Born To Kill is a 1947 crime movie that became one of the early Noir films. It's directed by Robert Wise and based on a novel by James Gunn. Robert's got an amazing list of films in his IMDb listing. Before BKT he'd directed The Curse Of The Cat People and The Body Snatcher. After BTK he directed The Day The Earth Stood Still, Run Silent Run Deep, West Side Story, The Haunting and The Sound Of Music. Near the end of his career he directed Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The script was written by Eve Greene and Richard Macaulay. Gunn's first screenplay was adapting Gypsy Rose Lee's novel Lady Of Burlesque. That was a fun murder mystery starring Barbara Stanwick as a stripper. Gunn wrote a lot of 50s TV I didn't see and some 60s TV that I did. He died in 1966 at the age of 46.
I only recognize one or two of the 30 credits Eve has on the IMDb. One of those was episodes she did on The Lone Ranger and the other was the Jack Benny film Artists and Models. I recognized a few more items on Richard's IMDb listing. He wrote Earthworm Tractors, starring Joe E Brown, back in 1936. In the 50s and 60s he wrote episodes of Maverick, Perry Mason and 77 Sunset Strip among others. Born To Kill was his last feature film.
Claire Trevor is a young woman living in Reno for the 6 weeks needed to establish residency for a divorce. She rooms at one of the many places set up for just that. Some might remember Claire in Key Largo where she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. I remember her in Murder, My Sweet and Stagecoach. She acted until she was 87, she died 3 years later in 1990.
Esther Howard plays the lady running the place. She was great, maybe the best performance in the movie. It's not the biggest part but she manages to get to the end of the movie without getting dying. Isabel Jewel is her neighbor, a fun gal who likes to step out with men, is not so lucky. She's got one guy, Lawrence Tierney, on the hook and to rile him up a bit she goes out with another guy.
Trouble is Lawrence is a whack job, he comes over to Isabel's house and kills the boyfriend. Isabel stumbles in on the action and gets her head stove in. Lawrence takes off, returning to the hotel he's staying at with Elisha Cook Jr. He tells Elisha what happened and his pal says he needs to skip before the heat gets turned up.
Fate puts Lawrence and Claire on the same train to San Francisco. Turns out Claire has a fiance, played by Phillip Terry, and Lawrence starts dating Claire's sister, played by Audrey Long. Lawrence and Audrey marry but the fires between Claire and Lawrence are far from extinguished.
Esther goes after the guy who done her pal and Private Eye Walter Slezak is the instrument of her revenge. He digs into the case and finds out much info. Claire tries to bribe Walter into giving it all up and he wants more money than she wants to pay. She later threatens Esther. Elisha tries to kill Esther, Lawrence interferes, Esther runs off and Elisha lies dead in the dunes. Things fall apart for Claire and the end of the movie comes with a hail of bullets that put an end to all her troubles.
I enjoyed the heck out of it but I've always liked a noir film. It's got a good script, nice production values and a great cast. It was a bit much for the time, maybe, the Wikipedia says the movie had a $243,000 loss. One critic said it was a "a smeary tabloid fable" and I couldn't think of a better description. The problem is that critic thinks that's a bad thing. This isn't a movie about your nice mom. It's got sex, anger, jealousy, selfishness, greed, hatred and stupidity in abundance and people die once all the players fall in place. Like the 1944 Noir classic, Double Indemnity, it's a good reminder to be careful who you date. Or is that whom? No matter, just stay the fuck away.
There's a commentary on the disc by Eddie Muller and it's pretty entertaining. He's written books on Noir films and he has a continuous stream of data about the film, the artists and Noir in general. He also plays some clips from an old interview with the late Robert Wise.