Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tonight's Movie: He Ran All the Way (1951) at the TCM Classic Film Festival

There were many highlights at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, which was filled with so many great experiences that there are several I could name as a "favorite thing."

HE RAN ALL THE WAY (1951) was one of the movies I enjoyed the most, and I hadn't even initially planned on seeing it! That Friday I had expected to see the William Powell pre-Code DOUBLE HARNESS (1933), but when I learned I would be unable to get in, I immediately shifted gears and hurried down the street to the Egyptian Theatre.

I ended up having such a great experience at HE RAN ALL THE WAY that I was actually kind of glad I'd been "forced" to choose it! It's a great illustration of the fact that the majority of the time slots at the TCM Classic Film Festival contain multiple excellent options.

The screening kicked off on a high note when it was announced that Norman Lloyd was in the audience to watch the movie; it's always a thrill to see him, and the 101-year-old actor was greeted with a huge ovation.

Lloyd appears in the early scenes of the movie as Al, a crook who induces Nick Robey (John Garfield) into participating in a payroll robbery. The plan quickly goes south, with Al shot and Nick fleeing with the dough.

Nick hides out at a nearby swimming pool, which was shot at the Long Beach (CA) Plunge -- where, I later learned, my dad took swimming lessons around this era! The Plunge appeared in a few other films, including I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) a decade earlier.

When police show up to check out the pool, Nick evades suspicion when he picks up Peggy (Shelley Winters), a young woman who's learning to swim. From a distance he looks to the cops like he's part of a couple enjoying a day at the pool, not a crook on the lam.

Nick later accompanies Peggy to the apartment where she lives with her parents (Wallace Ford and Selena Royle) and kid brother Tommy (Robert Hyatt). Nick initially seems to be a nice enough suitor, but when he gets nervous he ends up taking the entire family hostage until he can get away.

Despite Nick's violence and cruelty to her family, the lonely Peggy can't help being attracted to Nick, who also has moments of vulnerability. Ultimately, though, Nick's inability to trust anyone, even Peggy, leads to his downfall.

This was Garfield's final film, and his performance underscores what a great loss his passing was to the cinema. He's powerful as Nick, an unhappy man who makes terrible choices, ultimately rejected by everyone from his mother (Gladys George) to Peggy, a woman who might have loved him.

Coming right after the Noir City Film Festival, this was the third film in which I'd seen both Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford in a matter of days. At Noir City I saw Winters in TAKE ONE FALSE STEP (1949) and MEET DANNY WILSON (1951), while I saw Ford in FLESH AND FURY (1952) and DEAD RECKONING (1947).

Winters and Ford are both excellent in HE RAN ALL THE WAY. I've written previously that Winters is not an actress I particularly enjoy, although her character in MEET DANNY WILSON was more appealing than most of her roles. I also found her very interesting in this film, as an insecure woman who would clearly like to have a husband and family of her own but, not having found Mr. Right, she's sadly willing to settle for the attention of an unstable man who alternates between sweet talk and violence. Despite these moments of weakness, she ultimately proves to have a strong spine, which gives the viewer hope that Peggy's got what it takes to eventually have a happy ending.

The final sequence in which Ford, as Peggy's father, yells at Nick "You're not taking my baby!" is very powerful, leading to a beautifully staged ending. The finale is telegraphed from the film's very first scene, but that doesn't take away its impact.

I also especially appreciated the film's set design. Peg's family could be described as lower class but comfortable; the father works printing a newspaper, and Peg works at a bakery. I enjoyed looking around the family's apartment, including the makeshift bed area for the little boy, who doesn't have his own room.

HE RAN ALL THE WAY was directed by John Berry, whose son Dennis introduced the movie. Berry was interviewed by Todd McCarthy about his father's experience with the blacklist and the family's subsequent move to France. With regard to HE RAN ALL THE WAY, Berry especially noted the stunning photography of James Wong Howe; the final shot in a rain-slicked street is unforgettable.

Incidentally, I was interested to learn that Dennis is married to actress Anna Karina, who appeared at TCM's screening of BAND OF OUTSIDERS (1964).

Fortunately for those who weren't able to see HE RAN ALL THE WAY at the festival, it was released last year on DVD. It's recommended noir viewing.


Blogger Jocelyn said...

Hi Laura, I had a very similar experience, being bumped from DOUBLE HARNESS to this. But I loved it, too. Like you, Shelley Winters hasn't been my favorite, but I really liked her in this. So sad that Garfield left us so soon, and this film underscores that loss.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jocelyn! I'm delighted to know you were also glad to have been "bumped" to this movie, and that you had a similar reaction. :)

Looking forward to enjoying more movies with you next year!

Best wishes,

7:22 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Same here, really glad I ended up at this one. Even though I hadn't planned on going to Double Harness, I wasn't sure until that morning what to watch in this block and wasn't too excited beforehand. Loved Ford, and that scene with Garfield and the boy was powerful. Strikes me how many great child performances were seen at this fest with this, Tree/Brooklyn, Fallen Idol, etc.

12:24 PM  

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