Lang's Favorite: Scarlet Street

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Scarlet Street was Lang’s favorite American film, and it was also very personal. The project reunited the director with the leads from his previous film The Woman in the Window.

In order to get it made, he created a production company which included Joan Bennett, her husband (Walter Wanger), and Lang himself. The company served as an "insurance" for the studio because it promised that the movie's controversial themes would pass the censors and that it wouldn’t go over budget.

“I always fought very hard in Hollywood,” Lang later said about his experiences as a director.

1. It was inspired by real life.

Scarlet Street is based on La Chienne (1931) directed by Jean Renoir, which is based on Poor Sap by Georges de la Fouchardière. Georges was a bank clerk who quit his job to pursue his dream of writing. Unfortunately the protagonist of his novel doesn’t have such a nice ending.

2. Censors had to be appeased.

This was not the first time an American adaption was attempted. Director Ernst Lubitsch (known for To Be or Not to Be, Ninotchka, and The Shop Around the Corner) tried and failed to get a script which would pass the Production Code. However, they were unable to accomplish the task. Fritz Lang and screenwriter Dudley Nichols tackled it next. While they were able to complete a script, the Breen Office objected to the innuendo between Kitty and Johnny, any scenes where Kitty wears lingerie, and the number of times Kitty is stabbed -- so some changes were made.

3. Duryea got rave reviews.

Critics praised Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson, but they especially enjoyed Dan Duryea’s performance. In fact, his fan mail reached a new high – six thousand letters a week. "[It’s] fun to get yourself collectively hated,” he said. “When you hear an audience exult ‘Good Riddance’ as the villain is polished off, you know you’ve succeeded in turning out a real heel.”

4. A scene was cut.

Lang also filmed a scene in which Edward G. Robinson was nearby Sing-Sing when Dan Duryea’s character was executed. Lang said, “I had Robinson climbing up a telegraph pole on a hill overlooking the prison to watch the glare of the light in the death house. It was too much.” He decided to cut the scene because it felt inconsistent to the rest of the film and “comical” for the wrong reasons.