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July 28, 2015

He Ran All the Way

He-Ran-All-the-Way-1951-Poster.jpg

John Berry - 1951
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

For me, another example of a film that serves as a metaphor for an actor's career. Blacklisted by the studios while being investigated by the House of Un-American Activities Committee, it was fitting that John Garfield was able to make one last film with United Artists, a company that for the most part was home for filmmakers with liberal leanings. Also affected by HUAC were Dalton Trumbo, with his contribution to the screenplay credited to Guy Endore, screenplay writer Hugo Butler, who soon fled to Mexico, and director John Berry, who continued his career in France. By the time He Ran All the Way was released, John Garfield's film career was dead in Hollywood, while the character he plays, Nick Robey, dies face first in the gutter.

Garfield's Nick Robey is a small time hood who always lets his worst instincts get in his way. Even before his botched payroll robbery takes place, Robey is trapped in his shambles of a slum apartment, sweating, and nervous. Robey lives with his mother, who is seen in a shabby nightgown that hints at slightly better days of being someone's floozy, probably when Calvin Coolidge was president. The two would sooner engage in a bare knuckles brawl than anything resembling family affection. With a pile of unwashed dishes, clothes and trash strewn around, the clutter and disrepair of Robey's apartment is such that the rats have left for more hospitable lodgings.

Even when Robey is on the run, there is a constant sense of entrapment. Following the robbery, Robey runs through several hallways and staircases, spaces that allow limited movement. Even in the outside, Robey runs between several freight train cars, with the camera positioned to emphasize the small space of light between each car. Robey temporarily evades police capture in yet another enclosed space, a public swimming pool called Plunge. And plunge Robey does, ingratiating himself on Peggy Dobbs, a young woman who visits the pool regularly even though she can not swim.

Robey holes up in the apartment belonging to Peggy's parents. Again, there is a sense of setting that seems realistic. The Dobbs are presented as lower middle class. The apartment is bigger, but nothing looks new. A nice touch is the peeling wallpaper seen in the background. That the Dobbs are lower middle class is also indicated with the father working at a newspaper press plant, while Peggy works the assembly line boxing cakes in a bakery.

What I liked best were the exterior shots, filmed around the streets of Los Angeles. John Berry may well have been influenced by the then recent works of Italian neo-realism. The street where Robey and his partner-in-crime meet, the aforementioned train yard, and even some of the shots of the swimming pool and its surround environment, have an authenticity that could not be recreated in a studio. There are a number of traveling shots by James Wong Howe, with the camera movement providing visual correlation to Robery's nervousness.

Nick Robey couldn't escape from the law, and John Garfield couldn't escape from the effects of appearing before HUAC. In several shots, Garfield appears visibly aged, older than his thirty-eight years. While Garfield's film career ends here, the film may have provided the opportunity for Shelley Winter's to show off her ability as a serious actress. There may be something about Shelley Winters and water. Following He Ran All the Way, Shelley Winters played another character whose lack of swimming ability, and questionable choice in men, is part of A Place in the Sun.

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Posted by peter at July 28, 2015 02:36 PM