The First Deadly Sin


1h 52m 1980
The First Deadly Sin

Brief Synopsis

A police detective nearing retirement tries to catch a serial killer.

Film Details

Also Known As
First Deadly Sin, The
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Adaptation
Drama
Thriller
Release Date
1980

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Synopsis

New York police sergeant Edward Delandy is just beginning to work on a brutal murder case when he learns that his wife's illness has gotten worse after an operation. Depressed by this news, Delaney puts all of his energy into the new case. After several leads that go nowhere, Delaney's investigation finally takes him to a businessman who seems to be leading a double life. As his wife's health deteriorates hourly, Delaney is engaged in psychological warfare in his efforts to catch the killer.

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Movie Clip

First Deadly Sin, The (1980) -- (Movie Clip) You Proposing To Me? First at the scene of a Manhattan murder he’s investigating then, as novelist Lawrence Sanders’ detective Edward Delaney, Frank Sinatra, in his last movie role, visits his wife (Faye Dunaway as Barbara), who is hospitalized throughout the picture with kidney troubles, in The First Deadly Sin, 1980.
First Deadly Sin, The (1980) -- (Movie Clip) What Will They Think Of Next? With Anna Navarro, well-known TV actress and wife of the producer George Pappas, as jailed hooker Sunny, Frank Sinatra, in his last movie, as Lawrence Sanders’ New York detective Edward Delaney, asks what she knows about victim of a murder he’s hoping to resolve, just weeks before his retirement, in The First Deadly Sin, 1980.
First Deadly Sin, The (1980) -- (Movie Clip) It Might Seem Unconventional Working with customer index cards obtained from a Manhattan sporting goods specialty store, after a murderer who owns an unusual ice-axe, cop Delaney (Frank Sinatra, in his last movie role) instructs volunteer helpers, Brenda Vaccaro as a victim’s widow, and Martin Gabel as an aging museum curator, in The First Deadly Sin, 1980.
First Deadly Sin, The (1980) -- (Movie Clip) I Could Never Refuse A Pretty Face First scene for Frank Sinatra in his last movie, for sure shooting on West 81st St. in Manhattan, outside the Mt. Pleasant Baptist church, as Lawrence Sanders’ New York cop Edward Delaney, consulting with James Whitmore as the coroner, examining a victim, early in The First Deadly Sin, 1980.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
First Deadly Sin, The
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Adaptation
Drama
Thriller
Release Date
1980

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Articles

The First Deadly Sin


Frank Sinatra returned to the big screen in his first starring role in a decade with The First Deadly Sin (1980), a detective thriller based on the novel by Lawrence Sanders. He had made a couple of cameo appearances since starring in Dirty Dingus Magee in 1970, and despite an official retirement in 1971 had returned to performing and turning out TV specials through the 1970s. He even starred in a TV movie, Contract on Cherry Street (1977), playing a veteran New York Detective. The First Deadly Sin was to be a screen comeback of sorts. It turned out to be his final screen appearance in a leading role.

The novel, the second in what became a series of novels featuring New York Police Detective Edward X. Delaney, was published in 1973 and immediately optioned and developed as a project for Columbia Pictures. Don Siegel was attached in 1974, then replaced by Roman Polanski, who was weeks away from the start of principle photography when he was arrested and indicted on charges of statutory rape in what became one of the most notorious Hollywood scandals of the decade. The film was put into turnaround, as they say, and revived a few years later by producer Elliot Kastner, who eyed Marlon Brando for the lead.

It took Sinatra's commitment as both star and executive producer to finally get the production underway. The role was good fit for the star. Sinatra had played swinging, smart-aleck detective Tony Rome in two films and a tough, hardboiled NYPD detective in The Detective (1968), but Det. Delaney was a different kind of character. A world-weary veteran weeks away from retirement, he's a married man whose wife (Faye Dunaway) is dying of a liver ailment. Helpless to save her from her pain, he steers his energies efforts into a street murder that he thinks may be part of a string of serial killings. He has to work around the squad's new hotshot captain (Anthony Zerbe), an ambitious careerist more interested in statistics than justice, and he defies proper procedure to track down the killer in what becomes a personal quest.

Sinatra exudes an easy gravitas and unforced confidence and the wise-guy attitude so familiar to his earlier characters has aged to resignation. Faye Dunaway is relegated to a bed for the film--her entire performance is played in the supine position--but their scenes together gives Sinatra the opportunity to reveal a vulnerable, tender side of his character. James Whitmore is the sardonic coroner who provides Delaney's only help in the department and Brenda Vaccaro and Martin Gabel create memorable characters out of two civilians who volunteer to help Delaney's investigation. The role of the enigmatic, psychologically tormented killer, appropriately named Blank, was given to David Dukes, a busy actor best known for his stage work. He was in fact performing on Broadway in the play Bent, for which he earned a Tony nomination, while he was shooting The First Deadly Sin over a ten week period. Sinatra called him "one of the really great actors."

Brian Hutton, director of the sixties action capers Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Kelly's Heroes (1970), shoots the film on location on the streets of New York City, mostly at night, giving the film the atmosphere of a modern film noir. Composer Gordon Jenkins, a longtime Sinatra collaborator as arranger and conductor on numerous albums, provides an appropriately moody score.

The film received mixed reviews and the slow, deliberate direction and dark nature of the drama didn't connect with audiences at the time but Sinatra's performance was singled out for praise. "The movie is one of the season's pleasant surprises," wrote Roger Ebert, who noted the "quiet, poignant, and very effective performance" by Sinatra, who "looks and acts very touchingly like a tired old cop on the threshold of retirement." Sinatra biographer Tom Santopietro, with the benefit of hindsight, is even more effusive. "Nuanced, complex, and extremely moving in its portrayal of one aging man's vulnerability, he work therein is really of the highest rank, right up there with his turns in From Here to Eternity, Suddenly, and The Manchurian Candidate. In fact, in strictly emotional terms, it is the most involving of all..." Sinatra left the big screen with one of his finest performances.

By Sean Axmaker

Sources:
Sinatra: Hollywood His Was, Timothy Knight. Running Press, 2010.
Sinatra In Hollywood, Tom Santopietro. St. Martin's Press, 2008.
I Married the Icepick Killer: A Poet in Hollywood, Carol Muske-Dukes. Random House, 2002.
"The First Deadly Sin," film review by Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Time, October 30, 1980.
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
IMDb
The First Deadly Sin

The First Deadly Sin

Frank Sinatra returned to the big screen in his first starring role in a decade with The First Deadly Sin (1980), a detective thriller based on the novel by Lawrence Sanders. He had made a couple of cameo appearances since starring in Dirty Dingus Magee in 1970, and despite an official retirement in 1971 had returned to performing and turning out TV specials through the 1970s. He even starred in a TV movie, Contract on Cherry Street (1977), playing a veteran New York Detective. The First Deadly Sin was to be a screen comeback of sorts. It turned out to be his final screen appearance in a leading role. The novel, the second in what became a series of novels featuring New York Police Detective Edward X. Delaney, was published in 1973 and immediately optioned and developed as a project for Columbia Pictures. Don Siegel was attached in 1974, then replaced by Roman Polanski, who was weeks away from the start of principle photography when he was arrested and indicted on charges of statutory rape in what became one of the most notorious Hollywood scandals of the decade. The film was put into turnaround, as they say, and revived a few years later by producer Elliot Kastner, who eyed Marlon Brando for the lead. It took Sinatra's commitment as both star and executive producer to finally get the production underway. The role was good fit for the star. Sinatra had played swinging, smart-aleck detective Tony Rome in two films and a tough, hardboiled NYPD detective in The Detective (1968), but Det. Delaney was a different kind of character. A world-weary veteran weeks away from retirement, he's a married man whose wife (Faye Dunaway) is dying of a liver ailment. Helpless to save her from her pain, he steers his energies efforts into a street murder that he thinks may be part of a string of serial killings. He has to work around the squad's new hotshot captain (Anthony Zerbe), an ambitious careerist more interested in statistics than justice, and he defies proper procedure to track down the killer in what becomes a personal quest. Sinatra exudes an easy gravitas and unforced confidence and the wise-guy attitude so familiar to his earlier characters has aged to resignation. Faye Dunaway is relegated to a bed for the film--her entire performance is played in the supine position--but their scenes together gives Sinatra the opportunity to reveal a vulnerable, tender side of his character. James Whitmore is the sardonic coroner who provides Delaney's only help in the department and Brenda Vaccaro and Martin Gabel create memorable characters out of two civilians who volunteer to help Delaney's investigation. The role of the enigmatic, psychologically tormented killer, appropriately named Blank, was given to David Dukes, a busy actor best known for his stage work. He was in fact performing on Broadway in the play Bent, for which he earned a Tony nomination, while he was shooting The First Deadly Sin over a ten week period. Sinatra called him "one of the really great actors." Brian Hutton, director of the sixties action capers Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Kelly's Heroes (1970), shoots the film on location on the streets of New York City, mostly at night, giving the film the atmosphere of a modern film noir. Composer Gordon Jenkins, a longtime Sinatra collaborator as arranger and conductor on numerous albums, provides an appropriately moody score. The film received mixed reviews and the slow, deliberate direction and dark nature of the drama didn't connect with audiences at the time but Sinatra's performance was singled out for praise. "The movie is one of the season's pleasant surprises," wrote Roger Ebert, who noted the "quiet, poignant, and very effective performance" by Sinatra, who "looks and acts very touchingly like a tired old cop on the threshold of retirement." Sinatra biographer Tom Santopietro, with the benefit of hindsight, is even more effusive. "Nuanced, complex, and extremely moving in its portrayal of one aging man's vulnerability, he work therein is really of the highest rank, right up there with his turns in From Here to Eternity, Suddenly, and The Manchurian Candidate. In fact, in strictly emotional terms, it is the most involving of all..." Sinatra left the big screen with one of his finest performances. By Sean Axmaker Sources: Sinatra: Hollywood His Was, Timothy Knight. Running Press, 2010. Sinatra In Hollywood, Tom Santopietro. St. Martin's Press, 2008. I Married the Icepick Killer: A Poet in Hollywood, Carol Muske-Dukes. Random House, 2002. "The First Deadly Sin," film review by Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Time, October 30, 1980. AFI Catalog of Feature Films IMDb

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Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1980

Released in United States 1980