Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Pickup on South Street (1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Pickup on South Street (1953)

In director Sam Fuller's action-packed film - it was a raw, hard-boiled, Cold War-era, crime-noir thriller. Due to a chance encounter, the plot became embroiled involving distrust, violence, and a fateful sexual attraction between the two lead characters. The film became known for its savage brutality against the femme fatale - from both her snarling future lover and ex-lover:

  • in the opening scene set on a crowded New York subway during rush-hour, tough-minded pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark), a recently-released ex-con known as a "cannon," edged flirtatiously close to femme fatale Candy (Jean Peters) to make her his latest petty-theft robbery victim. He stole/fingered (symbolically filmed like a violating rape) sensitive government/military microfilm contained in an envelope (bound for Communist spies with her as the unsuspecting courier) from her opened purse as two other FBI agents were conducting surveillance; FBI agents Zara (Willis Bouchey) and Enyart (Jerry O'Sullivan), looked on helplessly; McCoy didn't realize he had inadvertently obtained stolen US microfilm to be smuggled out of the country by Communist spies
  • Candy met with her shady ex-boyfriend/loverJoey (Richard Kiley) and told him about the theft; he falsely told her he was selling classified business secrets to a rival firm: ("a new patent for a chemical formula"). Unbeknownst to the mistreated Candy, Joey was actually an exploitative courier-contact working for the Communists. He had asked her for a final favor to deliver an envelope with the microfilm. He was upset about the loss and convinced her as an ex-prostitute with seedy connections: ("You know people who know people"), to locate the pickpocket and retrieve the microfilm
  • Skip was then identified as a possible suspect by stool-pigeon police informant Moe Williams (Oscar-nominated Thelma Ritter), an embittered, elderly, world-weary, necktie-seller and information street peddler, for a reduced fee of $38.50
Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter) Acting as Police Informant to Captain Dan Tiger
  • an ex-con who had recently been released from prison, McCoy was called in to be questioned by Police Captain Dan Tiger (Murvyn Vye) and government agent Zara. It was revealed that FBI agents had been trailing Candy for six months to identify and apprehend the organization's mysterious ringleader, nicknamed "Mr. Big." After Skip professed his innocence to the authorities and denied stealing the microfilm, they pressured him with patriotic appeals: (McCoy: "You boys are talking to the wrong corner. I'm just a guy keeping my hands in my own pockets." Zara: "If you refuse to cooperate, you'll be as guilty as the traitors that gave Stalin the A-bomb." McCoy (retorting): "Are you wavin' the flag at me?")
  • Skip became indignant about being labeled as a "three-time loser" by Tiger: "I know you pinched me three times and got me convicted three times and made me a three-time loser. And I know you took an oath to put me away for life. Well, you're tryin' awful hard with all this patriotic eye-wash, but get this: I didn't grift that film and you can't prove I did! And if I said I did, you'd slap that fourth rap across my teeth no matter what promises you made!"
  • McCoy realized he had stolen a strip of valuable microfilm after viewing it in the NY Public Library. He hid it (knowing it would be worth alot in exchange).
  • through her underworld connections, Candy was led to speak to "stoolie" Moe and for $50 bucks (her second tip payoff), she was directed to the location of Skip's hideout
  • in a night-time sequence at his run-down waterfront shack, Skip found Candy with a flashlight searching through his possessions. He punched Candy unconscious and then searched her purse before reviving her with cold beer. When she came to, he asked: "Wanna beer?" She responded: "I want my wallet....I gotta find that wallet." Skip told her that he knew what the film was and demanded money for it. He lovingly rubbed her sore jaw for a few moments and then after a few kisses, Skip remarked: "You look for oil, sometimes you hit a gusher."
Skip Lovingly Rubbing Candy's Sore Jaw and After Kisses: "You look for oil, sometimes you hit a gusher"
  • Candy reported back to Joey that she had no success with Skip: ("He's shaking you down. That tells the story"). When Joey refused her suggestion that he take a chance and make a deal with Skip, she became suspicious of him: ("Maybe there's something about that film that you haven't told me"). He demanded that she keep pressing McCoy to acquire the film, and gave her $500 bucks as bribe money ("You've gotta come back with it, Candy")
  • Skip and Candy developed a sweaty, rough and tumble, sado-masochistic love relationship during her second visit to his place. After hot kissing and an embrace, she restated his earlier claim: "Look for oil and you hit a gusher." Then, he stole the bribe money from her purse, pushed her away and riskily demanded a huge payment of $25,000 in exchange for the prized microfilm from the "Commie" syndicate; she became puzzled when accused of being involved with the Communists: ("You tell that Commie I want a big score for that film, and I want it in cash, tonight....Come on. Drop the act. So you're a Red. Who cares? Your money's as good as anybody else's...I know what you're after. I know what it's worth...I'll do business with a Red, but I don't have to believe one (she slapped him)....Get out of here! Now tell your old lady I'm shakin' down you Reds for 25 grand.")
  • when Candy reported back to Joey about her lack of success with McCoy and his new demands, Joey's contacts informed him of a firm deadline for delivery: "Delivery must be made tomorrow night. (Joey was given a gun) Get that film!" , and then she briefly conferred with Moe to warn her - and to urge her not to identify McCoy to Joey: "You wouldn't sell him to a Commie."
  • shortly later, Moe notified Skip to stay away from his shack to avoid someone gunning for him. She also advised him to take Candy seriously: "That muffin you grifted, she's okay. Stuck her chin way out for you...The kid loves you."
  • the film's most downbeat scene was Moe's death - she had always wanted to make enough money to avoid being buried in Potter's Field. In her dingy rooming house, she told Commie hitman-killer Joey that she would refuse to reveal the pickpocket's whereabouts even though he bribed her with $500. She said she would face the consequences, since she was old and tired and ready to give up anyway: "I know you Commies are looking for some film that don't belong to you....(Joey cocked his gun) So I don't get to have the fancy funeral after all. Anyway, I tried. Look, Mister, I'm so tired, you'd be doin' me a big favor if you'd blow my head off." The camera panned to the left and a gunshot was heard - with the final image of her bedside Victrola's needle reaching the end of the 78 rpm record (the popular French tune "Mam'zelle").
Joey's Murder of Informant Moe Williams

Joey Shaking Down Moe

"'d be doin' me a big favor if you'd blow my head off"

Skip Reclaiming Moe's Body From Tugboat
  • in the subsequent scene after learning of Moe's murder, McCoy reclaimed her body from a tugboat (and took her in coffin # 11 to Potter's Field) in order to give her a proper burial with a tombstone and plot in a cemetery: ("I'm gonna bury her") - fulfilling her sole wish in life
  • after McCoy returned to his shack-hideout and found Candy there (who was blaming herself for Moe's death), he told her that he was willing to deal with Joey and return the strip of microfilm in exchange for the 25 grand. She gave him Joey's address, but then thinking that she could clear Skip's name and involvement on her own, Candy knocked him unconscious and took the marked microfilm strip to FBI agents Zara and Tiger ("the pickpocket squad"). They directed her to go back to Joey (a "Communist agent") in order to apprehend him and detect the king-pin of the organization
  • then, there was a remarkable scene in which Joey entered Candy's apartment - (she was wearing a white robe with a hood straight from the bathtub). He was astonished to see that she had the microfilm but noticed a frame missing (Skip had taken one of the frames for himself). He brutally knocked her around for not divulging Skip's address a second time - the commotion broke lamps, picture frames and tables - before he shot her and left her seriously wounded. Joey found Skip's address in her purse before leaving through a dumb-waiter to evade police
  • Skip paid a hospital visit to see the bruised Candy, and finally realized that she really loved him because she wouldn't tell Joey where he lived - and had suffered a beating for it. She also said she was sorry for betraying him, and for spoiling his "big score": ("I'm sorry I spoiled your big score. I know it sounds corny to you, but I'd rather have a live pickpocket than a dead traitor"); he kissed her
  • evading capture at his shack by Joey and his partner, Skip overheard that the film strip was to be delivered in 30 minutes. With no time to spare, Joey's partner told him: "You better deliver what you've got," while he waited there for McCoy to return (in order to seize the one missing microfilm frame); he also instructed: "Tell him I'll meet him at the airport with the other frame, but not to wait."
  • Skip followed Joey to a subway station, and then in a thrilling and violent fight and chase sequence, Skip chased Joey into a subway station where he pickpocketed the gun from Joey's coat on a subway car, and then observed the microfilm being delivered to a Communist agent in a restroom. He beat up the agent, and also retaliated against Joey - he brutalized him mercilessly on the subway platform and then next to the tracks, before turning him over to authorities

Pickpocketing Joey's Gun on Subway Car

Beating Up Joey in Restroom

Brutalizing Him Next to the Tracks
  • in the film's ending set back in the police station, Skip was released - and vowed to resume his relationship with Candy. They were about to leave to start a new life together. He turned to Candy and told her: "Honey, you look as good as new. Did you miss me, muffin? Come on. Let's get outta here." As they departed from the office, Police Captain Tiger predicted that Skip would soon be apprehended again for criminal activities: Tiger: "You'll always be a two-bit purse snatcher. I give you 30 days before I pick ya up with your hand in somebody else's pocket." Candy (disagreeing with a smile): "You wanna bet?")

Opening Crowded Subway Pickpocket Sequence: McCoy Fingering Candy's Purse

Joey (Richard Kiley) - Candy's Ex-Boyfriend - A Communist Spy

McCoy Questioned by Police - His Retort: "Are you wavin' the flag at me?"

Candy with Moe - Who Directed Her to McCoy

Candy Knocked Unconscious by McCoy in His Shack Hideout

Candy Pressured by Joey to Return to McCoy With Bribe Money

Skip's Sado-Masochistic Love Affair with Candy

Candy's Upset at the News of Moe's Murder

Candy Beaten Up and Shot by Joey

Skip's Hospital Visit to See the Bruised Candy - They Kissed

Skip Reconciled with Candy


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