“How can a man be so dumb... I've been waiting to laugh in your face ever since I met you. You're old and ugly and I'm sick of you sick, sick, sick!”
So many films have been made where an older man falls for a younger woman and does not realize he is being played by the younger woman. They bore the life outta me to no end. Scarlet Street is unfortunately one of those types of films. And I had been dying to see it since Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett were so good together in Woman in the Window.
The film begins with Christopher Cross (Robinson) at a party thrown in his honor for being with the bank for twenty-five years. The boss tells everyone that he has to leave the party early because he does not want his wife to worry. One of the men at the party look out the window and see the boss getting into a cab with a much younger woman sitting in the backseat. Chris leaves his party with another older coworker. He wonders aloud what it must be like to have a younger woman love an older man like him.
While walking to the subway, Chris sees a young woman (Bennett) being beaten by a man. He chases the man off the young woman and then goes for a police office. The young woman, Kitty March, points the officer in the direction of the guy. Chris wants to wait for the officer but Kitty does not want to have her name splashed in the papers and neither does Chris for that matter since he is with another woman other than his wife. He walks Kitty to her place above a bar. They go into the bar and talk. They both misunderstand what each other does for a living. He thinks Kitty is an actress since she was out late at night. She thinks Chris is a famous artist after he tells her he paints and sells his paintings in Europe for a lot of money. Chris lets her believe that to impress her.
As they walk out of the bar Chris asks Kitty who the Johnny was she had asked the bartender about when they first entered. She quickly turns around almost in anger and answers that Johnny is her roommate’s boyfriend. The following day the Johnny in question is in her apartment. He is not the roommate’s boyfriend but Kitty’s. He was the one who beat her up the night before all because he was drunk and needed money and she would not give it to him. So he would not be caught Kitty pointed the cop in the opposite direction he went in. Kitty tells Johnny about Chris and how he is supposed to be a famous artist. Johnny comes up with the idea that she get close to him to get money out of him.
Chris starts to take money out of the bank feeling some pressure to impress Kitty and also to shut his annoying selfish wife up. His wife sees his paintings as an annoyance and threatens to throw them away one day. When she announces her intentions Chris decides he is going to get a studio apartment with Kitty to keep his paintings there and to paint. Chris is falling hard for Kitty. She does not reciprocate his feelings since she is just after his money he really does not have and loves Johnny.
One day Johnny sees some Chris’s paintings. Since they both believe that Chris is a famous painter Johnny tries to sell some of the works much to Kitty’s protests. He has no luck in doing so until he just gives them to a peddler on the street. Kitty makes him go back to get the works and he finds that some big art dealer saw the paintings and thought they were genius. Sometime later the peddler finds the dealer and brings him to the apartment. Johnny passes the works off as Kitty’s after she tells him no out loud not to say anything. He says that Kitty is modest and does not want to draw attention to herself. The dealer thinks “her” works are fantastic because they are made in such a masculine manner.
The shtick works for a while until Chris’s wife walks past the gallery and sees them in the window. She thinks the works are really Kitty’s and goes home and berates Chris for copying off of someone else’s work and that he is not a real artist. He goes to Kitty and she fake cries that she had to sell them because she had no money and she did not tell him because she did not want him getting mad at her. Chris is not mad at her he just cannot believe that someone would like his paintings that much to sell them. He is willing to go along with her scheme.
Things get rough for Chris soon after the whole deal with the paintings. His wife’s first husband comes back and tries to blackmail him. He is fired from his job when they find out he has been stealing money. The final nail in the coffin for Chris is when he tells Kitty he loves her and she laughs in face and tells him she does not love him at and is sick of seeing his face. In a rage he kills Kitty with an ice pick. Johnny comes in not much later to find Kitty dead. The police think he is the murderer since he is no good and he is sent to the electric chair. Chris’s guilt gets too much for him and he tries to kill himself. Unfortunately for him a guy in his apartment building hears some commotion in Chris’s room. He sees Chris hanging from the ceiling fan and takes him down. Chris lives and he is forever tortured by his guilt. He constantly hears Kitty and Johnny voices in his head.
I was disappointed with the story of Scarlet Street. It started off boring and just never picked up. There was nothing intriguing or interesting about the story. My attention and investment in the story and the characters was never gained. I kept thinking how the story could have possibly worked as a Pre-Code film. Kitty and Johnny could have been sleazier. Chris’s lust and guilt could have gone a bit deeper. Joan Bennett gave a decent performance with the material she was given. She gave very good attitude. Edward G. Robinson really does nothing for me. I usually find him very blah. Scarlet Street is not one of the worst films I have ever seen but it is not one of the best. At least I can say I watched it.