Woman on the Run
Woman on the Run is a 1950 American crime film noir directed by Norman Foster and starring Ann Sheridan and Dennis O'Keefe. The film was based on the April 1948 short story "Man on the Run" by Sylvia Tate and filmed on location in San Francisco.
|Woman on the Run|
|Directed by||Norman Foster|
|Screenplay by||Alan Campbell|
Ross Hunter (dialogue)
|Based on||the short story "Man on the Run"|
by Sylvia Tate
|Produced by||Howard Welsch|
|Edited by||Otto Ludwig|
|Music by||Arthur Lange|
|Color process||Black and white|
Fidelity Pictures Corporation
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Frank Johnson is an unsuccessful painter who is out walking his dog one night when a car stops nearby. Unbeknown to Frank, the passenger in the car, a middle-aged man with an Irish accent, is trying to blackmail the driver. The passenger is about to testify before the grand jury against a criminal named Smiley Freeman. The passenger promises that he will not divulge the driver's ties to Freeman in return for a cash payment. The passenger does all the talking, addressing the driver, whose face is not shown, as "Danny Boy". Frank hears a shot as the would-be blackmailer is pushed out the passenger door. The stricken man begs for his life before the driver finishes him off with a second shot. The killer then sees Frank hiding in the shadows and takes two shots at him before driving away.
The police identify the victim as Joe Gordon. They tell Frank that Gordon was about to give evidence against Freeman. Because Frank clearly saw the shooter's face, Police Inspector Ferris wants to place him in protective custody. Frank has second thoughts and slips away while the police are otherwise occupied. Ferris sends for Frank's wife, Eleanor, to see if she can help him find Frank. When she arrives, the police are taken aback by her seeming lack of concern for her husband. Her flippant remarks indicate an unhappy marriage. It's "just like him, always running away," she tells Ferris. "Running away from what?" Ferris asks. "From everything," she replies. The police stake out on her building in case Frank returns home.
Eleanor later tries to sneak out of her building without being spotted by the police and encounters reporter Danny Legget. He offers his help and $1000 for an exclusive story. They go to a club that Frank frequents. Sam, a waiter friend of Frank's, furtively passes a written message to Eleanor. But Legget reads the message too without Eleanor noticing. The message, from Frank, is that he will send her a letter addressed to his co-worker Maibus.
When Eleanor returns to her apartment, Ferris is waiting for her. He informs her that Dr. Hohler, Frank's doctor, has told him that Frank is taking medicine for a bad heart, a fact Frank has kept from Eleanor. Eleanor goes to Dr. Hohler who confirms that Frank's heart condition could be fatal. He gives Eleanor some ampules of Frank's medicine.
Eleanor then goes to the department store where Frank works as a window designer to get the letter he sent to Maibus. But Maibus doesn't have the letter and the mail clerk tells him there was no letter. Legget has managed to get the letter by bribing the mail clerk before Eleanor had arrived. Legget reads it but the letter doesn't tell him where to find Frank. He now has to show the letter to Eleanor, who is the only person in a position to guess where Frank is staying from the hints Frank gives, but Eleanor can't figure out what Frank is trying to tell her. They speak to Sam again at the club. One of the dancers, Suzie, mentions to Legget that Frank made a sketch that resembles him, but Eleanor doesn't hear her conversation with Legget. Suzie tells Legget that she will keep the sketch for the time being. Legget and Eleanor cross the street to a bar to make further inquiries. Legget leaves Eleanor on the pretense of making a phone call but exits the bar unobserved and returns to the club. He later slips back into the bar, tears up a penciled likeness of himself, and rejoins Eleanor as police cars and an ambulance arrive at the club. Suzie has apparently fallen from the building to her death.
During her search for Frank, Eleanor learns things that she never knew about him, especially that everyone who knows Frank likes and admires him. They all believe that she must be a wonderful person if Frank married her. She tells Legget that she now realizes how much Frank really loves her.
Eleanor finally deduces from the clues in Frank's letter that he is waiting for her on the beach near an amusement park. Eleanor arrives there at night accompanied by the persistent Legget, who has by this time thoroughly insinuated himself into her confidence. Ferris locates the taxi that Legget and Eleanor took to the amusement park and goes after them. Ferris also receives a phone call from Sam, who tells him that the only thing missing from Suzie's possessions is Frank's drawing of Legget. In the meantime, Eleanor finds Frank and they embrace. She then leaves to look for Legget. She and Legget spot Ferris and get on a roller coaster to avoid being spotted in turn. Legget has Eleanor stay on the roller coaster while he goes to meet Frank. But Legget has inadvertently let it slip that the killer had shot at Frank. Eleanor suddenly realizes that the only other person who could know this fact is the gunman himself -- "Danny Boy" Legget. While she is trapped on the ride, Legget tries to put Frank under enough stress to induce a heart attack. The two struggle. Shots ring out. Eleanor runs to the scene to discover that Ferris has shot Legget. For the second time, she and Frank embrace.
- Ann Sheridan as Eleanor Johnson
- Dennis O'Keefe as Daniel Legget
- Robert Keith as Inspector Martin Ferris
- John Qualen as Maibus
- Frank Jenks as Detective Shaw
- Ross Elliott as Frank Johnson
- Jane Liddell as Messenger Girl
- Joan Shawlee as Tipsy Blonde in Bar (as Joan Fulton)
- J. Farrell MacDonald as Sea Captain
- Steven Geray as Dr. Hohler
- Victor Sen Yung as Sam
- Reiko Sato as Suzie (as Rako Sato)
- Syd Saylor as Sullivan
- Milton Kibbee as man yelling ftom apartment house (uncredited)
- Tom Dillon as Joe Gordon (as Thomas P. Dillon)
Production on the film was announced in trade publications in January 1950, initially with the working title Man on the Run. As part of the casting process, actor J. Farrell MacDonald was then "borrowed" from 20th Century Fox for the supporting role of the sea captain before filming began on 20 March. The film was shot on location in San Francisco as well as at Ocean Park Pier in Santa Monica for the amusement park and roller coaster scenes.
Since it never pretends to be more than it is, "Woman on the Run", which began a stand at the Criterion yesterday, is melodrama of solid if not spectacular proportions. Working on what obviously was a modest budget, its independent producers may not have achieved a superior chase in this yarn about the search by the police and the fugitive's wife for a missing witness to a gangland killing. But as a combination of sincere characterizations, plausible dialogue, suspense and the added documentary attribute of a scenic tour through San Francisco, "Woman on the Run" may be set several notches above the usual cops-and-corpses contributions from the Coast ... "Woman on the Run" will not win prizes but it does make crime enjoyable.
In a more current assessment of the drama, reviewer Farran Smith Nehme in 2016 praised Sheridan's performance in Film Comment. Also, according to film historian Philippa Gates, Woman on the Run is one of very few noir films foregrounding a heroine's quest, and especially one where "the heroine's quest is not necessarily complicated by [heterosexual romance ..., in fact] the love interests are absent for the majority of the story".
- Woman on the Run at the American Film Institute Catalog.
- Hopper, Hedda (Jan 13, 1950). "Ann Sheridan's Next Movie to Be a Comedy with Cops and Gangsters: Looking at Hollywood...". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. A6.
- "FILMLAND BRIEFS". Los Angeles Times. May 23, 1950. p. A6.
- THOMAS F. BRADY (Mar 6, 1950). "TWO MOVIE FIRMS MERGE INTERESTS: Fidelity and Erskine Also List Ambitious Schedule for the New Production Company Western Slated for Flynn". p. 28.
- Barron, Mark (Oct 15, 1950). "ALONG BROADWAY: Roller Coaster 'Throws' Texas' Ann Sheridan". Los Angeles Times. p. D10.
- Schallert, Edwin (Aug 7, 1950). "'Red Badge' Off-Beat Casting Revel; Bruce Cabot Does Top Bad Man". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
- Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, November 30, 1950. Accessed: August 18, 2013.
- "Too Late for Tears (1949) + Woman on the Run (1950) – Film Comment". Film Comment. 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
- Philippa Gates, "Independence Unpunished: The Female Detective in Classic Film Noir", in Robert Miklitsch ed., Kiss the Blood off My Hands: On Classic Film Noir (Urbana: Univ. of IL Press, 2014), 21. See also Gates' full-length book on the subject of female detectives in film, Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film (SUNY Press, 2011). ISBN 1-4384-3405-7