Tuesday, July 07, 2015


Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) seems to be a nice guy but a bit of an underachiever, especially in the eyes of his wife Eleanor (Ann Sheridan). A frustrated artist (their dog's name is Rembrandt), he works on department store windows and benignly ignores his wife, and she him.  One night while walking the dog, he witnesses the murder of a man who was about to testify against a gangster before a grand jury, and sees the killer's face. The killer shoots at Frank but misses, and is scared away by the arrival of the police. When Inspector Ferris tells Frank he'll have to testify to the grand jury, he's frightened and goes on the run. Ferris goes to Eleanor for help, and in the beginning, she's reluctant because of how far apart the two have drifted, but as she learns things about Frank she didn't know—for example, that he has a heart condition and that he loves her more than he lets on—she becomes determined to find him, though not necessarily for the police. A reporter named Leggett (Dennis O'Keefe) charms his way into Eleanor's trust, offering to help her find Frank if his paper gets an exclusive on the story, so soon the two are looking all over San Francisco following Frank's trail, themselves followed by the police. Then, suddenly, there's a sneaky plot twist. Though the twist comes relatively early in the proceedings, I don't want to give it away here, but suffice to say that not everyone is who he or she pretends to be, and the search for Frank becomes complicated.

Film noir expert Eddie Muller claims this is film, out of circulation for years, is the best overlooked noir around; I wouldn't go that far, but it is a solid urban thriller, with fine nighttime cinematography and excellent use of San Francisco locations, though some outdoor shots are clearly studio concoctions with rear projection. Sheridan is not the greatest actress—she often seems stiff and mannered—but I like her anyway; here, she gets more of a chance to "act" than in many of her heyday films in the early to mid 40s, and she's fine, hiding her trademark beauty and glamour under a drab coat and mininal makeup. O'Keefe, an underrated actor (pictured above with Sheridan), is good, as is Elliott in his relatively small role. Personal favorites Frank Jenks and John Qualen also appear. The final sequence at a seaside amusement park looks a bit like a dry run for the end of Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, though disappointingly the climax in which the villain gets his just desserts is not shown. Not a masterpiece but worth a look. [TCM]

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