The Killers (1946)

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Two hitmen, Max and Al, arrive in Brentwood, New Jersey to kill Pete Lund, a former boxer known as "The Swede." Lund's coworker, Nick Adams, warns him after they confront him in a diner, but strangely, Lund makes no attempt to flee, and they kill him in his room. "The Swede" is soon revealed to have really been named Ole Anderson. A life insurance investigator, Jim Reardon, is assigned to find and pay the beneficiary of the Swede's $2,500 policy. Tracking down and interviewing the dead man's friends and associates, Reardon doggedly pieces together his story. Philadelphia police Lieutenant Sam Lubinsky, a close, longtime friend of the Swede, is particularly helpful.

Relayed in flashbacks, it is revealed that the Swede's boxing career was cut short by a hand injury. Rejecting Lubinsky's suggestion to join the police force, the Swede becomes mixed up with crime boss "Big Jim" Colfax, and drops his girlfriend Lily for the more glamorous Kitty Collins. When Lubinsky catches Kitty wearing stolen jewelry, the Swede confesses to the crime and serves three years in prison. After completing his sentence, the Swede, "Dum-Dum" Clarke, and "Blinky" Franklin are recruited for a payroll robbery in Hackensack, New Jersey, masterminded by Colfax. Complicating matters is the fact that Kitty is now with Colfax. The robbery nets the gang $254,912. When their rendezvous place—a boarding house—allegedly burns down, all of the gang members but the Swede are notified of a new meeting place. Kitty tells the Swede that he is being double-crossed by his associates, inciting him to take all of the money at gunpoint and flee. Kitty meets with him later in Atlantic City, then disappears with the money herself.

In the present, Reardon stakes out the hotel where the Swede was killed. He witnesses Dum-Dum sneaking into the building, searching for a clue as to the whereabouts of the loot. Reardon confronts Dum-Dum, but he flees before the police can arrest him. Reardon subsequently receives confirmation that the halfway house fire occurred hours later than it was alleged to have. With this piece of information, Reardon becomes convinced that Colfax and Kitty set the Swede up from the beginning, and were responsible for his murder.

Reardon goes to visit Colfax, now a successful building contractor in Pittsburgh. When confronted, Colfax claims no knowledge of Kitty's whereabouts. Reardon lies, claiming he has enough evidence to convict Kitty. A short time later, Reardon receives a phone call from Kitty, who suggests they meet at a nightclub. Once there, they order food, and Kitty claims she convinced the Swede that the others were double-crossing him so he would take her away from Colfax. She then admits having taken the money after her meeting with the Swede in Atlantic City and agrees to offer Colfax as a fall guy to save herself, believing Reardon's revelation that he has evidence against her. While Kitty goes to the ladies' room to "powder her nose," Max and Al arrive at the nightclub and try to kill Reardon. Anticipating such a confrontation, Reardon and Lubinsky manage to slay both hitmen instead. When Reardon goes to get Kitty, he discovers she has escaped through the bathroom window.

Reardon and Lubinsky depart the nightclub and head to Colfax's mansion. When they arrive, they find that Dum-Dum and Colfax have mortally wounded each other in a violent shootout only moments before. Lubinsky asks Colfax, who is bleeding to death, why he had the Swede killed. Colfax finally admits to the killing, and says he feared other gang members would locate the Swede and realize that Colfax and Kitty had double-crossed them all and absconded with the money. Kitty, kneeling beside Colfax, begs her husband to exonerate her in a deathbed confession, but he dies first.

Using Ernest Hemingway's short story as the foundation for the film, director Robert Siodmak and cinematographer Elwood Bredell create a dark, brooding and brilliant looking character study of Ole "The Swede" Andersen (Burt Lancaster), a quiet unassuming man who is hunted and shot by two killers who enter the small town he inhabits. Though Anthony Veiller is the credited screenwriter, Richard Brooks and John Huston served as uncredited cowriters.


Burt Lancaster as Pete Lund/Ole "Swede" Anderson
Ava Gardner as Kitty Collins
Edmond O'Brien as Jim Reardon
Albert Dekker as "Big Jim" Colfax
Sam Levene as Lt. Sam Lubinsky
Vince Barnett as Charleston, the Swede's prison cellmate
Virginia Christine as Lilly Harmon Lubinsky, the Swede's former girlfriend, now Sam Lubinsky's wife
Charles D. Brown as Packy Robinson, the Swede's boxing manager
Jack Lambert as "Dum-Dum" Clarke
Donald MacBride as R.S. Kenyon, Reardon's boss
Charles McGraw as Al
William Conrad as Max
Phil Brown as Nick Adams
Jeff Corey as "Blinky" Franklin
Harry Hayden as George
Bill Walker as Sam
Queenie Smith as Mary Ellen Daugherty
Beatrice Roberts as Nurse
John Miljan as Jake the Rake
Vera Lewis as Ma Hirsch
Garry Owen as Joe Smalley

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