Cast & Crew
Katherine Allenborg, a working girl from the slums, sees the Stylewear Beauty Contest as a ticket to a new life. Although Kathy feels a repugnance toward all men, she decides to use her feminine allure to get what she wants. Upon learning that Sam Lewis, the elderly head of Stylewear magazine, will determine the contest winner, Kathy turns her charms on him. After Sam fixes the contest so that Kathy wins first prize, a trip to Europe, Kathy abruptly dismisses the hapless Sam. On the flight to London, Kathy meets Tim O'Bannion, a struggling television producer employed by the European-based Dowling's advertising firm. Although Tim is attracted to the comely Kathy, she is on the prowl for wealthy suitors and hence shows no interest in the lowly Tim. At the Mayfair Hotel, Kathy, who has changed her name to Kathy Allen, finds a more suitable prospect in her neighbor, successful photographer Larry Buckham. Larry asks Kathy to dinner, but she freezes when he tries to kiss her later that night. The next day, while waiting for Larry in the hotel lobby, Kathy encounters Tim, who insists she join him for a drink. At the bar, Kathy, who possesses no viable skills, asks Tim to help her secure a position at Dowling's. Their conversation is interrupted by the hot-tempered Larry, who insists on immediately leaving the bar. Irrationally possessive of Kathy, Larry proclaims his love and asks her to marry him. As Kathy's hotel bills mount, she enrolls in secretarial school and then accepts Larry's proposal. The night after they become engaged, Larry leaves town for a week-long business trip, but before going, suggests that Kathy use his charge at Marshall's Department Store to buy a wedding dress. When Larry returns to London, he discovers that Kathy has checked out of the hotel, leaving behind thousands of pounds in Marshall's charges. When one of the store's executives informs Larry that Kathy has pawned all the merchandise, Larry attacks the man and is arrested and sentenced to jail for assault. Using Tim as a reference, Kathy applies for a job with Stephen Collins, the London head of Dowling's. Smitten by Kathy's shapely legs, the already married Collins hires her as a typist. While Kathy is working late one night, Collins, out of town on a business trip, phones his secretary to deliver a file. Kathy decides to deliver the file herself, however, and upon finding Collins exhausted from a day of hard work, gets him drunk. After Collins goes to bed, Kathy sneaks into the bedroom, undresses and climbs in. Soon after, Collins promotes Kathy to be his secretary, and the two embark upon an affair. One night, Tim invites Kathy to dinner, and at the end of the evening, they return to her apartment. When Tim nuzzles Kathy's neck, she experiences sexual passion for the first time in her life. After Kathy laments that she has never felt that way before, Tim observes that she is "twisted up about love." Soon after, Collins arrives, prompting Tim's abrupt departure, after which Kathy threatens to break off their affair unless Collins marries her. On a business trip to Paris, Kathy meets Collins' wife Virginia and discovers that she is the daughter of the firm's owner, John Dowling. In the ladies' room, Virginia offers to pay Kathy to end her affair with Collins. Shrewdly calculating, Kathy instead suggests assigning her to a new job in Paris, where Dowling's is headquartered. Soon after Kathy's arrival in Paris, she manipulates the unwitting Dowling into proposing to her. As Kathy is fitted for her wedding dress, Tim, aware that Kathy loves him, bursts into the room and asks who cut out her heart. Soon after Dowling and Kathy are wed, Kathy receives an anonymous threatening phone call from a man, which is then followed by a menacing letter. One night, Kathy spots a shadowy figure hiding in the bushes, and rattled, removes the pistol from her husband's desk drawer. Terrified, Kathy pauses in the hallway, and when she sees a shadow approach the doorway, she fires, killing her husband. Kathy's story that she thought her husband was a prowler is discounted by the police, and once Virginia and the family attorney testify that Kathy only married Dowling for his money, she is arrested and brought to trial on the charge of murder. On the day that Kathy is found guilty and sentenced to death, Tim notices Larry in the crowd outside the courthouse and follows him. After Tim declares that he knows Larry has been stalking Kathy, Tim explains that Kathy's antisocial behavior stems from an incident that damaged her in youth. Tim then shows Larry a newspaper clipping detailing the adolescent Kathy's rape by a gang of hoodlums. Touched by Kathy's ordeal, Larry agrees to go the police and admit that he was the prowler. After Kathy's sentence is reduced to a three-month term for manslaughter, Tim visits her in her cell and gives her the clipping. When she asks if it is too late for them, he replies he is not sure and walks away.
Guy Du Monceau
Raf De La Torre
Selma Vaz Dias
Terence Morgan Ii
Sinfonia Of London
Wicked As They Come
Tag line for Wicked as They Come
Best remembered today as a glamorous television guest star who shared her beauty secrets with fans in her syndicated newspaper column or as the mother of action star Lorenzo Lamas, Arlene Dahl has a devoted cult following for her brief but effective reign as a screen bad girl. Case in point is the 1956 British drama, Wicked as They Come, about a beauty queen seducing her way to the top.
Dahl had gotten into the movies through modeling, hoping that one of the Hollywood studios would give her the chance to star in musicals. Such roles rarely came her way, though she performed a memorable rendition of "I Love You So Much" in MGM's Three Little Words (1950). Through most of her three years at MGM, the studio simply used her as beautiful set dressing, most notably in some of Red Skelton's final comedies for that studio. Only her last film at the studio, No Questions Asked (1951), gave any indication of her potential. Cast as a seductress trying to enlist ex-husband Barry Sullivan in an insurance scam, she showed a surprising flair for film noir.
That talent would blaze brightest in three late '50s films, starting with Slightly Scarlet (1956). As Rhonda Fleming's mentally ill sister, she ran the gamut from kleptomania to nymphomania with a sizzling performance that has made the film a cult favorite. Then she traveled to England for a pair of films noirs -- Fortune Is a Woman (1957), another tale of insurance fraud with more than an echo of Double Indemnity (1944), and Wicked as They Come, both made for Columbia Pictures' British production arm.
In addition to showcasing Dahl as a seductress, Wicked as They Come was somewhat ahead of its time in its attempt to provide a psychological basis for her behavior. The character's ruthless use of the men in her life and her inability to enjoy normal sexual relations are traced back to a gang rape at the age of 15, a shocking development for a film in the still-pristine '50s, when rape was rarely alluded to or discussed in movies. Of course, the violent episode is not dramatized here and Dahl's sexual manipulation of her victims is more amusing than disturbing as she self-consciously telegraphs every move in her deceitful plan.
Imported to give the film more U.S. box office pull was leading man Philip Carey, cast as the honest but poor man who falls for Dahl and tries to help her deal with her emotional problems. The rugged star of numerous Western and war films, most notably the Doris Day musical Calamity Jane (1953), Carey moved into low-budget films noirs and television guest roles in the face of a waning studio system. He would follow Wicked as They Come with one of the great unsung films in the genre, Gerd Oswald's Screaming Mimi (1958), another tale of a destructive female with deep-seated psychological problems. In later years he would excel as oil man Asa Buchanan, a role he would play on One Life to Live for almost 20 years, during which time he re-teamed with Dahl, who joined the series for three years in the '80s.
Among Dahl's victims in Wicked as They Come was Herbert Marshall, a veteran of such Hollywood classics as Trouble in Paradise (1932), The Little Foxes (1941) and The Razor's Edge (1946). After years as an in-demand leading man and character player, he had moved into lower-budget films with the decline of the studio system in the '50s. By that time, he was bringing his British diction and stiff upper lip to science-fiction films such as Gog and Riders to the Stars (both 1954) while also drawing on his stage experience to star in live television dramas. Two years after Wicked as They Come, he would make his most notorious film appearance, as a French police inspector investigating a strange death in The Fly (1958). Director Ken Hughes had previously worked for Columbia on another film noir, Joe MacBeth (1955), a British-shot film that starred Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman in a resetting of Shakespeare's Macbeth in the world of gangsters. Although his biggest productions would include the children's musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and the historical epic Cromwell (1970), his favorite film would be The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960), an uncompromising depiction of the great writer's trial for sodomy, with Peter Finch as Wilde. He also would make another bid for cult status as director of Sextette (1978), the final film for legendary cinema seductress Mae West.
Producer: Maxwell Setton, M.J. Frankovich
Director: Ken Hughes
Screenplay: Ken Hughes, Robert Westerby, Sigmund Miller
Based on the novel Portrait in Smoke by Bill S. Ballinger
Cinematography: Basil Emmott
Art Direction: Don Ashton
Music: Malcolm Arnold
Principal Cast: Arlene Dahl (Kathy Allen), Philip Carey (Tim O'Bannion), Herbert Marshall (Stephen Collins), Michael Goodliffe (Larry Buckham), David Kossoff (Sam Lewis), Marvin Kane (Mike Lewis).
by Frank Miller
Wicked As They Come
The working title of this film was Portrait in Smoke. According to a May 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film rights to Bill Ballinger's novel were originally purchased by J. Arthur Rank. The picture was shot at the Nettlefold Studios at Walton-on-Thames, England. According to May 1957 Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter news items, Arlene Dahl, who played "Kathy" in the film, sued Columbia for one million dollars for using "lewd, lascivious and obscene" advertising materials to promote the film. Dahl specifically objected to a composite photograph depicting a man kissing her on the shoulder. Although news items indicate that the judge in the case did not appear to be sympathetic to Dahl's argument, the outcome of the suit is unknown.