I came across this Noir gem purely by chance a few days ago. It came up as a recommended purchase after I had bought another Noir film. I had never heard of this one before, but I really loved the sound of the story. I also really like Ann Sheridan(who is the star of the film) and so I just had to have it. Having watched this yesterday, I can report that this certainly was money well spent.
Woman On The Run is quite a unique Noir film. Originally titled Man On The Run, the title was changed to what it is now, and the focus was taken off of the pursued man on the run, and shifted instead onto his wife. I think this change really helps the film. Such stories would usually focus on the man who has gone into hiding, by shifting the focus away from him, the film becomes an out of the ordinary depiction of this type of story.
The film is also notable for having a female lead. It was pretty rare for a woman to have the main lead role in a Noir film; women certainly get big and interesting roles in these films, but the main character generally tends to be a male. I found it very interesting for the focus of the film to be on Sheridan’s character. Sheridan also co- produced the film. Her character is one tough and independent gal. I wish she had been given more roles like this.
I really like how the marriage depicted in this film is far from ideal, and it is also far from what marriage was expected to be during the 40’s. I also dig how Sherdian’s character doesn’t cook for her husband, when asked what they do for food, she coolly replies “we eat out.” This gal is not content to sit at home cooking a three course meal for her man. Good on her, is what I say!
The two married characters have also fallen out of love, they tolerate one another, but have no interest in, or any desire for each other any more. The only thing keeping them together is their shared love for their pet dog, and the fact that their shared life is comfortable and tolerable.
Sadly this film isn’t one that is all that well known today, and there were quite a few years where it wasn’t known about at all. It is also a film that we recently came very close to losing forever. In 2008 a huge fire burned down part of the Universal Studios lot, in the process there were also a lot of films destroyed that were stored in the film vault there.
The print of Woman On The Run was among the films lost in this blaze. The interesting story of how a copy of the film came to be found and restored is included in a booklet with the Blu-ray release of the film. It is an amazing story, and I for one am very grateful that this film was able to be restored.
The film is shot out on location in San Francisco. The locations used focus on the less well known areas of the city, and don’t focus heavily on landmarks.
The film tells the story of Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott). He is out at night walking his dog. While doing so, he witnesses a gangland execution. The killer spots him, shoots at him, and then drives off.
Frank is unharmed and calls the Police. The cops ask him if he can identity the killer, he says that he can. The cops immediately want him in protective custody, but he doesn’t like the sound of that, so he makes off into the night to take a chance looking after his own back.
Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith) persuades Frank’s wife, Eleanor (Ann Sheridan)to help them look for him. She is wary of leading them to him in case the gang should get to him if the Police get him to testify at the trial.
Teaming up with the charming and determined reporter Danny Legget(Dennis O’Keefe), Eleanor sets out to look for her husband. Legget will keep his silence as to Frank’s location in exchange for an exclusive interview with the couple. There are a couple surprising twists late in the story, which lead to a thrilling and suspenseful finale at an amusement park.
This is a very good film and it is one in which the characters and actors are the real stars. There is some very funny dialogue throughout the film. The wisecracks being thrown back and forth between O’Keefe and Sheridan are class. I also love the dialogue and scenes between Robert Keith and Sheridan, Eleanor and the Inspector rub each other up the wrong way, but they both come to develop a mutual respect for one another.
Sheridan is very good as the tough woman who discovers herself falling back in love with a man she thought she was over. Dennis O’Keefe is a highlight in the film, I think this is one of the best performances he ever gave. I really like how O’Keefe conveys his growing feelings for Eleanor to us. Robert Keith (father of Brian Keith)steals all the scenes he is in, I love his character and the way he delivers his lines.
The film clocks in at 1 hour and 18 minutes, but boy does it manage to pack a lot in during such a short space of time. This one reminds me a bit of The Narrow Margin, with both films being compact Noir films that pack quite a punch, and have a gripping story.
My favourite scenes are the following. The skylight sequence between Leggett and Eleanor. The finale in the amusement park. Ferris speaking to Eleanor for the first time and looking around her apartment. Leggett and Eleanor escaping a Police officer tailing them.
This film also contains a very funny exchange between a drunk woman and Eleanor. It’s one that is funnier when you see it, rather than when you read the dialogue.
Woman -“Say, why don’t you wear a hat?”
Eleanor – “I look funny in hats”
Woman – “You’re not wrong!” Haha. 🙂
Cracking little flick that deserves to be much better known. Do you love Film Noir? Then this is a film for you.