Detective Story (1951) - Rotten Tomatoes

Detective Story (1951)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Sidney Kingsley's Broadway play Detective Story was praised for its realistic view of an event-filled day in a single police precinct station. The film, directed by meticulous taskmaster William Wyler, manages to retain this realism, even allowing for the star-turn performance of Kirk Douglas. A stickler for the letter of the law, Detective James McLeod (Douglas) is not averse to using strong-arm methods on criminals and witnesses alike in bringing lawbreakers to justice. He is particularly rough on a first-time offender (Craig Hill), on whom the rest of the force is willing to go easy because of the anguish of his girlfriend (Cathy O'Donnell). But McLeod's strongest invective is reserved for shady abortion doctor Karl Schneider (George MacReady); McLeod all but ruins the case against Schneider by beating him up in the patrol wagon. When McLeod discovers that his own wife (Eleanor Parker) had many years earlier lost a baby in one of Schneider's operations, and that the baby's father was gangster Tami Giacoppetti (Gerald Mohr), it is too much for the detective to bear. Punctuating the grim proceedings with brief moments of humor is future Oscar winner Lee Grant, reprising her stage role as a timorous shoplifter; it would be her last Hollywood assignment until the early 1960s, thanks to the iniquities of the blacklist. Despite small concessions to Hollywood censorship, Detective Story largely upheld the power of its theatrical original, and it forms a clear precursor to such latter-day urban police dramas as NYPD Blue.

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Kirk Douglas
as Det. James McLeod
Lee Grant
as Shoplifter
Frank Faylen
as Gallagher
George Macready
as Karl Schneider
Cathy O'Donnell
as Susan Carmichael
Horace McMahon
as Lt. Monahan
Gladys George
as Miss Hatch
Joseph Wiseman
as Charles Gennini
Gerald Mohr
as Tami Giacoppetti
Craig Hill
as Arthur
Michael Strong
as Lewis Abbott
Luis Van Rooten
as Joe Feinson
Russ Evans
as Patrolman Barnes
Warner Anderson
as Endicott Sims
Howard Joslin
as Patrolman Keogh
James Maloney
as Mr. Pritchett
Burt Mustin
as Janitor
Lee Miller
as Policeman
Mike Mahoney
as Coleman
Catharine Doucet
as Mrs. Farragut
Ann Codee
as Frenchwoman
Harper Goff
as Gallantz
Catherine Doucet
as Mrs. Farragut
Charles Campbell
as Newspaper Photographer
Donald Kerr
as Taxi Driver
Kay Wiley
as Hysterical Woman
Pat Flaherty
as Desk Sergeant
Jack Shea
as Desk Sergeant #2
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Critic Reviews for Detective Story

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (1)

Detective Story is a fascinating account of life in a New York police station.

August 7, 2019 | Full Review…

Sidney Kingsley's hard-hitting Broadway drama about life in a big-town police station has been expertly filmed by William Wyler. The result is muscular entertainment for adults.

January 28, 2020 | Full Review…

Counterintuitively, by abandoning the traditional Hollywood film grammar of quick-cut editing between different shot sizes and distances, Wyler managed to tell his story with a power practically unheard of in 1940s cinema.

December 27, 2018 | Rating: 9/10 | Full Review…

Though not one of Wyler's best films (it's still a play), the drama is well acted by Kirk Douglas as the tormented and obsessive cop and Lee Grant as a juvenile delinquent.

July 1, 2011 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Wyler não consegue escapar da origem teatral do texto, mas imprime energia ao filme, que também é beneficiado por uma atuação estupenda de Douglas e por ótimas performances de Bendix, Parker e Grant (em sua estréia no cinema).

April 6, 2006 | Rating: 4/5

the film's histrionics haven't aged perfectly

October 23, 2005 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Detective Story

Kirk Douglas succeeds in embodying all the strengths and fatal flaws of detective on the beat. It is an average day at the police station but one that is tremendously filled with drama.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

My second favourite Kirk Douglas movie. He plays a detective perfectly, the dialogue is great, the rest of the cast is great, the story is exciting, and it all takes place in one day. One of my favourite movies.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

Truly a performance based movie that really shouldn't be treated as anything else. While it lacks powerful direction and style, I don't think there was ever any intent to have either of those. You stay involved for the larger than life performance from Kirk Douglas as the most black and white cop to ever roam the streets of New York. You can clearly see this is better suited as a play and didn't necessarily need to make the jump to screen, but I'm pleased anyway.

Conner Rainwater
Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer

Detective Story Quotes

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