Burt Lancaster and Lizabeth Scott in I Walk Alone (1947)


(director: Byron Haskin; screenwriters: from the play Beggars Are Coming to Town by Theodore Reeves/Charles Schnee/John Bright/Robert Smith; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Victor Young; cast: Burt Lancaster (Frankie Madison), Lizabeth Scott (Kay Lawrence), Kirk Douglas (Noll Turner), Wendell Corey (Dave Madison), Kristine Miller (Mrs. Alexis Richardson), Georges Rigaud (Maurice), Marc Lawrence (Nick Palestro), Mike Mazurki (Dan), Mickey Knox (Skinner), Dewey Robinson (Heinz); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Paramount; 1948)

“The film is entertaining because of the top-flight cast.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

During Prohibition Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) and Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas) were partners in a bootlegging scheme, with Frankie’s younger brother Dave (Wendell Corey) keeping the books. On a night run the bootleggers break through a police roadblock and Frankie agrees to stay with the truck trying to outrace the pursuing police while Noll escapes in the woods, but not before they agree whoever gets caught the other will take the rap without squealing and they’ll be equal partners in the business. Frankie gets pinched and serves a 14 year stretch in an upstate New York prison, coming out in 1947 an embittered man to a changed world. A nervous Dave is there to greet Frankie and take him to a dumpy hotel while the high-flying Noll, who never kept contact with Frankie in prison and has since opened a swanky Manhattan nightclub for the swells called the Regent’s Club, awaits anxious to know what to expect from his former partner. Frankie pays Noll a visit in the nightclub to collect his partner’s share, and finds out he’s been tricked out of his share by Noll and his accountant brother (he cooked the books, even getting his unsophisticated brother to sign away his share).

Noll uses his girlfriend nightclub torch singer Kay Lawrence (Lizabeth Scott) to pump Frankie about his intentions, as he sets them up to a high-class private dinner date in his joint. The conniving Noll finally lets it be known that he will not take Frankie in as a partner, and uses Frankie’s bookkeeper brother to explain how the books were fixed against him. This doesn’t sit well with the hot-tempered Frankie, who contacts one of the old-time gang members Nick Palestro to get him a gang to straighten Noll out. But the old members of the gang are no longer around and the new breed of mobsters turn out to be a disappointment to Frankie and his plans for vengeance. Seeing how he got screwed Kay realizes she’s more like Frankie than Noll, and helps the angry ex-con calm down and deal with Noll in a wiser way than through gunplay.

Filmmaker Byron Haskins (“The Naked Jungle”) deftly maneuvers his way through the film noir with the aid of a touching romance that develops between Kay and Frankie, that mixes rather well with the usual noir conventions. Haskins also depicts how the muscleman Frankie is outclassed by the more devious Noll, who sets up his business in a legitimate fashion like a big corporation. But the bewildered Frankie wins out over Noll in the end because he doesn’t get suckered into Noll’s trap, and instead decides to give up crime for love and peace of mind.

The film’s best performance comes from Corey, as the cowardly brother who has a change of heart and pays the ultimate price for it. Though the film is entertaining because of the top-flight cast, the screenplay based on the play Beggars Are Coming to Town by Theodore Reeves was unconvincing and the melodramatic conclusion left me believing the so-called good guys won only because the fix was in for the underdog to win and not because they really won.


REVIEWED ON 12/22/2004 GRADE: B –