29 août 1946. Face au 1634 Broadway occupé par le Winter Garden, le Passant Cinéphile est sans voix. Mais qui est ce Burt Lancaster qui enlace la belle Ava Gardner ? Avant d’acheter à l’ouvreuse un esquimau glacé et de s’installer confortablement face à l’écran blanc de la salle, notre passant curieux se jette sur l’édition du jour du New York Times dans les pages duquel le sympathique Bosley Crowther donne son avis sur ce The Killers signé Robert Siodmak.
Critique d’époque :
« Back in the gangster-glutted Twenties, Ernest Hemingway wrote a morbid tale about two gunmen waiting in a lunchroom for a man they were hired to kill. And while they relentlessly waited, the victim lay sweating in his room, knowing the gunmen were after him but too weary and resigned to move. That’s all the story told you—that a man was going to be killed. What for was deliberately unstated. Quite a fearful and fatalistic tale.
Now, in a film called The Killers, which was the title of the Hemingway piece, Mark Hellinger and Anthony Veiller are filling out the plot. That is, they are cleverly explaining, through a flashback reconstruction of the life of that man who lay sweating in his bedroom, why the gunmen were after him. And although it may not be precisely what Hemingway had in mind, it makes a taut and absorbing explanation as unreeled on the Winter Garden’s screen. For the producer and writer have concocted a pretty cruel and complicated plot in which a youthful but broken-down prize-fighter treds a perilous path to ruin. Mobsters and big-time stick-up workers get a hold on him, and a siren of no mean proportions completely befouls his career. In the end, we perceive that the poor fellow – who is bumped off in the first reel, by the way—was the victim of love misdirected and a beautiful double-cross.This doesn’t prove very much, obviously, and it certainly does not enhance the literary distinction of Hemingway’s classic bit. But, as mere movie melodrama, pieced out as a mystery which is patiently unfolded by a sleuthing insurance man, it makes a diverting picture – diverting, that is, if you enjoy the unraveling of crime enigmas involving pernicious folks.
With Robert Siodmak’s restrained direction, a new actor, Burt Lancaster, gives a lanky and wistful imitation of a nice guy who’s wooed to his ruin. And Ava Gardner is sultry and sardonic as the lady who crosses him up. Edmond O’Brien plays the shrewd investigator in the usual cool and clipped detective style, Sam Levene is very good as a policeman and Albert Dekker makes a thoroughly nasty thug. Several other characters are sharply and colorfully played. The tempo is slow and metronomic, which makes for less excitement than suspense ». Par Bosley Crowther pour le New York Times.
Si Bosley Crowther semble trouver intéressante l’idée de « prolonger » à l’inverse la nouvelle d’Ernest Hemingway, il prévient que le spectateur y trouvera son compte uniquement s’il sait apprécier les intrigues torturée. Sacré Bosley ! Le classicisme semble emporter tous les suffrages chez lui. Il souligne néanmoins la bonne interprétation de l’ensemble du casting, en particulier celle du débutant Burt Lancaster.
Ma critique, suivie de son remake et de sa version russe, est à découvrir par ici.