Director: Douglas Sirk
I was a bit relieved to hear Noir Alley host Eddie Muller mention Tomorrow is Another Day, a movie I'd previously seen, because it turns out that movie just decided to borrow the third act of this movie to wrap up their film. And that's not the only similarity. Women change hair color, folks are on the run for reasons that are maybe not entirely their fault. And neither has a satisfactory conclusion.
But, of course, I was well into the film before the thought of similarities crossed my mind, because there is quite a bit different.
Cornel Wilde plays a probation officer who is put in charge of a woman just released for a murder charge. It's widely believe she took the murder rap to cover for a fella who has lived as a smooth gambler and shady guy. Don't you know it, she's a dish, a bit hardboiled, and morally ambiguous.
Wilde puts her up in his own home to keep her away from the guy, and begins to fall for her. And, as luck would have it, she realizes she's falling for him. Though it's against her parole, the two marry. But that shady guy is about to call the cops and tell them what his ex is up to when she appears, they struggle and a gun goes off.
Soon, she and Wilde are on the lam as he refuses to give her up and let her go back to prison. It's a hell of a decision and what takes the film in an exciting direction.
Like a lot of these films, before they figured out they needed to bring them in for a smoother landing to appease the Breen Office, this one clearly was headed in a darker direction. Prior to studio interference, this was headed for a Gun Crazy ending that feels the inevitable from the mounting tensions of the film. But studio chiefs demand a happy ending for their star players, and it veers into some law-and-order friendly nonsense. The ending is both too clever for its own good and utterly unsatisfactory.
All in all, it's an entertaining and tense film, it just pivots way too hard in the last ten minutes into a different, cheesier film from Sam Fuller's intended story. But I think Patricia Knight is a compelling co-lead, and seeing Wilde's descent is good stuff.
This is a Douglas Sirk film, but it's not what I tend to think of as Sirk. The gorgeous palette is instead lovely black and white, and it's not a female-driven melodrama. This is pretty well in the wheel house of what would come to be known as noir, with desperate runs for the border, guys making insane decisions for a woman, and misfired guns. It's very well directed and never feels like less than an A picture, if not a big budget one. It's ten years after he fled from Germany, and a few films into his American career, but six years prior to All That Heaven Allows.
|I mean, she just looks like noir|
I haven't seen all that many Cornel Wilde films, but I like him. He seems to be doing more than indicating and I buy him in every scene. His then-wife Patricia Knight is also, honestly, pretty solid in this film, at least as much so as actors who had lengthy careers. I'm assuming she had some baggage or was an issue in some way I don't know about, because she's great on camera/ gorgeous. But, she was in like 10 things and then disappeared shortly after splitting from Wilde.*
It's hard to say which I like batter between this and Tomorrow is Another Day. I guess it's even-steven for me. Just two takes on same in their own way. And both would have been better if they'd not let everyone off the hook in the final reel.
*Wilde had tried to leverage his stardom to get Knight into movies before their divorce, to no avail, so we have to assume there was something else at play, not that he got her blackballed