Albert Arnett

Created by James Gunn (pseudonym of John Darcy Cannon; 1918--)

"It's quite all right, Mrs. Brent. I am a man of integrity, but I'm always willing to listen to an interesting offer."

-- Arnett maskes his pitch to Helen in Born to Kill.

The 1947 noir classic Born to Kill from RKO is not a private eye film, although it does feature one in a prominent role.

But it's hard to pay much attention to Walter Slezak as annoyingly smarmy private "operative" ALBERT ARNETT when Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney are facing off against each other, chewing up scenery, spewing fire and spitting out blood.

Not that Arnett's just scenery -- it's a perfect role for him, and he plays the hell out of it. He a solicitous ass-kisser, a chubby little man prone to quoting poetry and philosophical nuggets, working out of a Reno coffee shop but putting on the big front for his clients, always keeping an eye out for a big score.

And he finds it when Mrs. Kraft, a hard-bitten old hag (Esther Howard) hires him to find the murderer of her drinking buddy. Arnett tracks the killer, Sam Wild (Lawrence Tierney), to San Francisco, unaware of just how dangerous he is, or how sick and twisted a game he's playing with recent divorcée Helen Brent (Claire Trevor), the sister of his new (and wealthy) bride.

Sam may be drop dead handsome, but he's damaged goods -- a brooding, violent bruiser with a massive chip on his shoulder, who takes what he wants when he wants it, by brute force if necessary. He's an animal, relentless and deadly as a shark. And despite herself, that turns Helen on. The catch is that Helen may be just as perverted as he is.

But as the two circle each other, each smelling blood, Arnett draws closer, sniffing a chance to get some real dough.

It's classic noir set-up, and that's exactly what it is: classic noir, full of bad choices and bad luck, plus some terrifically doomed characters, such as Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook, Jr.), Sam's "pug-ugly" pal who he lived with in Reno (Were they?), and the aforementioned Esther Howard who chews it up as the beer-soaked Mrs. Kraft who just wants to avenge her friend's murder.

Born to Kill would be the first of what would be several solid crime flicks directed by Robert Wise, who went on to do Born To Kill, Mystery in Mexico and Odds Against Tomorrow; before getting all musical with The Sound of Music and West Side Story.

NOVELS

FILMS

  • BORN TO KILL...Buy the DVD
    (1947, RKO)
    Based on the novel Deadlier Than the Male (1942) by James Gunn
    Screenplay by Eve Greene and Richard Macaulay
    Directed by Robert Wise
    Producers: Herman Schlom, Sid Rogell
    Starring Lawrence Tierney as Sam Wild
    and Claire Trevor as Helen Brent
    With Walter Slezak as ALBERT ARNETT
    Also starring Elisha Cook, Jr., Esther Howard, Philip Terry, Audrey Long

  • CORPS ET BIENS
    (1986)
    Based on the novel Deadlier Than the Male (1942) by James Gunn
    Written and directed by Benoit Jacquot

Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


| Home | Detectives A-L M-Z | Film | Radio | Television | Web Comics | Comics | FAQs | Search |
| Trivia | Authors | Hall of Fame | Mystery Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Advertising |
| This Just In... | Word on the Street | Non-Fiction | Fiction | Staff | The P.I. Poll |

Drop a dime. Your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."

Copyright 1998-2017, thrillingdetective.com. All rights reserved.
Web site by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy.