Saturday, July 8, 2017


United Artists, 78m 1s

The obvious film noir qualifications of HE RAN ALL THE WAY are carved forcefully into the opening sequence within a neglected tenement apartment littered with empty beer cans, dirty dishes and overflowing garbage. On what appears to be a particularly hot summer morning, Nick Robey (John Garfield) would sleep the day away were it not for his mouthy mother (Gladys George), who reminds her son of his persistent lack of achievement. The hard woman slaps her loser son, who merely notes his ol' ma does not possess the strength she once did. Despite his thick skin, seasoned film noir fans will recognize Robey as the hopelessly doomed noir protagonist, trapped in a boiling urban hell that threatens to consume him.

The unemployed Robey meets up with the more ambitious Al Molin (Norman Lloyd), who has devised a $10,000 payroll holdup to take place while employees patiently await their salaries. Robey's intuition tells him today will not be his day, but he reluctantly goes along with Molin's plan. In a familiar film noir train of thought about the honest working class, Molin scoffs before the crime, "Squares waitin' for their pay..." As the viewer should expect, the heist goes quite poorly, with Molin taking a bullet and an unlucky police officer (Dale Van Sickel) shot by triggerman Robey.

Suddenly in attendance at a public pool in an endeavor to lose police, Robey encounters Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters), a perfectly nice but painfully naive young woman who deserves to meet a much more together fellow than Robey. Although their exchange is awkward at best, Robey manages entry into the Dobbs apartment, where Peg lives with her parents (Wallace Ford and Selena Royle) and little brother Tommy (Robert Hyatt). Unnecessarily as it turns out, the hotheaded Robey holds the family under lockdown.

Set in Southern California over a 72-hour time frame, HE RAN ALL THE WAY is a tense and spirited film noir in which John Garfield proves he could be just as tough as the likes of Charles McGraw (THE THREAT [1949]) and Lawrence Tierney (BORN TO KILL [1947]). Most assuredly Garfield's turn as the existential Nick Robey anticipates ruffians portrayed by Ralph Meeker (KISS ME DEADLY [1955]) and especially Humphrey Bogart (THE DESPERATE HOURS [1955], the more well-known home invasion narrative). Not long after he meets Peg, Robey is appallingly rough with her. As his sense of paranoia intensifies, he becomes more physically insensitive to members of the Dobbs family. As portrayed by Garfield, Robey resembles a cornered, crazed animal whenever he senses that policemen are just moments away. Robey is not a completely rotten apple, though; notice the compassion he instinctively shows when Peg's mom injures herself.

Robey's eventual downfall is brought about by his mostly deplorable treatment of others, lack of religious belief, and above all else, his stubborn inability to trust others. "Nobody loves anyone," he says. Though far from a femme fatale, Peg accelerates Robey's downward trajectory when she gets all dolled up in front of him after her street-smart female coworker Marge (Vici Raaf) suggests Peg could use her appearance to manipulate a man. Ultimately Robey collapses into an appropriate landing spot within the unforgiving, distinctly urban noir terrain from which there is no escape. In that respect, the Robey character recalls Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) marked D.O.A. (1950), "Dix" Handley (Sterling Hayden) enveloped by THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950), Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) trapped between NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), and so many other similarly defeated noir protagonists.

HE RAN ALL THE WAY establishes its film noir atmosphere with a minimum of nocturnal sequences; quite unusual for the genre. The cinematography was handled by the legendary James Wong Howe, who also covered Garfield in the exceptional noir boxing narrative BODY AND SOUL (1947). Howe's other film noir accomplishments include HANGMEN ALSO DIE! (1943), NORA PRENTISS (1947), PURSUED (1947) and the classic SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957). His excellent work in HE RAN ALL THE WAY shows his inclination toward tight close-ups, especially those that reveal the brutal summer heat that seems to be as much a character as any of the players.

A film noir with an equal measure of clever visual set-ups and punchy dialog, the script was an adaptation of the novel of the same title by Sam Ross. The screenplay is credited to Guy Endore and Hugo Butler, while uncredited contributor Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted at the time. Endore was a registered Communist, and also found himself blacklisted by certain film studios. He sometimes sold his screenplays under the pseudonym Harry Relis. Director John Berry's credit was removed from the film's initial theatrical run due to blacklisting. Prior to HE RAN ALL THE WAY, Berry helmed the appropriately taut film noir TENSION (1949), which features standout performances from Richard Basehart and Audrey Totter. Berry also directed the documentary short “The Hollywood Ten” (1950) about the group of screenwriters and directors who stood their ground against the House Un-American Activities Committee. Trumbo was among the 10.

Though John Garfield denied any communist party affiliation, he found himself blacklisted by major studio bosses. Perhaps the stress associated with pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee contributed to the death of the long-term liberal, who died from heart complications May 21st, 1952 at the sadly premature age of 39. HE RAN ALL THE WAY proved to be his last film.

The Blu-ray disc available from Kino Lorber presents this underappreciated film remastered in high definition. The original theatrical scope of 1.37:1 is observed and the technical flaws are few. Other than trailers for HE RAN ALL THE WAY, A BULLET FOR JOEY (1955) and WITNESS TO MURDER (1954), the disc is without supplemental material.

HE RAN ALL THE WAY aired on TCM recently as part of their Noir Alley program hosted by Eddie Muller.