Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Criss Cross (1949)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Criss Cross (1949)

This under-rated, fatalistic film noir from director Robert Siodmak featured unreliable characters, tenuous relationships, a diabolical and fatal love triangle marked by obsessive and doomed love, betrayal, and twisting plots. It was told with one major flashback and a self-deluding voice-over narration. Its tagline referred to the film's double double-cross: "When you Double-Cross a Double-Crosser...IT'S A CRISS-CROSS!"

Under the title credits, the film opened with a striking aerial panoramic view of nighttime Los Angeles before the camera swooped down to a parking lot in the northern part of downtown LA where a doomed couple's trysting embrace was revealed by glaring headlights, near the Round-Up Bar. They were speaking about meeting up at a Palos Verdes cottage after a daring, unspecified plot that would unfold the next day. She promised him that they would finally be together again and could make a new start:

"All those things that happened to us - everything that went before, you'll forget it. You'll see. I'll make you forget it. After it's done, after it's all over and we're safe, it'll be just you and me. You and me, the way it should've been all along from the start."

Love-sick, still-obsessed and infatuated ex-husband Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) was hooking up and plotting with calculating, trampish femme fatale Anna Dundee (Yvonne DeCarlo), his newly-married ex-wife after a 7-month marriage to him, followed by divorce.

After their clandestine rendezvous, Steve stealthily entered the Round-Up nightclub-bar separately from Anna. A going-away party was being planned for Anna's abusive, bickering, crooked gangster husband Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) - he owned the nightclub. He was leaving the next day for Detroit. Predictably, Steve engaged in a brief fist-fight in a back-room with Slim - broken up by Steve's old friend, LAPD Lt. Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally), after Slim pulled out a knife.

It was revealed that the brawl ("a friendly argument") was staged for the officer, to have him believe they were antagonistic towards each other. They were actually in the midst of coordinating an armored truck robbery to occur the next morning, to net "six figures." Steve, who worked for the armored car company, was the inside driver who had instigated the heist with Slim (and Anna). He had arranged it so there was only one other partner in the truck - his co-worker and family friend Pop (Griff Barnett), on the 40 minute drive to San Rafelo with the Bliss Company payroll. As he drove on, he recalled Anna's promising words to him in the parking lot.

Before the climactic robbery, the film flashbacked to 8 months earlier - with Steve's voice-over:

From the start. The beginning. It all happened so fast. It was only eight months ago that I came back. I came home.

Steve initially returned home to LA to see his family, after being a drifter for two years. He jumped off a trolley-streetcar and walked up a hill to his mother's (Edna Holland) house. The love-lorn drifter, still carrying a torch for Anna but believing that she was out of his system, didn't expect to become ensnared again into her manipulative web, but he was fated to do so:

(voice-over) I didn't come back on account of her. It had nothing to do with it. I wasn't gonna go looking for her. I didn't expect to run into her. I didn't particularly want to see her. I was sure of that if I was sure of anything. But then from the start, it all went one way. It was in the cards, or it was fate, or a jinx or whatever you wanna call it - but right from the start....

His first day back, he hoped to run into his divorced ex-wife Anna in his old "hang-out," the Round-Up dance-hall, but no luck. That evening in his home, he fatefully brooded about her (in voice-over):

Anna. We were married. About two years ago. It lasted seven months. A man eats an apple. He gets a piece of the core stuck between his teeth, you know. He tries to work it out with some cellophane off a cigarette pack. What happens? The cellophane gets stuck in there, too. Anna. What was the use? I knew one way or the other somehow I'd wind up seeing her that night.

He returned to the Round-Up that evening and was mesmerized when he happened to see her dancing the rhumba (to the tune "Jungle Fantasy") with an unnamed gigolo partner (an unbilled Tony Curtis in his screen debut). When she was surprised to see him and asked why he didn't respond to her letter, he non-chalantly lied to her about being back for a week, and was just "passing by."

Anna - Glimpsed Dancing the Rhumba
at the Round-Up Nightclub
Steve's First Conversation with Anna After His Return

They spoke briefly about the good ol' times when they were young and in love and how they frequently fought ("like cats and dogs"), but then "we'd make up" - referring to post-brawling sex: "Those were times, weren't they, Steve? That was the best part, I think. The making up part." Steve also met her current slick boyfriend, Slim Dundee.

He took his old job back - driving for Horten's Armored Car Service. The company boasted its recent stellar record of protecting its cash transports: "Nobody ever got away with a heist on an armored truck in 28 years. As a matter of fact, they don't even try anymore." Anna called him from a nearby drugstore counter to become reacquainted and "get together again" (with the possibility of maybe even getting married again), but he was "sore" that she was dating the brutish Slim. They partially agreed that their relationship wouldn't work: "Every time we get together, there's nothin' but trouble." However, they made a date to take an early Saturday morning swim at Zuma Beach (past Malibu).

Steve was warned to stay away from the temptress by his mother: ("Out of all the girls in Los Angeles, why did you have to pick on her?"), who thought Anna was quite manipulative: "Some ways she knows more than Einstein." Shortly later, when Steve went to the club to meet Anna for a date, he was told that she suddenly eloped to Yuma, AZ, to marry Slim. At first, he dismissed the news: "Of course. He had all the dough, and that's all she ever wanted," and felt it might be a good thing, but then admitted he was hopelessly addicted to her:

(voice-over) Probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I told myself that someday I'd look back and realize it. But I was wrong. It was in the cards, and there was no way of stopping it. A month went by, a second, a fourth. It was all finished. Done with. Water over the dam. Only it wasn't. You know how it is. You don't know what to do with yourself. You want to travel, get away, anywhere. Every place you go, you see her face. Half the girls you pass are her. Did it ever happen to you?

Steve happened to meet up with Anna at Union Station, and they continued to engage in a clandestine affair, although he was very bitter about her marriage to Slim who persistently lavished her with diamonds. He degraded Anna with names: "Tramp. Cheap, little no-good tramp!" Steve learned that she felt his family was against her, and that LAPD Lt. Ramirez had pressured Anna to leave town and not see Steve ("He was afraid I was poison"). He threatened to frame her and send her to Tehachapi Prison for Women. And then she shockingly admitted that the controlling and abusive Slim and his gang were ominously threatening: "I'm scared. They'd kill us. Kill us!" She showed him bruises on her back where Slim had beaten her.

Caught in a dilemma, Steve began to drink heavily. Lt. Ramirez confirmed to Steve that he had put a scare into Anna (due to a request from Steve's mother), and he warned that Steve was asking for trouble from Slim: "You saw her. You're going to keep on seeing her....I tell ya, I know it when I see a bad one....But leave that girl alone....Dundee. He'll get ya. He'll throw a knife into you." The obstinate Steve insisted on continuing to see Anna: ("I'm gonna do anything I please, and you and Dundee and nobody else is gonna tell me what to do").

After being seen together, Anna rushed to Steve's side to warn him that Slim knew of their affair: ("He found out. He must've. The crazy chances we took being seen together") - and he was planning on retaliation. Although she wasn't worried about her own safety, she knew Steve was in jeopardy: "You don't know the people he's got around him. He'll kill you. He's got ways." As they contemplated running away together, they were caught alone. Steve was confronted by Slim and his thug-gang downstairs.

Steve cleverly tried to deflect attention regarding their relationship. Ad-libbing, he claimed they were working on a plan (or "job") to share with Slim. It was a daytime payroll heist plan of his own armored car service - presumably easy to accomplish because he was an "inside man."

Slim and his crooks were convinced to participate in the robbery. Meticulous planning went into effect. Part of the plan was to let everyone know that Slim was leaving for Detroit on the same day as the proposed robbery, and that he would celebrate with a going-away party at the Round-Up the night before. Steve also conspired with Anna to meet him at the Palos Verdes after the heist, to double-cross Slim: "Go up to the house and wait for me." They planned to run off together with the stolen money.

The robbery went horribly wrong. In the chaos after tear-gas explosions went off inside the gates of the delivery location at the Bliss plant, Slim double-crossed Steve by killing his partner Pop. Steve retaliated by returning fire and was attacked by Slim. Steve shot Slim in the leg, but then was badly wounded himself. The gang fled with the money.

Gas-Masked Slim Firing at Steve
Slim Shot in the Leg by Steve
Steve Shot and Seriously Wounded

Afterwards while he recovered in a hospital, Steve was viewed as a hero: ("You fought them off, you saved half the payroll. Look. It's in the papers. "QUARTER MILLION ARMORED CAR HOLDUP" And here's your picture. You're a hero. "Steve Thompson, now in the Angel of Mercy Hospital, saves half of payroll, foils perfect crime." Three bandits were killed, while guard Pop was killed. Steve was visited by Lt. Ramirez who was certain that Steve was the "inside man" and had been used by Slim and Anna to hijack the armored truck: ("How did they ever get you in on this deal? What did she do, make you promises? Were you gonna run away together?...Didn't they work you for the prize sucker of all time?"). Ramirez warned that if he was conspiring with Anna to run away, Slim (who survived the holdup) would retaliate: "If she double-crossed Slim, if she's really waiting for you somewhere, then he'll get you."

In the film's dark, fatalistic and morbid finale, the still-recuperating Steve was taken from his hospital room in the middle of the night and driven to meet with Slim: "Slim wants to see you. Wants to find out where the money is, where Anna is. Come on." For $10,000, Steve bribed the driver Mr. Nelson (Robert Osterloh) to take him to Anna's location (and then flee). He was reassured by seeing Anna again: ("I knew all the time everything would be all right"). He described how he suspected that he'd be double-crossed during the heist by Slim: "I knew they'd double-cross me, Slim and the rest of them. But I didn't care, Anna. It meant nothing to me so long as I knew I could count on you." He also told her about Lt. Ramirez' suspicions about her: "Pete said you were part of it, that you were in on it with Slim from the start. That dumb cop."

Anna became fearful that the paid-off driver Nelson would immediately report back to Slim: "He's on his way back to Slim. He'll tell Slim where I am right this minute." She decided to pack and run off without Steve when she realized how weak he was: ("How far could I get with you?"), and how she wasn't tough enough to stand up to Slim. She was aggravated with Steve for spoiling their getaway: "Why did you have to come here in the first place? Why? Why?", and now was only thinking of her own survival - she planned to quickly pack up and desert him: "You have to watch out for yourself. That's the way it is, I'm sorry." Steve was regretful that their relationship never seemed to work out: "I never wanted the money. I just wanted you." She ran out the door with her suitcase, but then fled back inside when she heard a car drive up.

Awaiting Slim's Arrival
Slim's Final Words
Concluding Double-Murder of Steve and Anna

Slim had traced them to their seaside Palos Verdes rendezvous. He entered the dark doorway, limping with a cane. He threatened them: "I figured you'd bribe Nelson to take you to Anna. You always wanted her, didn't you, Thompson? You really loved her. You know, I did too. But you won out, Thompson. You've got her. She's all yours now." He pulled out a gun and ordered: "Hold her. Hold her tight!" Then, he mercilessly gunned down both Anna and Steve with three gunshots, turned, and then heard police sirens in the distance.

Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo) and Steve (Burt Lancaster) - Caught in Glare of Headlights in Nightclub Parking Lot

Anna to Steve: "It'll be just you and me"

Anna's Husband - Slick Gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea)

Lt. Pete Ramirez (Stephen McNally) with Old Friend Steve in Bar

Driver Steve with "Pop" in Armored Truck Just Before Robbery Heist


Steve - Brooding About His Ex-Wife Anna

Anna with Steve - At Corner Drugstore

Steve's Stunned Reaction to Anna's Marriage to Slim

Anna's Fear of Her Own Husband Slim - "They'd kill us!"

Anna's Bruises on Her Back

Anna Warning Steve About Her Husband Slim's Retaliation

Caught Secretly Meeting by Slim and His Gang

Steve Conspiring With Anna During Planning


Hospitalized Steve Regarded as Hero After Heist

Kidnapped From Hospital Bed

Meeting Up with Anna at Palos Verdes Cottage

Anna: "You always have to do what's best for yourself"


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