Pitfall (1948): Andre DeToth’s Film Noir, Starring Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott

Andre DeToth directed Pitfall, a noir crime film based on the novel The Pitfall by Jay Dratler, starring Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott.


Theatrical release poster

John “Johnny” Forbes (Dick Powell), a middle-class husband and father, is tired of his boring routine, working for the Olympic Mutual Insurance Company in downtown Los Angeles.

Things change when Private investigator and former cop J.B. “Mac” MacDonald tells Johnny about an embezzler bonded by Olympic Mutual.

Bill Smiley, serving time for the crime, is eligible for parole in two months. Smiley had given expensive gifts, including a speedboat, to his girlfriend, Santa Monica model Mona Stevens (Scott).


The production was in trouble because the script violated the Hays Code, as the adulterer was insufficiently punished.  According to rumors, Director DeToth met with two senior Hays Code members, who were married, and revealed that he knew about their mistresses and affairs. There were no problems after that.

Dick Powell as John Forbes
Lizabeth Scott as Mona Stevens
Jane Wyatt as Sue Forbes
Raymond Burr as MacDonald
John Litel as District Attorney
Byron Barr as Bill Smiley
Jimmy Hunt as Tommy Forbes
Ann Doran as Maggie
Selmer Jackson as Ed Brawley
Margaret Wells as Terry
Dick Wassel as Desk Sergeant


Directed by André de Toth
Screenplay by Karl Kamb, André de Toth (uncredited), William Bowers (uncredited), based on The Pitfall (novel)
by Jay Dratler
Produced by Samuel Bischoff
Cinematography Harry J. Wild
Edited by Walter Thompson

Production company: Regal Films

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: August 24, 1948 (US)

Running time: 86 minutes
Budget: $1 million