The Captive City
Poster of the movie The Captive City.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Wise
Screenplay byKarl Kamb
Alvin M. Josephy
(as Alvin M. Josephy Jr.)
Story byAlvin M. Josephy
(as Alvin M. Josephy Jr.)
Produced byTheron Warth
StarringJohn Forsythe
CinematographyLee Garmes
Edited byRobert Swink
Music byJerome Moross
Aspen Productions
Avernus Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • March 26, 1952 (1952-03-26) (New York City)
  • April 11, 1952 (1952-04-11) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Captive City is a 1952 American film noir crime film directed by Robert Wise and starring John Forsythe.[1] The screenplay is based on real life experiences of Time magazine reporter Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., who co-wrote the script.[2]


Newspaper editor and co-owner Jim Austin and his wife are fleeing Kennington, where they live and work, so that he may testify before a U.S. Senate Special Committee investigating crime in interstate commerce. They are being pursued by the criminal element from their town and pull off the highway in a place called Warren, where they take refuge in a police station. Austin requests an escort to ensure they arrive safely at the committee location. He also gets permission to use the station's tape recorder, on which he chronicles the events which have brought him to this point.

Austin began investigating bookmaking in town after the suspicious death of private detective Clyde Nelson, who discovered police complicity with illegal gambling while working a divorce case for a Mrs. Sirak. Her ex-husband, Murray Sirak, happened to be the major bookmaker in Kennington. Austin questioned the police response to Nelson's death, then began an investigation himself after being goaded by the Chief of Police. Austin discovered that mafia-affiliated gangster Dominick Fabretti had moved into town, then Sirak attempted to squelch Austin's activity with a bribe, and Austin and his wife were continually harassed. The city fathers, the police, and the respectable elements of the community all consented to the gambling, arguing that betting is inevitable, and that exposing it would injure the city's reputation. Mrs. Sirak was murdered after she agreed to disclose that Fabretti was responsible for Nelson's murder. Austin's partner at the newspaper dropped his support for Austin because they are losing advertisers and vendors due to his crusade. To stop Fabretti and his activities, Austin's final recourse was an appeal for help from the local ministers. When even they declined to get involved, Austin decided to appeal to the Senate Crime Commission at the Capital. A grave threat from Sirak spurred Austin and his wife to flee in the middle of the night, followed by Fabretti's henchmen.

They do get the requested police escort, and safely make it to the commission hearing.



The screenplay of The Captive City was inspired by the Kefauver Committee's hearings.[3] The television broadcast of the hearings attracted huge public interest and educated a broad audience about the issues of municipal corruption and organized crime. The tremendous success of the broadcast led to the production of a whole cycle of "exposé" crime films dealing with the dismantling of complex criminal organizations by law enforcement.[4][5] The Captive City had the blessing of senator Kefauver himself: Robert Wise took a print of the film to Washington D. C. to show to senator Kefauver, who not only endorsed it but even gives a written statement in the prologue and appears in the epilogue, cautioning audiences about the evils of organized crime.[6] Other notable examples of exposé films include Hoodlum Empire (1952) and The Turning Point (1952).


  1. ^ The Captive City at IMDb.
  2. ^ The Captive City at AllMovie
  3. ^ Spicer, Andrew (2010). Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Scarecrow Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8108-7378-0.
  4. ^ Spicer, Andrew (2010). Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Scarecrow Press. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0-8108-7378-0.
  5. ^ Dickos, Andrew (2002). Street with No Name: A History of the Classic American Film Noir. The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 203–206. ISBN 978-0813122434.
  6. ^ "The Captive City film article". at Retrieved 2014-08-22.