WOMAN ON THE RUN
(director/writer: Norman Foster; screenwriters: from the story by Sylvia Tate/Alan Campbell; cinematographer: Hal Mohr; editor: Otto Ludwig; music: Arthur Lange/Emil Newman; cast: Ann Sheridan (Eleanor Johnson), Dennis O’Keefe (Danny Leggett), Robert Keith (Inspector Martin Ferris), Ross Elliott (Frank Johnson), Frank Jenks (Detective Homer Shaw), John Qualen (Mailbus), J. Farrell MacDonald (Sea Captain), Tom Dillon (Joe Gordon), Reiko Sato (Susie), Victor Sen Yung (Sammy Chung), Jane Liddell (Police Woman Following Eleanor); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Howard Welsch; Universal International Pictures; 1950)
“Superb white-knuckler film noir.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Norman Foster (“Kiss the Blood off My Hands”/originally an actor on Orson Welles’s Mercury Players who later codirected “Journey into Fear”) is the director of this superb white-knuckler film noir. Hal Mohr provides the dark San Francisco location shots that give the film its sinister look. It’s based on an original story by Sylvia Tate; Alan Campbell co-wrote it with Foster.
While walking his dog Rembrandt in the middle of the night artist Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) witnesses the murder of Joe Gordon, a witness for an upcoming gangland trial. The killer sees only Frank’s shadow, and takes two shots missing him. After reporting the crime to the police, where he mentions he can clearly identify the killer, he’s coldly told by Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith) that he’ll have to go into protective custody for the upcoming trial because he’s in danger of being executed by the mob. Instead Frank flees. His wife Eleanor (Ann Sheridan) is recruited by the police to help track down her hubby. She is not helpful. It turns out that her marriage is on the rocks and she has little to tell the police except that the struggling artist is now employed as a window trimmer for Hart and Winslow’s department store. The police put a tail on her, hoping she’ll lead them to Frank. But Eleanor chooses not to trust the police but instead an aggressive smooth talking newspaper reporter, Danny Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe), who promises to pay to the economically strapped couple $1,000 for an exclusive story if he gets to meet Frank.
Eleanor becomes the focus of the chase for the cops or the killer, and she never realizes until it’s almost too late what danger both she and hubby are in. The inexperienced film noir heroine is taken by the reporter around a shadowy San Francisco world of Chinatown clubs, mean looking streets, and finally to a nighttime amusement park by the beach. The frightened damsel is trapped on a roller-coaster when she realizes that she really loves her hubby and he loves her, but that she innocently led the killer to him.
Sheridan gives a sharp performance as a woman trying to help her hubby and to also find out if their shaky marriage is salvageable, all the while menaced by elements out of her control.
REVIEWED ON 2/26/2005 GRADE: B+