Best Film
Deaths Scenes

1943-1945


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
Film Title/Year and Description
Screenshots

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

In this dramatic western, the three accused and suspected men were led to the base of a gnarled tree for a hanging, where three nooses had been hanging prominently and ominously throughout the previous sequence. A reluctant Gerald Tetley (William Eythe) was ordered to participate by his father Major Tetley (Frank Conroy):

Gerald: I can't.
Major Tetley: We'll see to it that you can.
Gil Carter: The kid's seen enough already. Why don't you let him alone?
Major Tetley: (to Carter) This is not your affair, Carter. Thank you just the same. (to his son) I'll have no female boys bearing my name. You'll do your part and say nothing more.

As the hands of the suspects were tied behind their backs, one of them, doomed Martin (Dana Andrews) pleaded with Major Tetley for reconsideration:

Justice? What do you care about justice? You don't even care whether you've got the right men or not. All you know is you've lost something and somebody's got to be punished...You butcher!

Cowpoke drifter Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) attempted to defend them, but was restrained and silenced by the vigilante mob. The victims, with ropes around their necks, were placed on horses that were whipped out from underneath them. Gerald received a vicious gun butt in the face from his father for refusing to whip one of the horses.

The shadows of the three men's bodies were seen swinging on the ground. To "finish 'em," Jeff Farnley (Marc Lawrence) fired bullets from his rifle into all three men to ensure that they were dead. The posse left as Sparks (Leigh Whipper) sang about each of the three souls journeying through the Lonesome Valley and standing alone before their Maker.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

In a thrilling scene set on a moving train in the platform between train cars, there was a struggle between Uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) - the "Merry Widow Murderer " - and his young niece Charlie (Teresa Wright). As the train began to move faster, he seized her as she panicked and tried to break away. His face was absolutely monstrous as he advanced on her.

She struggled into the space between the cars, while he gripped her mouth and throat and opened the door to fling her onto the tracks. He explained his homicidal intentions: "I've got to do this, Charlie, so long as you know what you do about me." He twisted her around in his tight embrace, as she grappled with him. He lifted her off the ground - her legs dangled in the air. Her black-gloved hand gripped the door handle and then lost its hold.

Both watched the passing blur of landscape and tracks (two parallel railway tracks became one), delaying the inevitable plunge into death. Uncle Charles prepared her by waiting for the right moment of lethal speed and exhilaration (and sexual receptiveness), educating her to the monstrous world that he earlier said she must learn - as his twin: "Not yet, Charlie, let it get a little faster! Just a little faster! Faster! Now!"

She reversed positions on him, upset his balance and pushed him away - he fell headlong into the path of an oncoming, speeding train on an adjacent track. Her act freed him from his (and her) nightmares and from his curse to kill - she fulfilled her earlier threat ("I'll kill you myself"), aiding her uncle to embrace death. The image dissolved to the one of dancing couples twirling to the Merry Widow Waltz.


The Song of Bernadette (1943)

In the film's conclusion was the moving death of Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones), in which she experienced a final visitation from the Virgin Mary (Linda Darnell) who held out her arms, smiled, and said: "I love you!"


Laura (1944)

In the drama's climactic scene, 'Laura Hunt' murderer Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), in a passionate rage, was about to mortally wound the real Laura (Gene Tierney) with a shotgun.

When Laura was left alone, Waldo snuck back into her apartment, past the ticking grandfather clock. He was about to murder Laura (for the second time!) because she had fallen in love with Detective McPherson (Dana Andrews) and was not returning his love. Lydecker removed the shotgun from the clock's base, reloaded the murder weapon, and became startled when he heard his own mellifluous voice on a pre-recorded radio broadcast that Laura played within her bedroom. Lydecker's sick fantasy was echoed in his own poetic broadcast about how Love lasted beyond death:

And thus, as history has proved, Love is Eternal. It has been the strongest motivation for human actions throughout centuries. Love is stronger than Life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of Death. I close this evening's broadcast with some favorite lines...Brief Life - They are not long, the weeping and the laughter, love and desire and hate. I think they have no portion in us after we pass the gate...They are not long, the days of wine and roses. Out of a misty dream, our path emerges for a while, then closes within a dream.

In her bedroom as Laura prepared to retire, Lydecker broke her out of her reverie and shocked her with his appearance. He vowed to kill her, rather than lose her to McPherson:

The best part of myself - that's what you are. Do you think I'm going to leave it to the vulgar pawing of a second-rate detective who thinks you're a dame? Do you think I could bear the thought of him holding you in his arms, kissing you, loving you?

He raised his shotgun: "There he is now. He'll find us together, Laura as we always have been and we always should be, as we always will be." His words strongly implied that he intended a murder/suicide. Laura deflected the aim of the shotgun as it went off. McPherson broke down the door just in time to save her and have her run and fall into his arms. Waldo was mortally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the police. A shotgun blast went wild and shattered the face of the grandfather clock.

As Waldo was dying and uttered her name in his final words, she rushed to his side. The camera rested on the clock as Lydecker's final words were delivered off-screen with a theatrical flourish:

Goodbye, Laura. Goodbye, my love.



Murder, My Sweet (1944)

In this film noir's twist ending and violent conclusion set in a beach house, Mrs. Helen Grayle/Velma (Claire Trevor) died when shot by her millionaire husband Mr. Grayle (Miles Mander).

Love-struck ex-con Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) reacted to her lifeless body on the sofa:

She ain't hardly changed... just like always, only more fancy. Cute as lace pants...always...

Mr. Grayle and Moose then exchanged lethal shots as well. Detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) was temporarily blinded by the first gunblast.


Detour (1945)

Despicable hitchhiker Vera (Ann Savage) was accidentally strangled by doomed protagonist Al Roberts (Tom Neal) with a telephone cord, behind a closed door in their rented Hollywood apartment. It occurred during a vicious argument when the drunken femme fatale threatened to call the Hollywood police station. After she called him a "yellow stinker" and accused him of not being a "gentleman," she ordered him to open up the windows. It was a ploy - she grabbed the phone and raced into the adjoining room where she locked herself in.

He pulled on the long phone cord extension, which she had inexplicably wrapped around her neck. When she ignored his promise to do anything she asked for, he began yanking on the cord and pulled it as tightly as possibly (with a close-up of his straining fists). Then, he broke down the door and saw her body lying on the bed - reflected in a mirror.

Now self-pitying Roberts had another murder to be accounted for, and he knew his fate was sealed as a guilty man:

(voice-over) The world is full of skeptics. I know. I'm one myself. And the Haskell business, how many of you would believe he fell out of the car. Now after killing Vera without really meaning to do it, how many of you would believe it wasn't premeditated? In a jury room, every last man of you would go down shouting that she had me over a barrel and my only out was force.

The room was still. So quiet that for awhile, I wanted to...it was pure fear, of course, and I was hysterical but without making a sound. Vera was dead, and I was her murderer. Murderer! What an awful word that is. But I'd become one. I'd better not get caught. What evidence there was around the place had to be destroyed. And from the looks of things, there was plenty. Looking around the room at things we'd bought was like looking into the faces of a hundred people who'd seen us together and who remembered me. This was the kind of testimony I couldn't rub out. No, I could burn clothes and hide bottles for the next five years. There'd always be witnesses. The landlady for one, she could identify me; the car dealer; the waitress in the drive-in; the girl in the dress shop and that guy in the liquor store - they could all identify me.

I was cooked, done-for. I had to get out of there. While once I'd remain beside a dead body, planning carefully how to avoid being accused of killing him, this time I couldn't. This time I was guilty, I knew it, felt it. I was like a guy suffering from shock. Things were whirling around in my head. I couldn't make myself think right. All I could think of was the guy with the saxophone and what he was playing. It wasn't a love-song anymore. It was a dirge.



Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

An uncaring, sunglasses-wearing femme fatale Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) watched from a rowboat as her young, paraplegic brother-in-law Danny (Darryl Hickman) drowned in a Maine lake.

The scene began with her cheerfully assisting Danny in applying suntan lotion before he slipped into the water from the boat. He asked: "Can I swim all the way across today?" When she asked: "Do you think you can make it?", he assured: "Why sure? I made it three-quarters yesterday and I wasn't a bit tired." She followed in the rowboat, and promised he didn't have to worry about his direction: "I'll keep you on your course." She steered him into the middle of the lake and noted: "You're not making very much progress, Danny. Are you alright?"

When he became winded and had a kink in his side, he admitted he was getting tired. She told him to "take it easy," but then pushed him further: "You don't want to give up when you've come so far." When he became exhausted and distressed in the water from severe stomach cramps (after eating a large lunch), Ellen passively watched as he called out: "Help me!" He submerged twice and then disappeared under the surface. She pretended to assist him by diving in, but it was obviously too late.

In the film's conclusion, Ellen committed suicide with poison to 'frame' her foster sister Ruth Berent (Jeanne Crain).





Greatest Movie Death Scenes
(chronological by film title)
Intro | 1915-1929 | 1930-1933 | 1934-1938 | 1939 | 1940-1942 | 1943-1945 | 1946-1947 | 1948-1949
1950-1952 | 1953-1955 | 1956-1957 | 1958-1959
1960-1961 | 1962-1963 | 1964-1966 | 1967-1968 | 1969-1970
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