men (1950) and Teresa (1951) were all unique in that they addressed specific problems faced by returning war veterans. In his autobiography Fred Zinnemann, the director wrote, "Perhaps the most vivid memory of making Act of Violence concerns the many sleepless nights we spent shooting exteriors in the eerie slums of downtown Los Angeles. The theme - the fatal flaw in a good man's character - is best expressed in R.L. Stevenson's remark 'A man's character is his destiny,' or, as one of the players puts it, 'You've done it once, you'll do it again.' Zinnemann also added that "the script offered a great range of possibilities for visual treatment; they were thoroughly explored by Bob Surtees, our cameraman....This was the last movie I directed for MGM, and the first time I felt confident that I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it." According to author Eddy Muller in Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, "Robert Richards's screenplay was adapted from an unpublished story by Collier Young, an ambitious assistant to Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn. Young would soon embark on a career as an independent producer with his bride-to-be, Ida Lupino. The film was originally going to be a small indie production starring popular radio personality Howard Duff (who would, coincidentally, succeed Young as Ida Lupino's husband). Then Mark Hellinger picked it up, with the notion of pairing Gregory Peck with Humphrey Bogart." In the end, the project ended up at MGM with Van Heflin and Robert Ryan in the leads. While Heflin and Ryan are excellent in their roles, Act of Violence is especially interesting for its female supporting cast - Janet Leigh, who was at the beginning of her career, and Mary Astor, who was near the end of hers. In her autobiography, A Life on Film, Astor recalled filming her scenes for Act of Violence while simultaneously shooting Little Women: "For two weeks or so I was with the Zinnemann company playing a sleazy, aging whore, with Van Heflin and Robert Ryan. It was such a contrast that it was stimulating - and reviving....I worked out the way this poor alley cat should look, and insisted firmly (with Zinney's help) that the one dress in the picture would not be made at the MGM wardrobe, but be found on a rack at the cheapest department store. We made the hem uneven, put a few cigarette burns and some stains on the front. I wore bracelets that rattled and jangled and stiletto-heeled slippers. I had the heels sanded off at the edges to make walking uncomfortable. I wore a fall, a long unbecoming hairpiece that came to my shoulder. And I put on very dark nail polish and chipped it. I used no foundation makeup, just too much lipstick and too much mascara..." So Astor, in her Act of Violence makeup and wardrobe, walked over to the Little Women set one day to see how things were going. The director, Mervyn LeRoy, didn't know Astor was moonlighting and according to the actress "took a startled look at me, came over to me, shocked, and said, 'What the hell have you got that kind of an outfit on for? What's the matter with you anyway - you look like a two-bit tart!' I was pleased." Astor also noted that "playing some of the scenes with Van Heflin, working with an artist like Zinnemann - after years of literally nothing - was a tonic. The way we worked, talking about it, thinking about it, using, discarding, trying something else. It was good. It was the way it ought to be - always." Astor's co-star, Janet Leigh, revealed in her biography, There Really Was a Hollywood, that Act of Violence was "my most demanding role to date," adding, "I was fortunate to be in the company of these talents, and I knew it, and I worked like a demon to prove worthy. It was hard; there wasn't one easy scene. The tension began in the beginning and kept mounting to a crescendo, and I constantly had to overcome the liability of actually being too young for the part...If anything ever went wrong during a rehearsal or a shot, I automatically said, "I'm sorry," immediately assuming it was my fault. And it was many times. But not always. The cast and crew initiated an "I'm sorry" kitty. Every time I said it, I had to put a penny in the jar. It contributed three dollars toward the end of the picture party." Producer: William H. Wright Director: Fred Zinnemann Screenplay: Robert L. Richards Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters Cinematography: Robert Surtees Editing: Conrad A. Nervig Music: Bronislau Kaper Cast: Van Heflin (Frank R. Enley), Robert Ryan (Joe Parkson), Janet Leigh (Edith Enley), Phyllis Thaxter (Ann Sturges), Mary Astor (Pat), Berry Kroeger (Johnny), Taylor Holmes (Gavery), Connie Gilchrist (Martha Finney). BW-83m. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although Conrad A. Nervig is listed onscreen as the film's editor, Hollywood Reporter production charts list Blanche Sewell as the editor. The CBCS and some contemporary reviews incorrectly list Nicholas Joy in the part played by Taylor Holmes. According to a May 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, some filming took place at Big Bear Lake, CA.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States December 25, 1948

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1949

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1949

Released in United States December 25, 1948