He Ran All the Way (1951): John Berry’s Film Noir, John Garfield’s Last Feature, Co-Starring Shelley Winters (Family in Peril)

John Berry directed He Ran All the Way, a well-mounted film noir, perhaps best known today for featuring John Garfield in his very last role (he would died of a fatal heart attack the following year).

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

He Ran All the Way
He Ran All the Way poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Garfield plays Nick Robey, a petty thief who botches a robbery, leaving behind his wounded partner Al (Norman Lloyd) and then escaping with over $10,000.

He meets innocent bakery worker Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters) at a swimming pool, and when she takes Nick to her family’s apartment, he decides to take the family hostage until he can escape.

During the film’s initial run, director John Berry and writers Dalton Trumbo and Hugo Butler were uncredited due to their being blacklisting in Hollywood during the Red Scare.

Director Berry went into exile in France after finishing the film. He returned to the U.S. two decades later; he died in 1999.

In the same year, Shelley Winters played another naïve working-class femme, in George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun, for which she earned her first Oscar nomination (in the lead category).

Narratively, this film noir deals with a family entrapped in its own home by a criminal, a theme that would become more prevalent later in the decade in such films as The Desperate Hours, a superior noir starring Bogart and Fredric March.

As the fugitive, Garfield is at his grimmest best, rendering a stark performance, defined by moments of desperation and self-pity, as well as softer ones.  Watch the scene in which Nick dances with Peg in her apartment, holding her so tight she can hardly breath or move. When she suggests another way of dancing, he just quits; every move must be on his own terms. Troubled to the core, deep down he feels sorry for himself, though on the surface, he appears to be tough and self-confident.

Nick has lost all touch with reality and “normal” life, and he can’t even perceive, let along respond and embrace the good intentions of a decent girl like Peg, who really cares and falls for him (she buys a seductive dress and fixes her hair) despite the dire circumstances.

James Wong Howe’s superb black-and-white cinematography draws on smoothly effective imagery of in confined space; most of the tale is set indoors, within the limits of one room. The precise use of lighting in the intimate dialogue scenes, and the close-ups of Nick contribute to the overall sense of unease. The scene in which the family refuses to eat his dinner, and is forced to do so at a gun point (which he fires) is particularly impressive.

Franz Waxman’s understated yet ominous score, and the other production values, succeeds in elevating a rather standard plot above its familiar melodramatic trappings.

John Garfield as Nick Robey
Shelley Winters as Peg Dobbs
Wallace Ford as Mr. Dobbs
Selena Royle as Mrs. Dobbs
Gladys George as Mrs. Robey
Norman Lloyd as Al Molin
Bobby Hyatt as Tommy Dobbs
Keith Hetherington as Captain of Detectives


Directed by John Berry
Produced by Bob Roberts
Screenplay by Hugo Butler and Dalton Trumbo, based on He Ran All the Way, 1947 novel by Sam Ross
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Edited by Francis D. Lyon

Production company: Roberts Pictures

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: June 19, 1951

Running time: 78 minutes
Box office: $1 million

Garfield’s Last Year

On May 9, 1952, Garfield moved out of his New York apartment. He told columnist Earl Wilson that he would soon be divorced. Close friends speculated that it was his wife’s opposition to his plotted confession in Look magazine that triggered the separation.

He heard that a HUAC investigator was reviewing his testimony for possible perjury charges. His agent reported that 20th Century-Fox wanted him for a film called “Taxi,” but it would not begin talks unless the investigation concluded in his favor.

Significantly, three of his actor friends, Canada Lee, Mady Christians and J. Edward Bromberg, had all recently died after being listed by the HUAC committee.

On May 20,Garfield, against his doctor’s orders, played tennis with a friend. He then met actress Iris Whitney for dinner and afterward became suddenly ill. She brought him to her apartment where he refused to let her call a doctor and instead went to bed. The next morning, she found him dead.

Long-term heart problems, aggravated by the stress of his blacklisting, had led to his death at the age of 39.

The funeral was reportedly the largest in New York City since that of  Rudolph Valentino. Shortly afterward, ironically, the HUAC closed its investigation of Garfield. His wife, Roberta Seidman, whom he married in February 1935, had been a member of the Communist Party, but there was no evidence that Garfield himself had ever been a Communist.