Film Noir Friday: Witness to Murder [1954]

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Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is WITNESS TO MURDER [1954].  Directed by Roy Rowland and starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders and Gary Merrill.  Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

One night, when Cheryl Draper wakens and gets out of bed to close her bedroom window, she sees a man, Albert Richter, strangling a young woman to death in an apartment across the street. Cheryl phones the police, but before Lt. Lawrence Mathews and Sgt. Eddie Vincent arrive to interview Richter, he hides the body in an unoccupied apartment next door and pretends to have been asleep. After they find nothing to incriminate Richter, Larry suggests to Cheryl that she may have dreamed it all, but she is adamant that she saw the murder.

 

http://youtu.be/BnkhXuBLRpk

A Visit From The Sheriff

Ching-ching-a-ling! Ching-ching-a-ling!
Are those sleighbells I hear?
No.
It’s gunfire…

COX_CHRISTMAST’was the week before Christmas, December ’54
David Cox’s house was filled with violence, mayhem and smashed crockery galore.

David’s Downey neighbors awoke to ruckus and clatter,
and wondered just what in the hell was the matter.

It must be that S.O.B. Cox, they concluded —
a few beers in his belly and he’s completely deluded.

They turned away from their windows and went back to their beds,
where they pulled the covers up over their heads.

David had arrived home three hours late,
with booze on his breath and his eyes filled with hate.

His wife, Billie, had made a modest request
for $25 to buy each of their girls a new dress.

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“Mary and Katherine don’t need presents, you frivilous bitch!”
David picked up a lamp and smashed it to bits.

He ripped out the windows, wood frames and plaster,
then sped off in his truck leaving behind a disaster.

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Later that evening when David came home
he drove his truck into a fence, then lurched around drunk and alone.

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Hello! Anyone home? He shouted to the empty house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

His children were frightened and his pregnant wife was alarmed,
she tooks the kids to her mother’s so they wouldn’t be harmed.

The Norwalk Sheriff’s station was called, and deputies rushed to the scene.
David was wielding a shotgun and he looked pretty damned mean.

“Drop your weapon!” the deputies shouted calling David by name.
But Cox opened fire and the cops did the same.

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Sgts. Lovretovich and Piper stood over David who was collapsed on the lawn.
He’d taken multiple rounds — he was deceased, he was gone.

Why didn’t he do as we said, they pondered aloud; to behave as he had —
he must have been crazy, he must have been mad!

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David’s drinking and anger had cost him his life,
he’d never again see his friends, children, or wife.

Christmas was dismal for the Cox family that year.
Instead of baby dolls, buggies and bears named Ted,
there was a casket, flowers and tears to be shed.

No doubt about it, David Cox had acted a fool.
A moron, an idiot, a jackass, a tool.

Neighbors were heard to exclaim, ere Deputies drove out of sight.

Don’t screw with the Sheriffs, they’ll put up a fight.

 

NOTE:  I wrote this poem last year and I thought it would be fun to make it a holiday tradition.

I took very few liberties with this deranged holiday tale. I put words in the mouths of the victim and the cops, but otherwise the details are as they appeared in the  Los Angeles Times report of the incident.  It pleases me no end that one of my favorite Deputy Sheriffs of the era, Ned Lovretovich, played a role in this story. His career continues to fascinate me.

I couldn’t do justice to A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS by Clement Clarke Moore which provided the inspiration for this post, but it was fun just the same.

Many thanks to Mike Fratantoni for turning me on to a great story–he knows them all.