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Wicked as They Come

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Wicked as They Come
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Hughes
Produced byM.J. Frankovich
Maxwell Setton
Written byKen Hughes
Sigmund Miller
Robert Westerby
Based onnovel Portrait in Smoke by Bill S. Ballinger[1]
StarringArlene Dahl
Philip Carey
Herbert Marshall
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyBasil Emmott
Edited byMax Benedict
Frankovich Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 22 May 1956 (1956-05-22) (UK)
  • February 1956 (1956-02) (US)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Wicked as They Come (Portrait in Smoke in the United States) is a 1956 British film noir directed by Ken Hughes and starring Arlene Dahl, Philip Carey and Herbert Marshall.[2]


Poor girl from the slums Katherine Allenbourg trades on her looks. She enters a beauty contest, then charms the elderly gentleman running it, Sam Lewis, into fixing it so she will win first prize, a trip to Europe. She promptly abandons Sam.

On a plane to London, after changing her name to Kathy Allen, she is attracted to Tim O'Bannion, who works for an ad agency. However, she's determined to land someone wealthier and photographer Larry Buckham, whom she meets at her London hotel, fills the bill. Invited to use his charge account at a department store for a wedding dress, Kathy makes many purchases, pawns the merchandise and leaves Larry without a word.

She gets a job at Tim's advertising firm and seduces Stephen Collins, the man who runs it, and who is married. Tim arouses more passion in her, but Kathy's strictly out for herself. She demands Collins divorce his wife Virginia, whose father John Dowling owns the agency. Virginia tries to pay her off, but Kathy requests a transfer to the agency's Paris headquarters, where she immediately uses her wiles to get Dowling to marry her.

Anonymous threats begin by mail and phone. Someone in the shadows begins stalking her. Kathy picks up a gun and shoots, killing her husband. No one believes her tale of a prowler and Kathy is tried, convicted and sentenced to die.

Realizing that Larry is the man behind this turn of events, Tim reveals to him something he only just discovered, an explanation for Kathy's cruel treatment of men. When she was a girl, she was brutally assaulted. Larry has a change of heart and confesses to stalking her. Kathy's prison sentence is reduced, and she hopes Tim will give her another chance once she gets out.



  1. ^ Goble, Alan (1 January 1999). "The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film". Walter de Gruyter – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Wicked As They Come (1956)". Archived from the original on 14 January 2009.
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Wicked as They Come
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