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A petty thief accidentally steals a communist spy''''s purse.
One afternoon, FBI agents Zara and Enyart are following an attractive woman named Candy as she takes the subway in New York City. Unknown to Candy, her wallet is stolen by a "cannon," a pickpocket who targets women, and when she realizes that her wallet is gone, she calls her former boyfriend, Joey. With Enyart following her, she returns to Joey's apartment, where Joey upbraids her for losing the microfilm that she was supposed to deliver to a mysterious higher-up in Joey's organization. Although Candy believes that Joey is selling chemical formulas to a rival firm, he is actually a Communist who is passing on secret government information to an overseas Communist ring. Candy has made several drops for Joey and does not understand why he is so upset about this one, which he had promised would be her last. Joey insists that Candy, an ex-prostitute, use her street connections to locate the pickpocket who accosted her and retrieve the microfilm.
Meanwhile, Zara approaches police captain Dan Tiger and explains that the FBI has been following Candy for six months in order to catch the ringleader of the Communist organization. Tiger then summons Moe, a necktie peddler who often sells him information about the underworld. After grilling Zara about the pickpocket's mannerisms, Moe gives Tiger eight names, and Tiger immediately picks out Skip McCoy, a "three-time loser" who was recently released from prison. Moe then tells Tiger that Skip is living in a rundown shack on the waterfront, and Tiger, who bears a grudge against Skip because of his insolence, sends policemen Winoki and MacGregor to arrest him. Skip, who did steal Candy's wallet and has found the microfilm inside, hides it and taunts Tiger about their rivalry. Although Skip protests his innocence, Zara reveals that he is an eyewitness and informs Skip about what he has stolen.
Not trusting Tiger's promise that the theft charges will be dropped if he returns the film, Skip scoffs at Zara's appeal to his patriotism and leaves. Skip then uses the microfilm reader at the New York Public Library to scan the film and deduces that it is of a chemical formula. Meanwhile, Candy locates Moe and pays her for Skip's address. When Skip returns home, he finds Candy searching his possessions and knocks her unconscious, then steals her money before reviving her. While fighting the sexual attraction they feel for each other, Candy and Skip flirt and quarrel, and Skip tells her that he knows what the film is and demands money for it. As Candy returns to Joey, Tiger enters Skip's shack and offers to whitewash his criminal record in exchange for the film. Skip orders Tiger to leave, while at Joey's apartment, Joey's desperation grows and he gives Candy $500 with which to bribe Skip. Candy, who has fallen in love with Skip, confronts him, and Skip admits that as a three-time felon, he will be jailed for life if he is convicted again. Hoping to secure his future with a "big score," Skip demands that Candy's "Commie" friends pay him $25,000, and Candy, not understanding what Skip means, meets Joey in his boss's office. There, Candy is astonished when Joey confirms that he and his cohorts are Communists, and becomes agitated when Joey's boss gives him a pistol and orders him to deliver the microfilm the following evening.
Desperate to protect Skip, Candy gives Joey a false address, then tells Moe that she honestly did not know about Joey's politics. Moe promises Candy that she will not inform Joey of Skip's whereabouts, and then finds Skip herself, to warn him about Joey. Skip brushes asides Moe's reprimands about dealing with Communists, and also her assertion that Candy loves him. When Moe returns home, she finds Joey waiting for her, and after she refuses to inform on Skip, Joey shoots her. The police attempt to arrest Skip for the murder, but Enyart, who has been following the pickpocket, vouches for his innocence, and Skip claims Moe's body so that she will not be buried in Potter's Field. When Skip returns to his shack, he finds a distraught Candy waiting for him, and he soothingly tells her that Moe's death is not her fault. When Skip then demands the money, Candy knocks him unconscious and steals the microfilm.
Hoping to clear Skip's name, Candy takes the film to Tiger and Zara, telling them that Skip directed her to do so. Although he is doubtful about Skip's intentions, Zara asks Candy to help them by giving the film to Joey, who they can then follow to the ringleader. Later, Joey goes to Candy's apartment, and when he discovers that a frame of the film is missing, he beats Candy and shoots her. Finding Skip's address in Candy's purse, Joey eludes the police, and later, when Skip visits Candy in the hospital, she tells him that she betrayed him because she would "rather have a live pickpocket than a dead traitor." Finally realizing that he loves Candy, Skip kisses her, then goes home to wait for Joey.
Soon after, Joey and his cohort, Fenton, arrive to search for the missing frame of film, although Fenton sends Joey ahead to the airport to make the delivery while he tries to find Skip. Skip follows Joey to the airport, where he catches Joey making the delivery. After slugging the ringleader, Skip chases Joey through the streets into the subway, where he beats him mercilessly. Later, in Tiger's office, the police captain grudgingly releases Skip, and both Skip and Candy laugh at Tiger's assertion that he will be arrested again within thirty days.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 29 May 1953; New York opening: 17 Jun 1953|
|Release Date:||1953||Production Date:||
AFI Library; EB*
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||80-81 or 83||Country:||United States|
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pickup on south street
kevin sellers 2019-06-24
Sure it ticked off J. Edgar Hoover because it soft peddles ideology while emphasizing character but there are other good reasons to like this noir by Sam...
Thick, Atmospheric Sets
Each set delivers a greasy, unkempt feel to it...purposely. Hats off to the set decorators on this one. The pickpocket lives in a small shack over the...
Pickup on South Street
Dashiell Barnes 2012-08-11
A great, gritty anticommunist film noir. Widmark, Peters & Kiley excel in their roles; given a list of her nominated performances, this is the film...