Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stubs - He Ran All the Way

He Ran All The Way (1951) Starring: John Garfield, Shelley Winters, Wallace Ford, Selena Royle, Gladys George, Norman Lloyd. Directed by John Berry. Screenplay by Hugo Butler, Dalton Trumbo. Based on the novel He Ran All the Way by Sam Ross (New York, 1947). Produced by Bob Roberts. Run Time: 78 minutes. USA Black and White. Drama, Film Noir

The early 1950s were a turbulent time in Hollywood. Blacklisting for your political affiliations real or presumed had been going on since November 25, 1947 when ten writers and directors were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Hollywood Ten, which included Alvah Bessie, screenwriter; Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director; Lester Cole, screenwriter; Edward Dmytryk, director; Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter; John Howard Lawson, screenwriter; Albert Maltz, screenwriter; Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter;  Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter; and Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter, were summarily fired by their studios on advice from the Association of Motion Picture Producers, now called the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers or AMPTP.

Now being blacklisted and not working in Hollywood were two different things. Take Dalton Trumbo as an example. Using pseudonyms and other writers as fronts, Trumbo would work on such films as Gun Crazy, 1950 (co-writer, front: Millard Kaufman); He Ran All the Way, 1951 (co-writer, front: Guy Endore); The Prowler, 1951 (uncredited with Hugo Butler); Roman Holiday, 1953 (front: Ian McLellan Hunter); They Were So Young 1954, (under pseudonym Felix Lutzkendorf); The Boss, 1956 (front: Ben L. Perry); The Brave One, 1956 (under pseudonym Robert Rich); The Green-Eyed Blonde, 1957 (front: Sally Stubblefield); From the Earth to the Moon, 1958 (co-writer, front: James Leicester); and Cowboy, 1958 (front: Edmund H. North), before receiving screen credit again under his own name with Spartacus (1960) thanks to the star and producer of the film, Kirk Douglas.

But Trumbo was not the only involved with this film that was being blacklisted. The film’s star John Garfield was also being caught up in the Red Scare. When called before HUAAC, he not only refused to name names, but went so far as to say that he didn’t know of any communist party members in Hollywood. As a result of his testimony, Garfield was blacklisted in the early 1950s and He Ran All the Way would turn out to be his last film. He did return to Broadway in Golden Boy (1952), but also died that year from Coronary thrombosis at the age of 39.

Sam Ross’ novel He Ran All the Way was originally bought by Liberty Films in 1947 as a vehicle for director George Stevens. In 1950, Bob Roberts of Roberts Productions, Inc. bought the property from Liberty. The Production Code Office, or as it was known by then as the Breen Office, objected to much of the violence in the original script and alterations were made accordingly. Rather than having a policeman killed in the opening, he is rather mortally wounded.

Prior to the making of He Ran All the Way, Shelley Winters was under contract to Universal to make a low budget turn-of-the-century drama about the legendary World's Fair belly dancer named Little Egypt (1951). But Winters was so anxious to start work on Berry's film that she concocted a plan to get herself fired, gaining enough weight to make herself look particularly unappealing. The ruse worked and after she was fired, Winters went on a crash diet, losing fifteen pounds in a week right before He Ran All the Way went into production.

And as if Garfield didn’t have enough to contend with, a few months before the film went into production he suffered a severe heart attack at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. But despite the risks to his own health, Garfield insisted on doing his own stunts during the filming, including underwater swimming.

The film went into production on November 6, 1950 at the Motion Picture Center Studios, now known as Red Studios Hollywood. Location shooting took place at the Long Beach Plunge public swimming pool and Nu-Pike, formerly known as The Pike, a mile-long waterfront amusement park also located in Long Beach. (The Plunge would close in 1941 and the Nu-Pike in 1979.) Production would conclude in mid-December with the film going into release on July 13, 1951.

When the story opens, Nick Robey (John Garfield) lives at home with his mother (Gladys George).

Even though he has premonitions that he will forever be on the run for murder, Nick Robey (John Garfield) allows himself to get talked into committing a robbery by his disreputable friend, Al Molin (Norman Lloyd). The two men hold up a man for the local train yard warehouse’s payroll, but when they make their getaway, Al is killed by a policeman and Nick is forced to shoot a policeman so he can make his own escape.

Norman Lloyd (l) plays Al Molin, Nick's partner in crime.

Once out on his own, Nick tries to hide out in a public swimming pool to avoid detection by the police. There he makes the acquaintance of Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters), a nervous beginning swimmer. Nervous that he’ll be conspicuous on his own, Nick tries to help her. When the lesson is over, Nick offers to take Peg home. 
Flattered by his attention, Peg agrees and she lets him take her back to her family’s tenement apartment.

While running from the police, Nick takes refuge at a public swimmnig pool and befriends
Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters), whom he helps learn to swim.

There, she introduces Nick to her father (Wallace Ford), mother (Selena Royle) and younger brother Tommy (Bobby Hyatt), who are on their way to see a movie. Left alone in the apartment, Nick is uneasy and even though Peg urges him to relax, he can’t. Nick finally breaks down and tells her that he is in big trouble.
When her parents return home, Nick is suspicious that they are talking to the police about him. Even though Peg tries to tell him that they’re talking down on the street with neighbors, there is no really talking to Nick. Convinced that they’re on to his real identity, he pulls a gun on Peg and admits to her that he’s a killer to her and her family.

Mr. Dobbs, a newspaper press operator, says that the paper only identified Molin in the article. But that isn’t enough for Nick. Even though he says he does not want to hurt anyone, Nick decides he must spend the night so he can collect his thoughts and plan his next move. He promises that he’ll be leaving in the morning.
However, when the morning paper arrives, it features a prominent photo of Nick on the front page. Mr. Dobbs tries to hide it from him, but Nick spies it and, thinking that he has caught the family in a conspiracy against him, decides he must stay.

Nick takes out his suspicions on Peg's father (Wallace Ford) while her mother (Selena Royle) watches. 

While he allows the family to continue their daily routine, he insists he keep one family member with him at all times, which usually means Mrs. Dobbs. While on lunch break from her bakery job, Peg returns to the apartment to plead with Nick to leave. She reminds him that he liked her at the pool, but Nick informs her the situation he was in at the time was the only reason he took interest in her.

When Peg returns to the bakery, her father comes to visit her. He demands that she hide out at a girl friend's house for the night and not come home.

One of her co-workers on the assembly line suggests that Peg shed her shyness and that, with some primping, she could get a man to do anything for her.

Peg takes advice from one of her co-workers at the bakery, Marge (Vici Raaf).

While he is at home with Mrs. Dobbs, an argument starts when Nick tells her that Peg thinks fondly of him. Distracted, Mrs. Dobbs has a sewing accident, getting her hand caught, and faints. After freeing her, Nick carries her to the couch.

Nick helps Mrs. Dobbs free herself when she has an accident while sewing.

When Mr. Dobbs returns home, he finds Tommy hiding outside the apartment afraid to go in the apartment because of Nick. They enter the apartment together and Nick gathers the family for a feast he has provided. Mr. Dobbs, however, refuses to allow his family to eat Nick’s food. Nick pulls out his gun and orders them to eat, but Mr. Dobbs calls his bluff, saying a gunshot would attract too much attention. Accepting the challenge, Nick fires his gun. When no one calls the police, Mr. Dobbs backs down. But it’s too late for Nick. With his banquet now spoiled, Nick rebukes the family for not willingly giving him temporary shelter, "something you would give an alley cat."

Mr. and Mrs. Dobbs  and Tommy ((Bobby Hyatt) refuse to eat the feast that Nick has provided.

Even though her father had told her not to, Peg does return home late in the night. She is wearing an evening gown and her womanly figure catches Nick's eye. He comes onto her, kisses her and asks for her support, to which Peg replies "all the way." Later that night, while the others are asleep, Mr. Dobbs inspects the living room and finds Peg's gown draped across the chair. He assumes the worst has happened: sex.

The next morning, while Mrs. Dobbs and Tommy are at church, Nick asks Mr. Dobbs what he wants out of life. Mr. Dobbs turns the question around on him, to which Nick answers "money." He then informs Mr. Dobbs that Peg is out buying a car for him. Tensions between the two men escalate and a fight ensues. Only Peg’s return breaks it up.

When Nick asks about the car, Peg informs him that it will be delivered later that evening after some work is completed on it. Mr. Dobbs manages to leave.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Dobbs and Tommy report to the police that Nick is hiding at their apartment.

Nick, now paranoid, demands to know the kind of car Peg has bought and to see the receipt. She describes a yellow convertible that he wanted her to buy, but when she cannot produce the receipt, Nick pulls a gun on her and drags her, at gunpoint, down the stairs to the lobby, all the way hysterically accusing her of double-crossing him.

Nick doesn't seem to trust that Peg has done as ordered and bought him a car.

Once they reach the lobby, Mr. Dobbs is waiting outside and fires several shots into the foyer. Nick drops his gun near Peg and leaps for cover to the other side of the foyer. Nick orders her to pick up the gun. When she does, Nick lurches forward to take it from her, but she shoots him, fatally wounding him.

Nick manages to stumble outside, just as the convertible is delivered and parked at the curb. Staring into its headlights, Nick dies. Meanwhile, Mr. Dobbs holds his traumatized daughter to his side.

Nick dies in the gutter, only then realizing the car Peg purchased has arrived.

This is not a feel-good film either, so don’t expect to come away with a smile on your face. The world in which the Dobbs live is no picnic to begin with, as they struggle to make ends meet. Add to that an armed cop-killer keeping them hostage and the days only get longer.

The film drew praise for Garfield’s performance. Bosley Crowther, the film critic of the New York Times, wrote "John Garfield's stark performance of the fugitive who desperately contrives to save himself briefly from capture is full of startling glints from start to end. He makes a most odd and troubled creature, unused to the normal flow of life, unable to perceive the moral standards of decent people or the tentative advance of a good girl's love. And in Mr. Garfield's performance, vis-a-vis the rest of the cast, is conveyed a small measure of the irony and the pity that was in the book."

The marriage of actor and role was rarely better than John Garfield and Nick Robey. While Nick was being persecuted for murdering a policeman, Garfield had to feel the same way about his own career as he was feeling the heat for his testimony at the HUAAC hearing. The sense of paranoia Garfield must have been feeling was channeled into his portrayal of Nick. While not necessarily the most enjoyable film he had been in, his acting was never better.

While there are other characters in the movie, they are minor in comparison to Nick and Peg. The story revolves around their relationship. While there is an attraction on both sides, Peg is the key. The script and director John Berry do a good job at making her look ambiguous about it. There are other fine performances in the film, but it does boil down to Garfield and Winters as most of the film is spent with them acting with each other.

Shelley Winters has the unenviable task of playing Peg in this neutral way. As an audience member, we’re never really sure if Peg was really in love with Nick or just playing him to protect her family. The arrival of the car doesn’t necessarily change that either. Even the fact that she shoots him doesn’t really answer that either. Love is a powerful emotion and many a lover shoots their partner when that love goes sour; and nothing says the relationship has gone sour more than when Nick pulls a gun on her.

While Garfield is remembered as one of the greats, Winters doesn’t get the credit she deserves. Too many people only remember her later in her career, when she was overweight in such films as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), even though she would receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her part, that seemed to be as much about her past work as it did her work in that film.

Shelley Winters began her career in the films playing blonde bombshells.

Originally a blonde bombshell type of actress, Winters soon tired of those types of roles. She purposefully sought out the role of Alice Tripp in A Place in the Sun (1951). She had to convince director George Stevens that she could play the very unglamorous role. She also showed she could act, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award as Best Actress in a Leading Role. She would win the award for Best Supporting Actress twice, once for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and A Patch of Blue (1965). Her role in this film is more of a continuation in Winters’ exploration of non-glamorous roles. In part similar to the one she played in A Place in the Sun, her character works on an assembly-line at a bakery.

For a film noir, most of the story takes place in the Dobbs’ apartment. The main action in the film does seem to take place at night, which seems to fit in with the genre. The film is more psychological than anything else, which again is not unusual for a film noir. But unlike many other film noirs, there is not a lot of action outside the beginning and ending of the film nor detective work involved. The film makes up for this by two fine performances by the lead actors. Even though you won’t come out of the theater or your living room with a smile on your face, this is still a movie worth watching.

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