Cast & Crew
In Santa Monica, California, elderly pawn shop owner Lizzie Griggs is found beaten to death inside her shop. Just outside in a crowd of curious onlookers, law student Robert Cole collapses upon the arrival of the police led by Lt. Porter and Sgt. Samuels. Bob is taken home by his best friend and schoolmate Rafe, and quickly recovers. After Rafe departs, Bob goes down to the beach and buries a sack holding a crowbar, gloves and a pot filled with money. While walking back, Bob comes upon an old man who has collapsed in the street and helps the man to the home the man shares with his adult daughter, Sally Marmon. At his apartment, Bob is surprised by a visit from his mother and sister Debbie, who announces her engagement to a wealthy attorney. Bob erupts in fury at the prospect of his sister marrying a man she does not love, but Debbie insists she has the right to help her impoverished family by any means. The next day, Bob arranges a meeting with Lt. Porter in order to retrieve items he pawned with Mrs. Griggs. Porter recognizes Bob as the author of an article outlining a philosophy that claims certain individuals are superior to others and are above the law if their actions ultimately benefit mankind. Bob acknowledges he continues to believe his theory despite Porter's air of disdain. That afternoon, Bob is startled when Fred Swanson, Debbie's former employer, drops by his apartment unexpectedly. Full of loathing for Swanson because he made advances to Debbie while married, Bob orders him to leave, but Swanson reveals his wife has recently died and left Debbie a large amount of money. Curious, Bob questions Swanson further and learns that Mrs. Swanson liked Debbie and felt guilty over her husband's shameful behavior. Swanson shows Bob a legal document to back up his story and asks if he might see Debbie to apologize in person, but Bob forbids it. At dinner that evening, Debbie is incredulous over the news about Mrs. Swanson's will. Bob, startled when a stranger appears at the restaurant doorway and stares at him for a long time before leaving, follows the man outside and is stunned when the man calls him a murderer before fleeing. Disturbed, Bob is unable to relax after dinner and walks to a coffee shop where a little later he is approached by Sally, whom he does not initially recognize. Sally thanks him for helping her father earlier and Bob invites her for coffee. The couple chat and Sally reveals her father has just died, ravaged by a lifelong addiction to alcohol. Bob escorts Sally back to her one-room apartment where they discuss Sally's spiritual readings and her attempts to write poetry. Then abruptly Sally admits that she is a prostitute because her father's alcoholism exhausted their savings. Bob responds with anger and belittles Sally's attempts to live normally despite her aberrant lifestyle. When Sally orders Bob to leave, he admits he is attracted to her and desires to see her again. Upon departing, Bob fails to notice that Swanson has been following him all evening. The next morning, Bob returns to police headquarters to give Porter a statement describing the items he pawned with Mrs. Griggs. Although Porter attempts to make Bob uneasy by casually discussing his suspicions regarding the murderer, Bob challenges the lieutenant to question him directly if he suspects him. When Porter continues circuitously probing Bob, the young man grows angry and the men argue until they are interrupted by a report that a young artist has confessed to the Griggs murder. Pleased, Bob visits Sally, who has just returned from her father's funeral. On an impulse, Bob confesses to Sally that he murdered Mrs. Griggs because he needed the money and because he considered the cantankerous old woman's life worthless. Bob compares his behavior to the risks taken by great men like Alexander and Napoleon, but Sally remains dubious and advises him to surrender to the police. Bob refuses, growing belligerent and insisting they have no evidence against him. Bob pleads with Sally to believe in him and she allows him to spend the night with her. The next morning, Bob finds Swanson sunbathing on Sally's apartment deck. Swanson reveals that he has rented the room next to Sally's and has overheard Bob's confession, then suggests that they have something in common. Bob asks Swanson if he murdered his wife, but Swanson requests to see Debbie. Bob finds Porter waiting for him at his apartment and the lieutenant declares frankly that despite the man's confession, he believes Bob is the murderer, citing his tense behavior, the connection with Mrs. Griggs through the pawned items and his shocked response to the man Porter hired to call him a murderer in public. Porter urges Bob to give himself up, promising to help as much as possible, but when Bob remains stubbornly silent, Porter reminds him that he can never escape the burden of murder. Bob meets Swanson for lunch, where the older man describes how he grew attracted to Debbie's kindness and effort to reform his immoral behavior. Swanson acknowledges that his wife's discovery of his attempt to seduce Debbie provoked his decision to murder her. Swanson then lightly assures Bob the guilt over murder passes and recommends that he leave town for a change of scenery. Shaken by Swanson's casual attitude, Bob telephones Sally and asks her to go away with him and get married. Meanwhile, Swanson summons Debbie to his apartment and reveals having overheard Bob's confession, but Debbie refuses to believe him. Swanson divulges his continued feelings for Debbie and pleads with her to give him a chance. When Debbie responds coldly, Swanson threatens to turn Bob in, then realizes Debbie will never care for him and allows her to leave. A little later, Bob arrives at Sally's and while helping her pack, the couple hear a gunshot. Rushing next door, they discover Swanson has committed suicide. Shocked, Bob abruptly walks to the police station and turns himself in to Porter as Sally watches with relief.
M. E. M. Gibsone
Herschel Burke Gilbert
Robert Tyler Lee
Merrill G. White
Crime and Punishment, U.S.A. (1959) -
First serialized in twelve parts in the prestigious literary journal The Russian Messenger in 1866, Crime and Punishment was published in its entirety the following year. The book met with critical success and was translated into English in 1885, just prior to the dawn of motion picture-making. The property was first adapted for cinema in 1913, in pre-Soviet Russia, and was reworked for American moviegoers in 1917. Trading the opulence of Paramount for the limited means of Columbia Pictures, Viennese auteur Josef von Sternberg had a go at the material in 1935, with German émigré Peter Lorre playing Dostoyevsky's student antihero Raskolnikov not too many degrees separated from his iconic turn as the child-killer of Fritz Lang's M (1931). There were subsequent adaptations produced in Germany, France, and Mexico, but Crime and Punishment USA (1959) marked only the second sound film made in English from the Dostoyevsky novel. With Denis signed to direct and Terry acting as producer, the Allied Artists release got under way with an adaptation by radio writer turned Hollywood scenarist Walter Newman. Newman had pitched the concept of Ace in the Hole (1951) to Billy Wilder and also contributed to the script for Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955).
Whereas Peter Lorre had played Raskolnikov as a popeyed paranoiac, the Sanders brothers were instead offered an almost impossibly handsome young actor to play the part, a 19 year-old touted in certain Hollywood circles as the next John Barrymore. Though Denis Sanders would have preferred Anthony Perkins (a year before Perkins was cast by Alfred Hitchcock as Norman Bates in Psycho, 1960), he was obliged to settle for George Hamilton. Namesake son of Biltmore Hotel bandleader George "Spike" Hamilton, the Memphis-born actor manqué had spent some formative years in Beverly Hills (where he acted for the first time at the tony Hawthorn School on Rexford Drive) until a reversal in family fortunes drove the family back to the Deep South. Hamilton had returned to Hollywood on his own initiative and secured an agent in Hy Sieger, a junior associate at the Mitchell Gertz Agency. It was Sieger who set Hamilton up with his feature film debut in Crime and Punishment USA, for a promised fee of five hundred dollars. Also brought on board were Mary Murphy (Marlon Brando's waitress girlfriend in The Wild One , cast as Hamilton's love interest), character actor Frank Silvera (as the police detective shadowing Hamilton's intellectual first-time killer), and Marian Seldes, reprising a role she had played on Broadway opposite John Gielgud in 1949, that of the protagonist's sister (with a name change from Dounia to Debbie).
Production of Crime and Punishment USA began in June 1958, with exteriors captured verité-style in and around Venice Beach (where Orson Welles had just shot Touch of Evil, 1958) and interiors at Centaur Studios. The Sanders also made use of the Santa Monica Pier and the then-famous Pacific Ocean Park, a nautical-themed rival to Disneyland that opened in July of that year. (Nearly a decade later, P.O.P. was the backdrop for the final episode of TV's long-running The Fugitive, where David Janssen's wrongly-accused protagonist came face to face with his wife's killer.) Credited separately as director and producer, Denis and Terry Sanders worked as co-directors (similar to the contemporary Coen Brothers) and attempted to fold their adaptation of Crime and Punishment into the emerging Beat Generation. (Jack Kerouac's seminal Beat novel, On the Road, had been in print less than a year.) John Parker's experimental horror film Dementia (aka, Daughter of Horror, 1955) had already squeezed the Venice location for its weight in existential dread, while the community would serve as the setting for such subsequent films as Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood (1959), George Blair's The Hypnotic Eye (1960) and Curtis Harrington's Night Tide (1961).
Though production went smoothly through the summer of 1958 (apart from George Hamilton's near-thrashing at the hands of Mary Murphy's jealous lover, married talent agent Kurt Frings, who had caught the actors rehearsing behind closed doors and assumed the worst), the star of Crime and Punishment USA received no further offers of work. Hamilton ultimately resorted to bribing a contact at Screen Gems Television with a bottle of Jack Daniels to get him a guest part on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. Further TV work followed until a plum role in Vincente Minnelli's Home from the Hill (1960) opposite Robert Mitchum set Hamilton's career in motion. Denis and Terry Sanders went on to make War Hunt (1962), which provided early feature film credits to fledgling actors Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack, before splitting up the partnership; Denis would share a 1970 Academy Award with Robert M. Fresco for the documentary Czechoslovakia 1918-1968 (1969) while Terry would go on to a distinguished career as a producer, and win his own Oscar (shared with wife and partner Freida Lee Mock) for the documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1994). Screenwriter Walter Newman collaborated with Frank Pierson on the script for Elliot Silverstein's Cat Ballou (1965), resulting in an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.
By Richard Harland Smith
Sources: Don't Mind If I Do by George Hamilton and William Stadiem (Touchstone, 2008) Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of Night of the Hunter by Preston Neal Jones (Limelight Editions, 2004) Some Like It Hot: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder by Gene D. Phillips (The University Press of Kentucky, 2009) On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder by Ed Sikov (Hyperion Press, 1999) Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director by Marilyn Ann Moss (The University of Kentucky Press, 2013) Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would be King by Preston Hirsch (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007) "A Tale of Two Brothers: Oscar-winning student film added to the National Registry" Point of View Magazine (Spring 2007)
Crime and Punishment, U.S.A. (1959) -
Crime and Punishment, U. S. A. marked the film debut of George Hamilton. Reviews list Eve McVeagh as "Mrs. Griggs," but she did not appear in the released film. According to an October 1958 article in Los Angeles Examiner, the film was shot on location in Santa Monica and Venice, CA. The same article also indicates that the script was written by John Harding, but Harding's contribution, if any, to the final script has not been confirmed.
Crime and Punishment, U.S.A. updated Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel by changing the setting from nineteenth century Moscow to modern day Southern California. Further liberties were taken in characterizations and some plot points. Other film versions of Crime and Punishment include a 1917 Arrow production directed by Lawrence McGill and starring Derwent Hall Caine (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20), a 1923 German film entitled Raskolnikov, directed by Robert Wiene and starring Grigori Chmarna, a 1935 Columbia production directed by Joseph von Sternberg, starring Peter Lorre and Edward Arnold (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), a 1946 Monogram production entitled Fear, directed by Alfred Zeisler and starring Warren William (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), and a 2002 Twenty-first Century Production directed by Menahem Golan, starring Crispin Clover, Vanessa Redgrave and John Hurt.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959