Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Kansas City Confidential (1952)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Kansas City Confidential (1952)

In Phil Karlson's hard-edged, tough, low-budget, film-noir bank heist tale set in Kansas City Missouri:

  • the film's scrolling prologue: "In the police annals of Kansas City are written lurid chapters concerning the exploits of criminals apprehended and brought to punishment. But it is the purpose of this picture to expose the amazing operations of a man who conceived and executed a 'perfect crime,' the true solution of which is not entered in any case history, and could well be entitled 'Kansas City Confidential'"
  • the opening sequence: the planning of a perfectly-orchestrated $1.2 million dollar bank robbery job in Kansas City at the Southwest Bank at 10 am; from a vantage point across the street, the master-mind - an unidentified 'Mr. Big' (Preston S. Foster), watched and timed a Western Florist Delivery Truck that stopped outside the Bank on Main Street; he timed all the corresponding events (the arrivals of a squad car, a florist delivery truck and an armored car) to coordinate a future robbery
  • the members of the individually-hired, masked and thuggish gang were: Boyd Kane (Neville Brand), Pete Harris (Jack Elam), and Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef); the master-mind was masked when he hired each of the robbers to commit the crime
Using a Wristwatch to Plan the Timing of the Robbery
Map of Bank Robbery Site
Armored Truck Guards During Pickup
  • during the armored car robbery itself in an early sequence, ex-con florist delivery man Joe Rolfe (John Payne) was framed in his adjoining look-alike delivery vehicle, while a duplicate flower van was the real getaway vehicle
  • after the heist, 'Mr. Big' (dressed as the florist delivery man) ordered the others, at gunpoint, to keep their identities secret; he also described the split payout with the use of torn playing cards (Four Kings) as tokens for each of the criminals to identify themselves and collect their share: "Four kings, a pat hand, that's just what we're holdin'. Hang on to those cards. I've got everything covered, but in case something does go wrong and I can't make the payoff myself, the cards will identify ya to whoever I send with the money....We'll cut up the money when I think it's had time enough to cool off....It's a pat hand only because nobody can rat on ya. You can't even rat on each other because you've never seen each other without those masks. I've made ya cop-proof and stoolpigeon-proof and it's gonna stay that way"
"Mr. Big" - Four Kings Distributed for Future Payout
  • Rolfe was wrongly arrested, brutally interrogated, and jailed, but then cleared and released for lack of evidence, although he lost his job and reputation - he sought payback revenge by pursuing the criminal gang to Mexico to the fictitious resort town of Borados, to collect the 25% reward for reclaiming the money
  • Rolfe's clever impersonation of Pete Harris, one of the masked gang members, after Harris was gunned down by police in Tijuana
  • the sequences of complications that arose when Rolfe/Harris fell in love with the fresh-faced law student daughter Helen "Punkin" Foster (Coleen Gray) of the gang's mastermind-boss: bitter and corrupt ex-cop Tim Foster (Preston Foster) who was posing in Mexico as a vacationing fisherman; she was there to surprise him with the exciting news that she was working on restoring his police job: "I set up a brief and brought it to the Mayor myself....I got the Commissioner to reopen your case. Well, don't you understand, Dad? It's a chance for you to get back on the force...I know what it's meant to you being forced into retirement through politics. This is your chance to come back. You're not gonna let pride get in the way" - however, he was miffed because it would interrupt or threaten his nefarious plans: "Forget it, it's too late. I don't want to get back on the force"
  • the climactic show-down conclusion - a rendezvous on Foster's boat the Manana when he revealed that he was 'Mr. Big'; his plan had been to double-cross the criminals one-by-one and abscond with the money, but in the end, Kane was brutally murdered by Romano (who rationalized that eliminating others would increase his pay-out: "Why a two-way split? A guy livin' big all the time like me needs dough"); Romano also shot and lethally-wounded Foster before being shot in the back and killed by him
  • during Foster's death scene, he told Rolfe that he didn't want his daughter to find out about his real character: "My luck had to give out some time. I wouldn't mind so much, Joe, if Helen didn't have to find out...Give her my love, Joe, thanks", and he also suggested to the authorities, before dying, that Rolfe should get the reward: "If anybody deserves an award, it's him"

Mastermind "Mr. Big" (Later Identified as Tim Foster (Preston Foster)) Orchestrating Theft

Mr. Big's Hiring of Gang Members

Western Florist Delivery Man Joe Rolfe

Bank Robbery - Florist Rolfe Framed

Rolfe Arrested

Helen "Punkin" Foster (Coleen Gray)

Gang Members

Foster's Death Scene


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