Greatest Film Scenes
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The Killers (1946)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Killers (1946)

In Robert Siodmak's film noir classic - a tale of robbery, unrequited love, and brutal betrayal in a twisting double-cross, an adaptation of a 1927 short story by Ernest Hemingway told in eleven taut flashbacks:

  • the bravura opening sequence - one of the greatest openings of any film - two unsmiling contract killers Max (William Conrad) and Al (Charles McGraw) arrived in Brentwood, NJ and terrorized greasy-spoon Henry's Diner manager George (Harry Hayden)
  • the killers' fulfillment of their cold-blooded murder contract on a passive, fatalistic Ole 'Swede' Andersen (Burt Lancaster in his film debut) in a blaze of gunfire in his dark boarding house room; he had been hiding out in the New Jersey town under an alias for six years; he lay passively in his shadowy, dim room in a white T-shirt - his head shrouded in darkness; his co-worker Nick Adams (Phil Brown) had come to warn him a few moments earlier, but the Swede was indifferent to their deadly approach and passively awaited his death on his bed; with no strength to even rise from his bed, or will to run, the acquiescent and unresistant Swede awaited his physical sacrificial death - he was already emotionally dead; he stoically admitted his reason to die: ("I did something wrong - once"); the doomed ex-boxer was referring to the film's complex tale of crime and treacherous betrayal - all revolving around a beautifully-glamorous, mysterious, double-crossing, manipulative, vixenish femme fatale
  • the Swede calmly listened as the two cold-blooded gunman-executioners climbed the stairs to his cheap apartment room; he knew that his life wasn't worth living anymore; he half-rose from his bed as they opened the door and brutally emptied their guns of ten bullets into his body; gunfire briefly illuminated the killers' faces; it was the ex-boxer's final knock-out
The Swede (Burt Lancaster) -
Just Before His Murder by the Killers
  • in flashback, the swanky hotel party scene, when the Swede met and fell under the spell of gorgeous, alluring and treacherous femme fatale Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) (wearing a sexy black dress and singing "The More I Know of Love"); she was the moll/girlfriend and "hostess" of imprisoned, sleazy racketeering king-pin boss Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker), who was absent and in jail at the time
  • the Swede first took a jail sentence rap in Kitty's place for stolen jewelry, and later, while planning a hat factory heist with Colfax, the Swede again fell under the allure of the treacherous Kitty.
  • the scene of Kitty's admission that she knew of the Swede's obsessive love that she could cleverly manipulate on the eve of the heist: ("I hadn't seen him for a long time, but the minute I laid eyes on him, I knew. He was always looking at me. And it doesn't sound like very much, but he always carried a handkerchief I'd given him...I hated my life, only I wasn't strong enough to get away from it. All I could do was dream of some big payoff that would let me quit the whole racket. The Swede was my chance to make my dream come true. If I could only be alone with him for a few hours. But Colfax was always there. I thought it was hopeless. Then suddenly, my chance came")
  • the actual scene in which the unscrupulous Kitty lied to the Swede about the heist, and admitted her poisonous, duplicitous, and lethal nature, while promising the Swede that the money would allow her to get away from her hated boyfriend (another major lie); she told him that he was being set up by the betraying Colfax, and then confessed her love; after deceiving the Swede, she had him promise: ("Promise me one thing. You won't give me away. If Colfax ever found out what I did...You know why Colfax hates you? Because of me. He's no fool. He sees what's happened"); when the Swede asked: "Why did you ever go back to him, Kitty?", she responded with her most famous line: ("Maybe because I hate him. I'm poison, Swede, to myself and everybody around me. I'd be afraid to go with anyone I love for the harm I'd do them. I don't care harming him"); she persuaded him to get revenge on Colfax by stealing the payroll
  • afterwards, when trusting blindly in Kitty, the Swede double-crossed the gang and robbed them of the payroll at the farm house, but then Kitty double-crossed him by stealing the money and ditching him
  • the final scene when Kitty was revealed all along to be Colfax's wife and partner in crime; when Colfax was lethally wounded, she knelt by her husband's body and again expressed how heartless and selfish she was, by repeatedly and desperately begging her dying husband to lie for her: ("Jim! Jim!! Tell 'em I didn't know anything. Jim, listen to me. You can save me. Jim, do ya hear me? Tell them I didn't know those gunmen were coming. Say, 'Kitty is innocent. I swear, Kitty is innocent.' Say it, Jim, say it! It'll save me if you do...'Kitty is innocent. I swear, Kitty is innocent.'...Come back, Jim, tell them. Come back! SAVE ME! Jim! 'Kitty is innocent! I swear! Kitty is innocent! Kitty is innocent! I swear, Kitty is innocent! Kitty is innocent!'"); Colfax, her potential fall guy, expired after asking for a cigarette; his silence criminally implicated Kitty and condemned her
  • the film's final line, uttered by insurance investigator James Reardon (Edmond O'Brien), who wrapped up his own findings about Kitty's smoldering triple-cross: ("The double-cross to end all double-crosses!")

Two Contract Killers in Diner

Femme Fatale Kitty in Swanky Hotel Party Scene

Kitty Taking Advantage of the Swede's Obsessive Love

Lethal Wounding of Kitty's Boyfriend/Husband Colfax in Film's Conclusion


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