Sog.: Seton I. Miller. Scen.: Seton I. Miller, Philip MacDonald. F.: Russell Harlan. M.: David M. Weisbart. Scgf.: Van Nest Polglase. Mus.: Louis Forbes. Int.: Lee J. Cobb (Ed Cullen), Jane Wyatt (Lois Frazer), John Dall (Andy Cullen), Lisa Howard (Janet Cullen), Harlan Warde (Howard Frazer), Tito Vuolo (Pietro Capa), Charles E. Arnt (Ernest Quimby), Marjorie Bennett (Muriel Quimby). Prod.: Jack M. Warner per Phoenix Films, Inc.. 35mm. D.: 81’. Bn.
An adulterous socialite kills her husband and convinces her lover, a police detective, to cover up the crime. But his brother, a rookie cop eager to prove himself, won’t leave the case alone. The Man Who Cheated Himself fits snugly in the 1950s noir ‘dirty cop’ subgenre (Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Prowler, Shield for Murder, among others), but unlike those, which used corrupt policemen as symbols for authority run amuck, this film, scripted by Seton I. Miller and mystery specialist Philip MacDonald, leans on the James M. Cain model: respectable citizens surrendering to their base instincts. Working with a small budget, first-time producer Jack M. Warner (son of the legendary studio boss) hired Feist, who had earned a reputation for shooting movies quickly and cheaply, without showing the seams. Cast and crew drove overnight from Hollywood to San Francisco and immediately began filming at sun-up. The oddest aspect of this film, without question, is the casting. This is the only time Lee J. Cobb had a romantic leading role. He had just ended one of the most celebrated runs in Broadway history, as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, but here Cobb gets a rare chance to underplay like Robert Mitchum, smoking cigarettes ruefully while pondering his miserable fate. Just as unexpected is the casting of the homicidal socialite: Jane Wyatt is the most wholesome actress ever to wear the furs of the femme fatale. She’d become famous as the sensible matriarch of a mid-century American family on the popular 1950s TV show Father Knows Best. The film also includes perhaps the quietest climax ever – a desolate and suspenseful scene at Fort Point, where a few years later Kim Novak would make a memorable leap into the Bay in Vertigo.