Where Danger Lives (1950): Farrow’s Film Noir, Starring Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, Claude Rains

John Farrow directed Where Danger Lives, a mid-range film noir starring Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue and Claude Rains.

The plotting which at moments is absurd and over the top, is credited to vet writer Charles Bennett, whose scripts for Hitchcock included “The 39 Steps,” “Young and Innocent,” and “Foreign Correspondent,” and who later penned Jacques Tourneur’s “Night of the Demon.”

Mitchum plays Dr. Jeff Cameron, a capable physician who saves an attempted suicide victim (Domergue) brought to his San Francisco General Hospital.  After checking out, she sends him a telegram with her name (Margo) and address.

He breaks a date with his goodhearted nurse girlfriend, Julie (Maureen O’Sullivan, Farrow’s real life wife and mother of Mia), because he is worried that Margo might try suicide again.  Predictably, Jeff falls for Margo and they begin an affair.

Told she is flying to Nassau with her aged father, a tipsy Jeff boldly tells Frederick Lannington (Rains) that he is in love with his daughter, only to be informed that Margo is actually his wife. A stunned Jeff leaves despite Margo’s pleas. Upon hearing a scream, he returns to find Margo holding an earring ripped from her ear.

In the ensuing struggle, Lannington strikes his head on the floor and is knocked unconscious. When Jeff wakes up, he finds the old man dead.

Jeff wants to call the police, but Margo persuades him to run away with her. They first try to use the airline tickets, but the police are around. They decide to drive to Mexico instead, trading in Margo’s convertible for a pickup truck from a larcenous used car salesman “Honest Hal.”

Jeff diagnoses his continuing headaches and mental fog as a concussion, warning Margo that it would lead to paralysis, and a coma within the next day or two.

In Postville, Arizona, they are taken to the sheriff–Jeff is not wearing a beard for the town’s “Wild West Whiskers Week.” After Margo explains that they are on their way to Mexico to get married, the police chief (Charles Kemper) tells them that marriages are a “Postville specialty, an institution.”

In their honeymoon suite, Margo hears a radio broadcast, which reveals that Lannington was smothered to death with a pillow. After the couple sneaks away, the police chief identifies Margo from a photo and alerts the border patrol.

In a border town, the fugitives sell Margo’s bracelet to a pawnbroker, who sends them to theatre owner Milo DeLong (Philip Van Zandt) to help them smuggle  into Mexico.

Jeff’s left side becomes paralyzed, and he finally realizes that Margo is mentally unstable and responsible for killing her husband.  When he tries to stop Margo, she knocks him down, then smothers him.

However, as he’s only unconscious, he drags himself out to the border. When Margo sees him coming, she pulls a pistol and starts shooting. The police return fire, fatally wounding her. Before dying, Margo absolves Jeff of any blame.

In the happy ending, Jeff, recovering at the hospital, is visited by Julie.

Robert Mitchum as Dr. Jeff Cameron
Faith Domergue as Margo Lannington
Claude Rains as Frederick Lannington
Maureen O’Sullivan as Julie Dorn
Charles Kemper as Postville Police Chief
Ralph Dumke as Klauber
Billy House as Bogardus, Postville justice of the peace
Harry Shannon as Dr. Maynard
Philip Van Zandt as Milo DeLong
Jack Kelly as Dr. James Mullenbach
Lillian West as Mrs. Bogardus
Ray Teal as Sheriff Joe Borden


Directed by John Farrow
Produced by Irving Cummings Jr.
Screenplay by Charles Bennett, based on a story by Leo Rosen
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Edited by Eda Warren
Produced and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date: July 8, 1950
Running time: 80 minutes