Kansas City Confidential
Crime, Drama, Film Noir | 99 Mins | Released: 1952
Director: Phil Karlson
Starring: John Payne, Coleen Gray, Preston Foster, Neville Brank, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Dona Drake
Our Rating: 7
Black & White
An ex-con trying to go straight is framed for a million dollar armored car robbery and must go to Mexico in order to unmask the real culprits.
A mysterious fellow (Preston Foster) contacts a trio of criminals (Jack Elam, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef) to help with a bank heist. The four wear masks and remain strangers to each other, planning to reunite in Mexico to divvy up the loot. Joe Rolfe (John Payne), the man they framed to take the heat, gets his charges dropped, and the police offer him a reward if he can help recover the cash. He agrees, and when one of the thieves meets his end, Rolfe assumes his identity to catch the crooks.
Kansas City Confidential was the only film made by Edward Small‘s short-lived Associated Players and Producers, a company formed by Small, Sol Lesser and Sam Briskin. It was the first of a thirteen-movie deal Small signed with United Artists in 1952, with ten to be made in the first year. John Payne said he owned 25% of the film.
The movie was originally called Kansas City 117, the title based on a police code. Small bought the title Kansas City Confidential off John Gait and Lee Montgomery. It was the first contemporary crime drama Small made after a series of swashbucklers.
Filming started June 4, 1952, and was partly shot on Santa Catalina Island, California, which stood in for Mexico.
The story begins in Kansas City, but most of the film actually takes place at a fictitious fishing resort in Mexico.
Kansas City Confidential was director Karlson’s second crime film; he also directed Scandal Sheet, also released in 1952, which proved to be a modest commercial success. Karlson was “a gifted filmmaker who had recently graduated from the Poverty Row studio Monogram“; the film starred John Payne, a “popular crooner of the 1940s who some say was working his way down from Technicolor musicals at 20th Century Fox” but after his Fox contract expired produced several of his own films.