It’s a totally forgotten, brilliant, underrated example of film noir!
Aren’t they all? Every time I read a review of any movie that doesn’t star Bogart or Ladd or Eddie G, someone says it’s underrated and unjustly ignored. Well, Deadline at Dawn is more or less perfectly rated. It’s slightly unusual - the main detective is a frail . . .
. . . although that slang term is a poor fit for Susan Hayward, who’s all hard-bitten cynicism here. She’s a dancer at a ballroom, shuffling around with losers all night until her feet are sore. Men are constantly making advances, which in this movie seems to mean they talk about wanting to go out for pie, but it’s hard to see why the guys bother: she’s a pill, a mean-minded, unpleasant person. Until, that is, she meets the Big Lug what’s in a jam, see - he’s a big dumb sailor who was up at this lady’s apartment, see, and awww, he guesses he got mad and took her money, but he didn’t kill her. Honest he didn’t. She decides to help him: hoofer with a heart of gold. They spend the night trying to figure out who croaked the dame, aided by lanky taxi driver with an unplaceable accent and an incessant stream of Maxims about Life. Eventually they cross paths with a gangster, played with lupine cool by Joseph Calleia:
He’s great. As you can tell by the shot above, the movie isn’t B-grade hackwork; there’s care paid to the staging and direction, but so much of it is shot indoors it feels somewhat claustrophobic. Do they clear the sailor by dawn?
Sure. I had higher hopes at the start, when the sailor - coming off his bender - is talking with a newsie.
Can’t place that cover of Look - it would be late 45 or early 46 - but the background has something interesting, a reference to something I saw a kid reading the big New Yorker book of cartoons:
Can you play “Wheel of Fortune” and fill in the missing letters? And I don't mean RADIO, probably for RADIO CITY; that's a given. It's the other one, the Odern Theatr.
Perhaps this will help. From the Library of Congress site:
What I didn’t know: the Trans-Lux wasn’t just a New York theater chain; they were a high-tech company that made stock tickers, zippers - the displays of moving lights to show words that travel right to left - and a projection system that made wider screens and rear-projection. As the wikipedia article notes, this meant the room didn’t have to be completely dark, with a big white beam stabbing overhead, lighting up the cigarette smoke. So a Trans-Lux would have been the 3D of the day, the latest in movie technology, with elegant Streamline Moderne theaters to complete the feeling that you were in the future.
Just as we never got the flying-car Jetsons future, the people in the 30s never got that bone-white streamlined Things-to-Come future, either. Makes you wonder if people born in 1905 ever looked at the black straight skyscrapers of 60s New York, and sighed: thought they’d be round on top like the Emerald City, with roads connecting them on the fifth and twentieth floor. Ahhh, well.
One more thing: imagine my surprise.