The Turning Point (1952)

William Holden, Edmond O'Brien, Alexis Smith, Tom Tully,
Jerry McKibbon is a tough, no nonsense reporter, mentoring special prosecutor John Conroy in routing out corrupt officials in the city, which may even include Conroy's own police detective father as a suspect.
  • 6.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Warren Duff, Horace McCoy, Writer:
  • William Dieterle, Director:
  • Irving Asher, Producer:

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7 / 10

A Crime Syndicate With Deep Hooks

The Kefauver crime hearings in the US Senate were the inspiration for several films of which The Turning Point is one. It's neither the best or the worst of that group.

Idealistic young attorney Edmond O'Brien is put in charge of a local Kefauver like group with prosecutorial powers to go after the syndicate that operates in this unnamed midwest American city. He's the son of veteran police detective Tom Tully and he asks his father to help him in his investigation. Also helping out are Alexis Smith functioning as the commission secretary and a cynical William Holden who is a long time friend of O'Brien's and newspaper reporter.

The syndicate is headed by Ed Begley, his number two is his enforcer Ted DeCorsia and he's got a hotheaded torpedo on the payroll in Danny Dayton. This crime syndicate has its hooks in pretty deep and watching the film you see why they are always one step ahead of the investigating commission.

The Turning Point fits right in with Bill Holden's post Sunset Boulevard tough and cynical image. That would reach its apogee when next year Holden would win an Oscar for the ultimate cynic in Stalag 17.

The rest of the cast performs well in roles that fit them admirably. Some you will remember are Neville Brand as an out of town torpedo who has few words, but an aura of menace, Carolyn Jones in her film debut as a Virginia Hill type witness who performs on stand the way Judy Holliday did in the House Un-American Activities Committee as the dumb moll. But the performance that really stands out is that of Adele Longmire who is the wife of another torpedo who was doublecrossed and killed after a hit he performed. She is really a standout in her scenes as a frightened witness trying to flee the mob.

The Turning Point is a good noir drama that holds up very well today and is even relevant with some of the big name prosecutions of more recent vintage.

7 / 10

The Turning Point is a pretty good crime drama

William Holden is Jerry McKibbon, a reporter who's trying to help his pal Edmond O'Brien as district attorney John Conroy and his girl Alexis Smith as Amanda Waycross expose the big city gangster Ed Begley as Neil Eichelberger with some help from O'Brien's cop father, Tom Tully as Matt Conroy. I'll stop there and just say this was quite a thrilling crime drama though compared to others from the period, also perhaps a little subdued. Still, a suspenseful atmosphere permeates throughout especially when a boxing match where someone tries to kill provides the exciting climax. No big music score is provided but there are some good sequences when the story doesn't take the time for some romance between either of the male leads and Ms. Smith which aren't really needed. So on that note, The Turning Point is well worth the time.

7 / 10

A straight up, really well made if somewhat routine crime noir.

The Turning Point (1952)

Great cast (good guys and bad), great director (William Dieterle is a stalwart Hollywood director who did "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" among many others), and solid plot. You can't go wrong. It moves fast, it makes sense, it has drama and romance, and a great shoot-em-up ending in a boxing arena.

And yet something is withheld. I think it's partly camera-work, all very shadowy and excellent, but not elegant, not pumped up and dramatic. The story, as well, is a little routine. By 1952 this kind of crime noir gangster film is old stuff. They even hint at this in the movie, by saying that the unnamed midwestern city is seeing a rise in crime in the old style, a return of 1920s gangsterism. But if they mean to return to the great gangster films, they don't quite make it.

But it's still really fine--William Holden is an understated player and therefore underrated. And the co-lead, the star of "D.O.A." and "The Hitchhiker" among a few other lesser films, is Edmond O'Brien, who is maybe at his best here. You see a curious position for Holden, hot off of "Sunset Blvd.," in a somewhat secondary role, because he might be the leading hunk, but O'Brien is the leading man.

A good film without that special something to lift it up, but without a flaw, either, in any usual sense. Totally a pleasure in its understated approach.

7 / 10

Ed Begley's jovial, corporate killer Turning Point's most haunting image

William Dieterle's resume shows him to be a solid craftsman only occasionally rising to true distinction. Same can be said of The Turning Point, an often routine noir about a government committee -- this was the era of the televised Kefauver hearings -- investigating mob activity and corruption in a "midwestern" city (though one scene is shot on Los Angeles' funicular railway). Routine also are cynical journalist William Holden and chief investigator Edmond O'Brien, though we're lucky to have the seldom-seen Alexis Smith as a woman attracted to them both. But the best thing in the movie is Ed Begley as the owner of a trucking company who is of course the hoodlum in chief, despite his panelled office and tailored suits. He's memorably slick and squirmy in front of the committee. But his best moment comes when he confides to a henchman his plans to burn down the tenement building where his records are stored: "You don't believe I'd do it?" he jokes. "I don't think a jury would believe it either." The following conflagration is as brutal a plot development as can be found in film noir, with firetrucks, ambulances and bodybags aplenty. It's a scene that sticks with you long after the screenplay's romantic triangle has faded from memory.

6 / 10

some familiar plot points and good acting

From 1952 Paramount, The Turning Point is a crime drama starring William Holden, Alexis Smith, Edmond O'Brien, and Ed Begley.

O'Brien is John Conroy an attorney who has returned to his home town to lead a commission dedicated to wiping out corruption in their city, somewhere in the midwest. Holden is Jerry McKibbon, his childhood friend who is now a sharp and somewhat cynical reporter. He spots McKibbon's idealism right away and thinks he might be headed for a big reality check. Alexis Smith plays Amanda, a socialite who is John's girlfriend and secretary.

Some of this is telegraphed early. First off, how long does anyone think Amanda will stay Ed Begley's girlfriend once she sees William Holden? Then John happily tells his police detective father that he is hiring him as chief investigator for the commission. His father (Tom Tully) doesn't want the job. Now why do we suppose that is?

Ed Begley is the head mobster, Neil Eichelberger, a crumb who doesn't care whom he has to kill or blow up to get his way. One of his henchman is Roy Ackerman (Danny Dayton). They're both foul.

Even with some predictability, this is a well-acted, tight story directed by William Dieterle. The end takes place at a boxing match and is exciting. Watch for Neville Brand as an out of town hit man at the end of the film.

For trivia buffs, there are some uncredited people who rose above being uncredited: Carolyn Jones in her first film; '50s starlet Rachel Ames, who joined the cast of General Hospital in 1964, a year after its debut. She still occasionally makes an appearance, and she looks fantastic. Also Whit Bissell and Robert Rockwell (Mr. Boynton on Our Miss Brooks). Good movie.