1947 marked the year in which two Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards explored the themes of racial bigotry and the rise of anti-Semitism after the horrors of the Holocaust of World War II. The Best Picture winner that year, Gentleman’s Agreement, led the way with eight Academy Award nominations. The other, lesser-known film up for Best Picture that similarly highlighted anti-Semitism was the B-movie thriller Crossfire. The film, directed by Edward Dmytryk and with a screenplay by John Paxton, was based on Richard Brooks’ novel “The Brick Foxhole.” Unlike the film version, the novel dealt with gay-bashing and murder- and the protagonist was not Jewish, but homosexual. In the film version, the story centers on the murder of a Jewish man named Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene) and the investigation behind his murder led by Homicide Captain Finlay (Robert Young). There is a ragtag group of demobilized soldiers who were at the scene of the crime and Cpt. Finlay is bound and determined to get to the bottom it. Finlay suspects Mitchell (George Cooper) of committing Samuel’s murder, while Sergeant Keely (Robert Mitchum) goes out on a limb to prove his friend’s innocence. Soon other characters emerge and begin to provide shading and mystery behind the crime- there’s Montgomery (Robert Ryan), a good-natured man until someone starts pushing his buttons, dance hall femme fatale, Ginny (Gloria Grahame) who gets testy and defensive when backed into a corner, and Mary (Jacqueline White), Mitchell’s wife who desperately wants answers as to her husband’s guilt or innocence. The film does it’s best to deftly balance film noir murder mystery with anti-Semitism and it succeeds on nearly all fronts. Although director Edward Dmytryk pulled great performances from his actors, the film was ultimately overshadowed by Elia Kazan’s preachy, sympathy-driven Gentleman’s Agreement.
Crossfire was the recipient of five Academy Award nominations including the aforementioned Best Picture, Best Director for Edward Dmytryk, Best Screenplay for John Paxton, and Best Supporting Actor for Robert Ryan. The film’s fifth nomination went to Gloria Grahame, nominee, (147), for her role as floozie dance hall girl Ginny Tremaine. The sexy and seductive Grahame plays her two scenes well- she’s sweetness, softness and lace while twirling around the dancefloor of The Red Dragon with accused-murderer Mitchell, but she comes out ready to strike like a venomous serpent once her motives come into question later on in the film. This marked the first of two Academy Award nominations for Grahame for Best Supporting Actress. She would later go on to earn a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful. Grahame lost the Oscar this year to Celeste Holm in Gentleman’s Agreement.