WHERE DANGER LIVES
(director: John Farrow; screenwriters: Charles Bennett/from an unpublished story by Leo Rosten; cinematographer: Nick Musuraca; editor: Edna Warren; cast: Robert Mitchum (Jeff Cameron), Faith Domergue (Margo Lannington), Claude Rains (Frederick Lannington), Maureen O’Sullivan (Julie), Charles Kemper (Police Chief), Ralph Dumke (Klauber), Billy House (Mr. Bogardus), Harry Shannon (Dr. Maynard), Philip Van Zandt (Milo DeLong), Jack Kelly (Dr. Mullenbach), Lillian West (Mrs. Bogardus); Runtime: 84; RKO; 1950)
“Mitchum saves the day.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Mitchum is cast as a stable citizen, which goes against typecast. He plays the bachelor San Franciscan, Dr. Jeff Cameron. He’s burdened with an unbelievable melodramatic story and saddled with the dullish performance of his femme fatale co-star, Faith Domergue. She is cast as the alluring Margo Lannington. Faith is the gorgeous protege of studio boss Howard Hughes, and makes her inauspicious film debut.
“Danger” is beautifully photographed by Nick Musuraca in the dark B&W style of noir and is ably directed by John Farrow, who successfully caught the nightmarish visions. It is interesting mostly as a character study of a capable man blinded by lust, whose life is almost destroyed. Mitchum is the innocent man who is framed and doesn’t realize he is innocent until it is almost too late, recovering in the nick of time because he has such a strong character and will to live. Mitchum’s convincing portrayal of the innocent man on the run, is what makes this melodrama compelling.
The film opens as the overworked Dr. Jeff Cameron (Mitchum) treats an unidentified suicide patient and finds himself attracted to her. After her recovery, he visits and finds out her name is Margo Lannington. Jeff goes out with her, ignoring his ‘nice girl’ nurse girlfriend Julie (O’Sullivan), unaware that Margo is married to an elderly millionaire, Frederick (Rains). Margo tells him that he’s her strict father.
When Margo tells Jeff that she is leaving for a trip to Nassau, Jeff gets tanked up on some kind of potent Hawaiian drink and gets up enough nerve to meet her dad. On learning the truth Jeff leaves the house upset that Margo lied to him, but returns when he hears her screams. She claims that Frederick pulled off her earring, and immediately the jealous husband gets into a fight with Jeff. It results in a concussion for Jeff, but unconsciousness for Frederick. While Jeff retreats for an ice bag for the victim, Margo suffocates her husband with a pillow and pins the murder on Jeff. She refuses to allow Jeff to call the police, saying they will never believe it was an accident; and, she gets Jeff while he’s still in a drunken state to drive with her to Mexico. They are fearful that the police are on their trail and they therefore fail to get Jeff a prescription to treat his concussion.
In this l’amour fou tale Jeff begins to become suspicious of his honey as he sobers up, remembering the warnings about her state of mind Frederick mentioned. Jeff will discover in this last dingy border town they travel to how sick she is, after making their way through bleak towns in northern and southern California and through dusty roads in Arizona. They have run out of money and have to sell her diamond necklace to some hustlers, who help them plan their escape across the border.
Warning: spoiler to follow: proceed to last paragraph if you don’t want to know the ending.
When Jeff refuses to go to Mexico after learning that she killed her husband, she smothers him with a pillow and he’s too weak to defend himself. Margo leaves for Mexico alone, thinking she killed Jeff. But she is surprised when Jeff comes after her, and then begs him to go back. But when he continues toward her, she pulls a gun out and starts wildly shooting before the cops at the border kill her. Margo’s last gesture is a good deed, as she proclaims his innocence before she dies.
The movie plays like a noir cliché. But Mitchum saves the day, realistically showing how a swell guy and such a competent doctor could be so vulnerable. Claude Rains as always is magnificent, in a small part but one where his every gesture seems to be constrained in a maniacal rage ready to burst open. His touch of madness is best exemplified by his mischievous smile while meeting his wife’s lover.
REVIEWED ON 11/17/2000 GRADE: C+