Chris (Edward G.Robinson) is an unhappy but essentially well-meaning small-time
bank cashier who is struck with financial problems, a hysteric, malevolent
wife Adele (Rosalind Ivan), & the unfulfilled dreams to become a great
painter. So it's little wonder that, when he one night saves Kitty (Joan
Bennett), a girl young enough to be his daughter, from receiving a beating, he
immediately falls in love with her, promises her heaven & tells her he's a
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What Chis doesn't know though is that the man who has beaten up Kitty was
Johnny (Dan Duryea), her lover & a small time crook, & he soon
persuades Kitty to date Chris & squeeze his money out of him.
Hearing her heart-ripping stories, Chris of course promises to help Kitty
paying for her own appartment & helping her with her acting career - &
because he doesn't have the money, he hjas to steal it, first from the
insurance money his wife got for the death of her first husband, then from the
bank - & his only condition is that he can use Kitty's appartment as his
Everything goes well for a while, but then johnny has the idea of selling
some of Chris's paintings (as he still believes Chris is a famous painter),
& has to realize Chris is just the nobody he seems to be. But by
coincidence art critic Janeway (Jess Barker) & gallerist Dellarowe (Arthur
Loft) stumble over the paintings & are highly impressed - & because the
paintings are not signed, Johnny claims they are all made by Kitty, who soon
becomes a minor sensation in the arts world (despite not knowing the first
thing about painting).
It is inevitable that Chris finds that out though, but he is far from angry,
as finally he gets the recognition that he has always wanted, & does not
mind if it is under her name since she is the woman he loves (htat she actually
despises him he doesn't know) & would want to marry, wouldn't he already be
married ... & that's when fate intervenes, in the form of Adele's first
husband (Charles Kemper), who has turned from cop to common crook after he
faked his own death, & now he wants to blackmail Chris to stay dead &
not ruin Chris' marriage - not knowing that this is the break Chris has always
hoped for, & he makes arrangements for Adele to meet her former husband so
he can get out of wedlock easily & legally ...
But when he, now a free man, comes to Kitty's appartment, he finds her with
Johnny. In anger, he leaves & gets drunk, but when he later comes to
reconcile, she - having finally grown tired of him - mocks him ... & he
stabs her with an icepick.
All evidence though leads to Johnny, who is consequently convicted &
sent to the chair, & Chris gets off scot-free. & even when his thieving
from the bank is found out, his boss J.J. (Russell Hicks) lets him off easily
as he has sympathy for older men having affairs with younger women (as he
himself has one), & Chris is only fired (of course) but escapes punisment
again ... but does he, as for the rest of his life, he is haunted by his
conscience in the form of the voices of Kitty & Johnny, whom he killed,
& who now never let him go ...
His paintings meanwhile, all signed by Kitty, sell for thousands of
Excellent noir crime-melodrama that concentrates on the little crimes of
little people (Robinson is a simple bank cashier, Bennett a rather common
seductress, & even Duryeas gangsterism is strictly small-fry) that only
eventually culminate into something as grave as murder. & in an ironic
twist, the most honest, most well-meaning character of the film, Robinson,
turns out to be the biggest criminal of them all, & what's more, he gets
away with it too (at least in a legal sense).
Robinson, Bennett & Duryea all played in Lang's Woman in the Window
from the previous year.
The novel La Chienne was previously filmed by Jean Renoir in 1931under that
title, with more emphasis on the ironic, even comedic elements. In 1954, Fritz
Lang would remake another Jean Renoir film, La Bête Humaine (1938) as Human