DEEP VALLEY(director: Jean Negulesco; screenwriters: Stephen Morehouse Avery/Salka Viertel/from book by Dan Totheroh; cinematographer: Ted D. McCord; editor: Owen Marks; cast: Ida Lupino (Libby Saul), Dane Clark (Barry Burnette), Ray Teal (Prison Official), Fay Bainter (Ellie Saul), Wayne Morris (Jeff Barker), Clancy Cooper (Prison Guard), Henry Hull (Cliff Saul), Willard Robertson (Sheriff Akers); Runtime: 104; Warner Bros.; 1947)
“The film comes to a boil with its very moving conclusion, after a very slow start.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A slow paced, b&w, atmospheric melodrama, set in the mountains of northern California, about a farm girl, Libby Saul (Ida Lupino), romanced by an escaped convict, Barry Burnette (Dane Clark). One character says of the farm where Libby resides that it is in such a remote spot, even the coyotes don’t come here.
Libby has felt imprisoned, leading a sheltered and unhappy life with her miserable folks. Ellie Saul (Bainter), her mother, hasn’t left her room for years because she is so embittered over her marriage that she refuses to even talk with her husband. Her father, Cliff (Hull), is an angry man, showing no love to his wife or stuttering daughter. It’s a marriage consumed by hate.
The 22-year-old Libby has enough of this and runs away to her secret hideaway cabin in the woods on the night of a big rainstorm, taking along her faithful dog Joe. There is a new coastal highway being built with the help of a chain gang crew, which is going through her Big Sur forest region. One of the convicts, Barry Burnette, escapes during the severe rainstorm.
The two runaways meet in her cabin and fall in love. Barry explains how his quick temper always spelled trouble and got him convicted of manslaughter when he held up a jewelry store and killed the employee, though he was too drunk to remember if he actually did it.
Libby exclaims that this is the first happy day she has ever had as they catch a trout and kiss, and spend the night together. They make plans to get to San Francisco and live together, but to travel their separately. She goes back home to get food and a change of clothes for him.
But the search party gets into a shootout with Barry at Stone Ridge; he escapes and returns to hide in Libby’s farmhouse barn.
On Libby’s return things change at home, as her parents get together and act civilized for the first time that she could remember. They also notice that she’s glowing with happiness and figure it’s because she met the road engineer, Jeff Barker (Wayne Morris), who expresses a keen interest in her, and has made plans with her father to go partners in opening up a filling station once the road is completed.
The interesting part of the film revolves around the conflict Libby faces of running away with the violent fugitive she has fallen madly in love with or to have a secure marriage with the really nice engineer, someone she doesn’t love.
“Deep Valley” offers a melodramatic look at how love can make one feel alive again. The film comes to a boil with its very moving conclusion, after a very slow start.
REVIEWED ON 2/22/2001 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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