Woman on the Run (1950): Norman Foster’s Crime Noir, Starring Ann Sheridan and Dennis O’Keefe

Ann Sheridan gives a terrific lead performance in Woman on the Run, Norman Foster’s film noir, starring Ann Sheridan, who also narrates.

Woman on the Run
Woman on the Run.jpg

The film is based on Sylvia Tate’s 1948 short story “Man on the Run,” adapted to the screen by Alan Campbell, right after his divorce from his more famous wife, Dorothy Parker.

The tale begins at night, when a man tries to blackmail “Danny Boy,” but is shot. The killer then spots unsuccessful painter Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott), out walking his dog, and shoots at him, before fleeing.

The victim was going to testify before a grand jury against a gangster.  As Frank saw the shooter, Police Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith) wants to place him in protective custody so he can testify, but Frank has second thoughts and slips away.

When Ferris meets Frank’s cynical wife Eleanor (Sheridan), she comments, “Just like him, always running away.” Ferris asks her, “Running away from what?” She replies, “From everything.” She seems uncooperative and unconcerned about her husband, but we know better.

Trying to sneak out without being spotted by the police, Eleanor encounters reporter Danny Legget (Dennis O’Keefe), who offers help and $1000 for an exclusive story.

Back home, Ferris informs her that he has spoken with the doctor of Frank, who takes medicine for a bad heart, a condition she was unaware of. Ferris has instructed all druggists to notify him if someone asks for it, but Eleanor gets some from his doctor.

Intercepted by Legget, Frank’s letter gives cryptic instructions about his location. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Frank had made a sketch that looks like Legget. Legget gets the drawing and tears it up, and Suzie dies from a “mysterious” fall from a building.

Commenting on the travails and perils of modern marriage, during the  investigation, Eleanor learns that Frank still loves her. As a result, she begins to question her own feelings for him and how she has treated him.

The last–and best–nocturnal sequence takes place at a beachside amusement park at night, where all the characters meet.  The only item missing from Suzie’s possessions is Frank’s drawing.

Eleanor and Leggtt get on the roller coaster to avoid being spotted, and Eleanor realizes that Leggett is the killer (he makes a mistake by remarking that Frank was shot, a detail known only to her and the gunman), but she is trapped on the ride.

Leggett tries to induce a heart attack in Frank, the two fight and shots are heard. Eleanor runs to the scene to discover that Ferris has shot the corrupt reporter, and in the happy ending, she reconciles with her husband.

This low-budget noir benefits from on-location shooting in San Francisco, most of which are exterior and set at night.

Good production values, especially cinematography of Oscar winner Hal Mohr, and fast pacing, elevate the otherwise B-level melodrama into an enjoyable crimer.

It also shows that Sheridan, challenged by different kind of material than that assigned to her by home studio Warner, can rise to the occasion.

Woman on the Run, a taut, well-executed B-crime noir movie, was recently restored and preserved by the Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Independently made by Fidelity Pictures, the film was released on November 29, 1950 by Universal.

Credits:

Directed by Norman Foster

Produced by Howard Welsch

Screenplay by Alan Campbell, Norman Foster, Ross Hunter (dialogue) based on the short story “Man on the Run” by Sylvia Tate.

Music by Arthur Lange, Emil Newman

Cinematography Hal Mohr

Edited by Otto Ludwig

Production company: Fidelity Pictures Corporation
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date: November 29, 1950
Running time: 77 minutes