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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joseph Losey|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel|
|Screenplay by||Dalton Trumbo (uncredited) |
Hugo Butler (a front for Trumbo)
|Story by||Robert Thoeren|
|Music by||Lyn Murray|
|Cinematography||Arthur C. Miller|
|Edited by||Paul Weatherwax|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The Prowler is a 1951 American film noir thriller film directed by Joseph Losey that stars Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes. The film was produced by Sam Spiegel (as S.P. Eagle) and was written by Dalton Trumbo. Because Trumbo was blacklisted at the time, the screenplay was credited to his friend, screenwriter Hugo Butler, as a front.
Webb Garwood (Van Heflin), a disgruntled cop, is called to investigate a peeping Tom by Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes). Her husband works nights as an overnight radio personality. Webb falls in love with the young and attractive married woman. Obsessed, he woos her and, despite her initial reluctance, the two begin an adulterous affair.
Webb discovers an insurance policy on the husband's life. He dreams up a scheme; one evening, he goes to Susan's house and makes noise outside which would indicate a prowler. He then leaves but, because he is in his police vehicle, hears the subsequent complaint reported from Susan's address. He returns to the house in his official capacity, and again makes noise suggesting a prowler. Susan's husband comes outside, armed, and Webb, under cover in the bushes, shoots him with his service revolver and kills him. Webb then wounds himself with the husband's pistol to make it look like the two had exchanged gunfire.
Webb's ruse fools a coroner's jury, thanks in part to both Susan and Webb testifying that they didn't know each other prior to her husband's death (although his police partner believes otherwise).
Susan initially suspects Webb of foul play, but becomes convinced of his innocence and subsequently marries him. Shortly after the wedding, Susan informs Webb that she is four months pregnant (a consequence of their adultery—earlier, it was revealed that her husband proved to be infertile, and that she was desperate to have children). This was problematic because the date of the baby's conception would prove the two had lied in their testimony to cover up their previous relationship and would thereby suggest that Webb's killing of Susan's husband had not been an accident at all.
The two run away to a ghost town named Calico to have the baby without anyone back home knowing. They enjoy a happy life until Susan goes into premature labor. Webb finds and forces Dr. William James (Wheaton Chambers) to come out to Calico to assist in the birth. Susan realizes that Webb intends to kill Dr. James to preserve their secret, so she warns the doctor, who then escapes with the newborn.
Susan tells Webb that she knows what he had planned to do and that she now believes that he intentionally murdered her husband. Realizing the doctor will send the police after him, Webb drives away, leaving his wife in Calico alone.
On the way out of town, he finds the road blocked by his former partner who is coming to pay a visit. While attempting to get around his friend's car, Webb sees several police cars coming so he heads for the hills on foot. He refuses to stop and a sheriff's deputy shoots him dead.
- Van Heflin as Webb Garwood
- Evelyn Keyes as Susan Gilvray
- John Maxwell as Bud Crocker
- Katherine Warren as Grace Crocker
- Emerson Treacy as William Gilvray
- Madge Blake as Martha Gilvray
- Wheaton Chambers as Dr. William James
- Robert Osterloh as Coroner
- Louise Lorimer as Motel Manager
- Sherry Hall as John Gilvray
- Dalton Trumbo as radio voice of John Gilvray (uncredited)
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Critical reception for the film has been mostly positive.
Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, writing, "A neat noir thriller that has a slight variation on the Double Indemnity theme, this time it is the guy who is the seducer. This is a Joseph Losey American film, made before his self-exile from the 1950s HUAC witch hunt days when he fled to England. It is the director's aim to highlight social issues and class differences. They will play a major role in the motif, adding to the usual noir ones of dark character and sexual misconduct. Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted writer, is the uncredited cowriter of the script."
- "The Prowler (1951) - Joseph Losey - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie.
- "The Prowler (1950)".
- Arnold, Jeremy. "The Prowler: Home Video Review". TCM. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
- "The Prowler (Cost of Living )".
- "Unusual Drama Opens at Criterion".
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 2, 2000. Accessed: July 8, 2013.
- Jonathan Harchick (28 October 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Createspace Independent Pub. ISBN 978-1-4936-2083-8.