I Wake Up Screaming

I Wake Up Screaming (originally titled Hot Spot) is a 1941 film noir.[2] It is based on the novel of the same name by Steve Fisher, who co-wrote the screenplay with Dwight Taylor. The film stars Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carole Landis, and features one of Grable's few dramatic roles.

I Wake Up Screaming
I wake up screaming.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byH. Bruce Humberstone
Screenplay byDwight Taylor
Steve Fisher
Based onI Wake Up Screaming
1941 novel
by Steve Fisher
Produced byMilton Sperling
StarringBetty Grable
Victor Mature
Carole Landis
Laird Cregar
CinematographyEdward Cronjager
Edited byRobert L. Simpson
Music byCyril J. Mockridge
20th Century Fox
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 14, 1941 (1941-11-14) (United States)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,491,500[1]


The story proceeds largely through a series of flashbacks, beginning with New York sports promoter Frankie Christopher being interrogated at a police station about the murder of a young actress, Vicky Lynn. Christopher recounts first meeting Vicky as a waitress at a restaurant when he was there with two friends, fading actor Robin Ray and gossip columnist Larry Evans. Christopher takes up a dare from his friends to turn Vicky into a star with their help.

Christopher succeeds, but Vicky betrays him by signing with a Hollywood producer. At the apartment she shares with her sister Jill, she finally tells Christopher she is leaving him while she is packing. Christopher reacts angrily, and the next morning Jill returns to the apartment to find her sister dead with Christopher standing by her body.

Not having enough evidence to hold Christopher for the murder, detective Ed Cornell lets him go, but is absolutely certain of Christopher's guilt and vows to bring him to justice. Hounded by Cornell, who abuses his power, entering Christopher's home and other residences without warrants, Christopher turns to Jill, who had not liked him very much but does not think that he could have killed her sister.

As Jill and Frankie begin to fall in love, they follow Vicky's previous movements and encounters to find the real killer. Eventually, they conclude that she had been killed by the apartment building's front desk manager, Harry Williams. Williams admits to the crime, but also tells Frankie that Cornell already knew of his guilt. Christopher, with the police close behind, goes to Cornell's apartment, which he discovers is plastered with posters of Vicky, leading to a final confrontation in which Cornell admits to trying frame Christopher, due to jealousy over Vicky.



The movie was originally titled I Wake Up Screaming before its title was changed to Hot Spot and then back to I Wake Up Screaming, although it was released in some markets as Hot Spot. It was Mature's first film under his contract with 20th Century Fox. Alice Faye was originally cast as Jill[3] but was replaced by Betty Grable.

I Wake Up Screaming was rumored to be the first Hollywood picture for French actor Jean Gabin, but he first had to learn English, which conflicted with the shooting schedule.[4]

The film was remade in 1953 as Vicki.[2]


Box OfficeEdit

The film earned a profit of $574,100.[1]

Critical responseEdit

Film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a favorable review, writing, "Veteran Fox studio director H. Bruce Humberstone (Charlie Chan at the Opera / Sun Valley Serenade), whose films ranged from Charlie Chan to Tarzan, puts forth his best effort in this thrilling film noir. I Wake Up Screaming was remade in 1953 as Vicki. Dwight Taylor bases his screenplay on the book by pulp writer Steve Fisher. In a jarring move that works in an odd way, 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' is the soundtrack that can be heard throughout. This early film noir, shot in a naturalistic style, showed how dark photography can increase a brooding mood and make the film more tense ... The conclusion is filled with plot twists and surprise character revelations, as the marvelously sinister performance by Laird Cregar as the sicko detective dominates the screen."[5]


The film's score contained "Over the Rainbow" and the theme from the 1931 film Street Scene, written by Alfred Newman.[6] Also heard in the background is "These Are the Things I Love", written by Harold Barlow and Lewis Harris, which became a popular ballad during the big-band era.


  1. ^ a b c Mank, Gregory William (2018). Laird Cregar: A Hollywood Tragedy. McFarland.
  2. ^ a b Mayer, Geoff and Brian McDonnell. Encyclopedia of film noir (2007: Greenwood Publishing Company). page 226. ISBN 978-0-313-33306-4
  3. ^ DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL (July 15, 1941). "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Goldwyn to Film the Life of Lou Gehrig -- Picture Listed for Release Next Year DANCE HALL' HERE FRIDAY Carole Landis and Romero in Roxy Feature -- 'Stars Look Down' Opens July 23". New York Times. p. 22.
  4. ^ Louella O. Parsons (syndicated column), San Francisco Examiner, March 18, 1941.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Dennis Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 20, 2004. Accessed: July 10, 2013.
  6. ^ Beck, Jay and Tony Grajeda. Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound (2008: University of Illinois Press). page 114. ISBN 0-252-07532-3

External linksEdit