Woman on the Run, 1950
Directed by Norman Foster
Holy Roller Coasters! Run Lady Run!
?????? What? Why isn’t Ann Sheridan running? Why is she standing around goading the cops?
Batman director, Norman Foster purposely re-titled the story Woman on the Run in order to capture the “essence” of a woman racing against time to retrieve her lost love. Yeah, sure. That’s what I get from the picture.
Well, I guess a propensity for hyperbole can result if you spend enough time with Orson Welles. Norman Foster, ex-newspaper reporter, ex-broadway actor and ex-husband of Claudette Colbert* was making a name for himself as a screenwriter/directer for the Mr. Moto series when Welles arrived at RKO.
Holy Mojitos! Foster struck up a close friendship with Orson Welles. His reward–Welles first dragged Foster to Mexico to film My Friend Bonita, about a cow. Then half-way through filming, pulled him off to start directing Eric Ambler’s Journey Into Fear. To this day no one seems to agree on Foster’s participation. “Factorians” claim that Welles was either boozing it up at Mardi Gras in Rio with Delores Del Rio, OR, creating the most ingenious trilogy the world would never see. Logic decrees that Foster filmed the movie. Reason # 1: The Journey Into Fear was actually finished prior to the hatchet job by the studio. Reason #2: Orson said so. Would our Orson lie? Reason #3 Foster wanted to go back to Mexico.
In Mexico that same year Foster embarked on a series of films that could never be made in the US due to the fact that they were either too arty, or too esoteric, or too steamy. Kind of like my posts. He began with a remake of the 1903 prostitution melodrama, Santa (1943) and followed it up with La Fuga (1944); El Ahijado de la muerte, 1946 (kind of a western noir); La Hora de la Verdad (1945);and, El Canto de la Sirena (1948) AKA Song of the Siren. While there he also met his future brother -in-law, Ricardo Montalban. He finally returned to the US in 1948 to direct the noir, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands.
Woman on the Run appeared in 1950. In it Foster manages to put it all together. The Dialog is snappy. The cast of characters are first rate. For those of you in love lust with the city by the bay, the 1950 black and white locations are a yummy treat. And, the roller coaster ride at the end is nice and twisty.
Besides the ride, another twist is that the sexy female is the lead, not the femme fatale. Guess who’s the femme fatale? OOmph Girl Ann Southern plays a gumshoe — but since she’s a girl she does all the work and doesn’t get the title or the $$$$. Like Bogey, she gets to crack jokes, sneer at the cops, act world-weary and guzzle hooch. The detective just follows her around and croaks out warnings. Literally. Robert Keith as Inspector Martin Ferris (as in wheel, ha ha) has a voice you gotta hear to believe. Kind of like a frog sonata.
Additional kudos to Norman Foster for crafting a noir that doesn’t leave its secondary characters in the first dimension. Can you believe that even the Asian characters get a fair shake in this flick? Yes,it’s true.
Soon, Norman Foster would abandon all artistic pretensions and leap into the comfy bosom of television. Episodes of Batman, The Green Hornet, Disney’s Davey Crockett and Zorro buried Foster’s noir and artsy resume until Woman on the Run was screen a few years ago at a super Noir-A-Thon. Now, some of Foster’s early efforts are slowly reappearing on the web and elsewhere for viewing. Until then watch Woman on the Run. It’s free!
*During Foster and Colbert’s 7-year marriage the couple never lived together. Colette claimed it was because her mother would not allow it, or because it “strengthened” their marriage. In year seven, Foster publically announced his engagement to Lorretta Young’s sister. Colbert announced their divorce a few days later. OUCH!