The Killers (1946 film)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Killers is a American film noir about the investigation of a mob murder. It is based in part on the short story of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film was directed by Robert Siodmak and released in 1946. It stars Burt Lancaster in his screen debut, as well as Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, and Sam Levene.



The story is about two hit men assigned to find and kill a man, Ole Anderson aka "the Swede"(Burt Lancaster), at a small-town diner. Impatient for his arrival, they kill him instead at a boarding house where, resigned to his fate, he awaits their arrival.

Because Anderson's life was insured, Investigator Jim Reardon (Edmund O'Brien) is assigned to look into the murder for his company. Interviewing several people from Anderson's past, Reardon develops the theory that Anderson's murder stemmed from an unsolved payroll robbery years earlier.

Working with a police detective (Sam Levene) who was a boyhood friend of Anderson's, Reardon sets a plan in motion to trap the hired killers, and the man who hired them.


The first twenty minutes of the film, showing the arrival of the two contract killers, and the murder of Anderson, is a very close adaptation of Hemingway's short story. The rest of the film, showing Reardon's investigation of the murder, is wholly original. The Killers was the first, and to date the only, adaptation of a Hemingway work to leave successfully intact the author's laconic dialogue. According to Hemingway's biographer, Carlos Baker, The Killers "was the first film from any of his works that Ernest could genuinely admire."

Producer Mark Hellinger paid $36,750 for the screen rights to Hemingway's story, his first independent production. The screenplay was written by John Huston, uncredited due to his contract with Warner Bros., and Richard Brooks.

Lancaster wasn't his first pick for the part of "the Swede," but Warner Bros. wouldn't lend out actor Wayne Morris for the film. Others considered for the part included Van Heflin, Jon Hall, Sonny Tufts, and Edmund O'Brien, who was instead cast in the role of the insurance investigator. In the role of the femme fatale, Kitty Collins, Hellinger cast Gardner, who had appeared virtually unnoticed in a string of minor films.


Tagline: Every kiss carved his name on another bullet.


The 1964 remake was made by director Don Siegel with an updated plot, starring Lee Marvin and a villainous Ronald Reagan in his last motion picture. Originally made for television around the time of Kennedy's assassination, Siegel's film was deemed too violent for the small screen and was released theatrically, first in Europe, then years later in America.

In 1958, director Andrei Tarkovsky, then a film student, created a 19-minute short based on the story which is featured on the Criterion Collection DVD release.

Scenes from The Killers were used in the Steve Martin film noir spoof Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).<ref>Template:Imdb title.</ref>

The opening chords of Miklós Rózsa's theme music was later reused for the Dragnet television series.

The Killers is used as an example of noir cinematography in the documentary Visions of Light (1992).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Killers (1946 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools