William Wyler has polished the legit hit by Pulitzer-prizewinner Sidney Kingsley into a cinematic gem. Scripters have stuck almost to the letter of the original play. Even the location seldom changes from Kingsley’s single set, the realistic headquarters room of the detective squad.
Kirk Douglas is the tortured detective determined unswervingly to do his duty as he sees it. Hunting an illicit doctor who has been delivering illegitimate children, Douglas suddenly finds himself being virtually blackmailed by the medico. Douglas’ wife, long before she married him, had occasion to use the charlatan’s services – and the doctor hadn’t forgotten.
Eleanor Parker plays the wife with a dignity and emotional depth that makes a dramatic highlight of the scene in which she is forced to reveal her past. The personal drama is played against a broad and entertaining mosaic of other drama, humor and young love in the busy squad room. Lee Grant repeats one of the memorable stage roles of recent years as a pathetic albeit amusing little Brooklynesque femme shoplifter. Another holdover from the legiter, Joseph Wiseman, is tops as a sneering, dope-filled larcenist.
The unfrocked physician was an abortionist in the original. Screen version has him actually delivering the illicit children.
1951: Nominations: Best Director, Actress (Eleanor Parker), Supp. Actress (Lee Grant), Screenplay