Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema is “Woman on the Run.” No it’s not about a woman targeted by ISIS or fighting jihad with a fatwa on her head. No, tonight’s tough little film noir classic stars Ann Sheridan and showcases her considerable talents rather well.
After witnessing a murder, Frank Johnson goes on the run to avoid being killed himself. His wife, Eleanor (Ann Sheridan), seems almost apathetic about finding him when questioned by Investigator Harris (Robert Keith), due to a marriage on the rocks. However, after learning that Frank has a grave heart condition, Eleanor recruits reporter Dan Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe) to help track down Frank. Discovering new love for her husband along the way, Eleanor must get to Frank before the killer does.
The NY Times review (1950) said:
Since it never pretends to be more than it is, “Woman on the Run,” which began a stand at the Criterion yesterday, is melodrama of solid if not spectacular proportions. Working on what obviously was a modest budget, its independent producers may not have achieved a superior chase in this yarn about the search by the police and the fugitive’s wife for a missing witness to a gangland killing. But as a combination of sincere characterizations, plausible dialogue, suspense and the added documentary attribute of a scenic tour through San Francisco, “Woman on the Run” may be set several notches above the usual cops-and-corpses contributions from the Coast.
Credit, of course, should go to Norman Foster, who not only directed but was the co-author of the script with Alan Campbell. Except for a few lapses toward the climaxwhen some of his effects tend toward the flamboyant, Mr. Foster’s stints are tight and direct. And, his cast, presumably following orders, avoided the banal.
What seemingly is a routine hunt becomes a dual development when the wife of the hunted, unwilling at first to assist the police because her marriage has foundered, begins to learn that her artist-husband is a victim of heart disease and is not disenchanted after all. Her effort to avoid tenacious detectives to find her man thus points the story at a double goal. That the killer, a smooth newspaper man who seemingly is aiding her, is made known halfway through the proceedings, hardly dissipates the yarn’s tautness. Call this a tribute to the workmanlike script, and the players.
Among these list first Ann Sheridan, who, in shedding glamor for the role of Eleanor Johnson, makes the wife a truly confused, distraught and terrified figure. As the reporter-killer, Dennis O’Keefe fills his own characterization of himself—”a little obnoxious but pleasant”—to perfection. Robert Keith is believable as the hard working and harried detective and Ross Elliott does well in the small assignment of the unfortunate witness who was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” “Woman on the Run” will not win prizes but it does make crime enjoyable.
At the Criterion
WOMAN ON THE RUN, screnplay by Alan Campbell and Norman Foter; from a story by Sylvia Tate; directed by Norman Foster; produced by Howard Welsch; a Fidelity Pictures Production released by Universal-International.
Eleanor Johnson . . . . . Ann Sheridan
Danny Leggett . . . . . Dennis O’Keefe
Inspector Ferris . . . . . Robert Keith
Frank Johnson . . . . . Ross Elliott
Detective Shaw . . . . . Frank Jenks
Mailbus . . . . . Frank Qualen
Sea Captain . . . . . J. Farrell McDonald
Joe Gordon . . . . . Thomas P. Dillon
Dr. Hohler . . . . . Steven Geray
Susie . . . . . Rako Sato
Sammy . . . . . Victor Sen Yung