An innocent young sailor (Bill Williams) is slipped a mickey and wakes up next to a dead woman (Lola Lane). A diverse group of people including a hard-bitten dance hall girl (Susan Hayward), a philosophical, statistics-quoting cabbie (Paul Lukas), and the dead woman's slimy brother (Joseph Calleia) then come together for varied reasons to help the sailor clear his name before a DEADLINE AT DAWN.
DEADLINE AT DAWN has loads of shadowy film noir atmosphere and an energetic performance by Hayward as its foremost attributes. The plot is fairly confusing and the ultimate identity of the killer seems to come out of nowhere, but given those drawbacks, it's nonetheless a fun 83-minute ride.
Hayward is especially beautiful in this movie. She was just on the verge of hitting the big time; the following year she was Oscar-nominated as Best Actress for SMASH-UP: THE STORY OF A WOMAN. She would be nominated four more times before winning on the final nomination for 1958's I WANT TO LIVE! That film made a tremendous impression on me when I chanced to see it on TV as a teen; I don't think I'd ever watch it again, it was very intense and disturbing.
Williams married actress Barbara Hale the same year DEADLINE AT DAWN was released. In this film he looks remarkably like his son, William Katt, best-known as TV's THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. (Random trivia: When Katt was in his 20s, years before his TV success, I saw him singing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" as Rolf in an L.A. Civic Light Opera Production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, which starred Sally Ann Howes.) I wrote about one of Williams' earliest films, THOSE ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS (1945), in 2007.
DEADLINE AT DAWN was written by Clifford Odets and directed by Harold Clurman. This was the only feature film directed by Clurman, a Broadway director (ALL MY SONS, BUS STOP). The black and white cinematography was by Nicholas Musuraca (CAT PEOPLE, OUT OF THE PAST). The supporting cast includes Jerome Cowan and Osa Massen.
DEADLINE AT DAWN is available on video and on Turner Classic Movies. You can cast a vote at this page of the TCM site to indicate interest in a DVD release.
Update: This film is now available on DVD in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5.