This is a most interesting entry into the film noir canon, particularly since the protagonist is female. And not a femme fatale.
The woman in question is Eleanor Johnson (played with spirit by Ann Sheridan), and she’s on the run because her struggling artist husband Frank witnessed a hit by an unseen assassin. Except Frank catches a glimpse of his face when he is exposed while finishing off his victim (who was a rather naïve blackmailer).
Frank does his civic duty and summons the police. But flees the scene when he learns the victim was supposed to testify against a gangster, leaving him to do that job. Between that and the fact that the shooter was an excellent shot, Frank is outta there-despite the police detectives’ assurances of protection.
And our heroine, Eleanor, seems to know and care little about Frank, what he does, how he is, what his favorite color is, etc.
The point being that this is a crime thriller and film noir that explores with bitterness some tough truths (as seen at the time) about “modern marriage.”
Eleanor refuses to help police. In fact, she seems pretty laissez-faire about the whole business. However, her apparently cold exterior must hide some warmth for Frank, because she tries to sneak out of the house (to evade the cops, who are watching her closely) to see her hubby. And while attempting this feat through a window in the attic, she stumbles across reporter Danny Leggett (played by Dennis O’Keefe). Despite a fractious start, Danny offers help and $1,000 for an exclusive story.
As details about Frank-including his obvious love of art, sensitivity, and fragile state of health-come to light, Eleanor appears to warm further to the husband with whom she has so badly failed to communicate. Frank, likewise, hasn’t made his feelings clear to Eleanor, either. They’ve allowed petty squabbles to ruin a perfectly good relationship.
Okay, so you have a witness on the run, wife following and picking up clues, friendly reporter at the ready, cops tailing them-where is this going?
I will only say that the climax is amazing, the tension unbearable, and the cinematography and sound-OMG! Nothing short of breath taking.
Apparently, the filmmakers were protégés of the great Orson Welles. There are definitely traces of his influence in the amusement park scenes at the end. The roller coaster sequences alone are well worth the viewing.
And when Danny Boy and Eleanor exchange banter, the dialogue crackles. According to Eddie Muller, the actors wrote some of their own lines. And it feels mighty spontaneous and sharp.
You’ve gotta love a film noir with a goodhearted (if initially cool) female lead. One who can hold her own and not only susses out the killer, but goes above and beyond to try to save her husband.
Totally gripping! This one gets five stars from me! 🙂
You can watch this one in its entirety here!
Originally published at http://debbimacktoo.wordpress.com on July 18, 2019.