From Public Police Work To “Private Hell 36” (The Films of Don Siegel #3)

I suppose that at bottom Private Hell 36 (1954) is Ida Lupino’s film.  Don Siegel directed it, but Lupino starred in and co-wrote it—originally for the screen, hooray!—with Collier Young.  She plays a bar singer who falls for a now admirable, now dirty cop (Steve Cochran) intent on making his distressed partner (Howard Duff) dirty as well.

The movie is right up Siegel’s alley, with hard-nosed conflict, unobtrusive mystery, human interest, and a car chase.  The cast is estimable: what Lupino and Cochran do cannot be improved on.

I am inspired to add, too, that there is nothing feminist about the Collier-Lupino script.  The bar singer, Lillie, is not a “liberated woman” but simply an adult: she talks like an adult, likes to be with other adults, and is never to be patronized.  That she isn’t at the center of the cops-and-crime story here doesn’t alter the evidence that Lupino and Siegel were meant to be together.

Private Hell 36
Private Hell 36 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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