13 West Street
Cast & Crew
Late one evening space scientist Walt Sherill is attacked and, for no apparent reason, brutally beaten by a gang of well-dressed teenagers. Brooding over his injuries, he becomes impatient with Detective Sergeant Koleski's failure to get immediate results and he decides to take the law into his own hands. Obsessed by his thirst for vengeance, he loses his job, interferes with Koleski's work, and antagonizes innocent citizens. His coercive attempts to see justice done eventually cause one of the gang members to panic and commit suicide. Chuck Landry, the wealthy psychopathic gang leader, terrorizes Walt's wife, Tracey, in revenge. Following the death of a private detective he hired to track down the boys, Walt finally catches up with Chuck at his family's home. He almost kills the boy before realizing that he is sinking to the youth's own vicious level. Coming to his senses at last, he turns Chuck over to Koleski.
Charles Lawton Jr.
Robert Presnell Jr.
Charles J. Rice
R. Robert Rosenbaum
13 West Street
Ladd's artistic freedom would prove his undoing, with many of his pet projects underperforming and none of his TV pilots selling. By the August 1960 opening of Jaguar's All the Young Men (in which Ladd's thunder was stolen by second-billed Sidney Poitier), Warners had already cut off funding. Pushing 50, Ladd looked on in dismay as Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck got the best parts, while a newcomer named Peter O'Toole grabbed away his dream role as Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Despite having considerable wealth, Ladd needed to work. He played an embittered lawman in the Fox western One Foot in Hell (1960) and traveled to Italy to star in the trouble-plagued sword and sandal epic Duel of the Champions (Orazi e curiazi, 1961). Back in the States, Ladd set up Ladd Enterprises in an office on Wilshire Boulevard and went to work producing a film adaptation of the 1957 novel The Tiger Among Us by Leigh Brackett.
Leigh Brackett's second career as a screenwriter spans the three decades between The Big Sleep (1946) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980). One of four crime novels written by a specialist in science fiction and fantasy, The Tiger Among Us is the story of an aerospace engineer who turns vigilante when attacked by a youth gang. Retitled 13 West Street (1962) and dumped into second feature Siberia by Columbia, this forgotten drama forfeits exploitative flourishes to carve a character study of a Camelot-era American whose devotion to work (in addition to rendering him childless) has cut him off from the world. Although the violence of 13 West Street is minimal, the film anticipates the cycle of vigilante films popular in the 1970s. Kicked off by Phil Karlson's fact-based Walking Tall (1973) and Michael Winner's aggressively exploitative Death Wish (1974), this subgenre spawned two Walking Tall sequels, four Death Wish sequels and numerous copycats made for television and the big screen.
Cast as the sympathetic Juvenile Division cop who counsels Ladd's solid citizen against taking the law into his own hands was Rod Steiger, who also was experiencing something of a career slump. After his successes in On the Waterfront (1954) and the musical Oklahoma! (1955), Steiger turned down offers of lucrative but binding multi-year contracts to remain a free agent; consequently, the actor lost out on the chance to recreate the role of Marty for the 1955 film adaptation produced by Burt Lancaster's company Hill-Hecht-Lancaster. No longer in demand, Steiger had to scramble for paying gigs for a decade before his Oscar® nominated comeback in Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1964). On the set of 13 West Street, Steiger found Ladd professional but distant. "Alan Ladd was a very sweet and a very kind and a rather sad man," Steiger told Ladd's biographer Beverly Linet. "He was an exhausted man... one had a feeling he was waiting for it to end."
His Golden Boy looks ravaged by alcohol and his career in decline, Ladd suffered further despair over the deaths of his Salty O'Rourke costar Gail Russell (of an alcohol-induced heart attack at age 36), former friend Dick Powell (whose wife, June Allyson, Ladd had fallen in love with while filming The McConnell Story in 1954) and director Frank Tuttle. Ladd himself was left near death in November 1962 as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while staying alone at his Hidden Valley ranch. The bullet had passed through Ladd's left lung and lodged in the muscles of his back, requiring a long and painful recuperation that may have led to his eventual death by accidental combination of alcohol and sedatives on January 29, 1964. Ladd's innate aloofness was perhaps best summed up by frequent co-star Veronica Lake, who likened Ladd's passing to "losing a piece of jewelry you never wore but enjoyed every time you opened the jewel case."
Bringing vitality to 13 West Street is its quartet of youth offenders. Having played plum roles in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Mysterious Island (1961), Michael Callan was pointed toward a career high as Jane Fonda's outlaw love interest in Cat Ballou (1965). Chris Robinson was one of John Frankenheimer's The Young Savages (1961) and still hadn't cleaned up his act by the time of The Cycle Savages (1969); cult film fans remember him best as the vengeful half-breed anti-hero of Stanley (1972), a ripoff of Willard (1971) that substituted rattlesnakes for rats. Blue-eyed Mark Slade later turned up as the sensitive son of Arizona cattleman Leif Erickson on the western weekly The High Chaparral while Adam Roarke went on to exploitation infamy in The Losers (1970) and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974). Memorable cameos are also contributed by Mary Tyler Moore's Ted Knight (as Ladd's brother-in-law) and Bernie Hamilton, later a regular on the hit series Starsky & Hutch.
Producer: William Bloom, Alan Ladd
Director: Philip Leacock
Screenplay: Robert Presnell, Jr., Bernard C. Schoenfeld, Leigh Brackett (novel)
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Film Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: Walter Holscher
Music: George Duning
Cast: Alan Ladd (Walt Sherill), Rod Steiger (Detective Sergeant Koleski), Michael Callan (Chuck), Dolores Dorn (Tracey Sherill), Kenneth MacKenna (Paul Logan), Margaret Hayes (Mrs. Landry).
By Richard Harland Smith
13 West Street
TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger
ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002
From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).
Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.
It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.
As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.
Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.
Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.
by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger
Prerelease titles: The Tiger Among Us and 13 East Street.
Released in United States Spring May 1962
Released in United States Spring May 1962