Deadline at Dawn

directed by  It was

Written by Clifford Odets and based on a novel of the same name by Cornell Woolrich (as William Irish), the film noir Deadline at Dawn is the only film made by stage director Harold Clurman of Group Theater Fame.

The RKO film release was the only cinematic collaboration between Clurman and his former Group Theatre associate, screenwriter Clifford Odets.

The director of photography was RKO regular Nicholas Musuraca.

The musical score was by German refugee composer Hanns Eisler.

Navy sailor Alex Winkley (Bill Williams) wakes up from night of drinking in New York, with wad of cash. His memory is hazy, but he knows he got it from a woman he had visited earlier, Edna Bartelli (Lola Lane).

With help of dance-hall girl June Goffe (Susan Hayward), he attempts to return the money, only to find out the woman is dead. The sailor is not sure if he is the killer or not.

Alex and June, along with philosophical cabbie (Paul Lukas) attempt to solve the murder mystery before the sailor has to catch a bus to his base in Norfolk, Virginia. Their deadline is at dawn.

The many false leads and red herrings involve a blind piano player, Sleepy Parsons (Marvin Miller).

As Bartelli had been blackmailing men with whom she had affairs, there are many suspects. The woman’s brother Val (Joseph Calleia) adds a touch of menace.

The surprise ending offers a resolution of the murder as well as a new and happy relationship between Alex and June.

Susan Hayward as June Goffe
Paul Lukas as Gus Hoffman
Bill Williams as Alex Winkley
Joseph Calleia as Val Bartelli
Osa Massen as Helen Robinson
Lola Lane as Edna Bartelli
Jerome Cowan as Lester Brady
Marvin Miller as Sleepy Parsons
Roman Bohnen as Frantic Man with Injured Cat
Steven Geray as Edward Hornick
Joe Sawyer as Babe Dooley
Constance Worth as Mrs. Nan Raymond
Joseph Crehan as Lt. Kane
Byron Foulger as Night Attendant (uncredited)
Eugene Pallette as Man In Crowd (uncredited)
Jason Robards Sr. as Policeman (uncredited)

Sid Rogell, head of RKO’s B Picture unit, bullied Clurman during production meetings–he would “kick the director right in the balls”–but Clurman accepted it without complaint.

The dialogue contains Odets’ trademark wisecracks. Thus, while dancing at club, Hayward likens the dance hall to a post office, filled with second-class matter. And Edna Bartelli greets her ex-husband by saying, “Aren’t you dead yet?”

Several “slice of life” characters of big city people in small roles, include tired banana salesman, angry building superintendent, refugee with skin condition attracted to June, wisecracking sidewalk pitchman.

Odets’ Group Theatre colleague Roman Bohnen appears in bit part, as grief-stricken man with a dying cat.

Warner released the film on DVD July 13, 2010, in its Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5.