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Woman on the Run

March 29, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Eddie Muller, president, Film Noir Foundation.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust (The HFPA Trust) and Film Noir Foundation

Woman on the Run  (1950)

Shot largely among the gritty working class landscapes of mid-century San Francisco, Woman on the Run spotlights Ann Sheridan as an acerbic wise-cracking wife in search of her estranged husband who suddenly disappears after witnessing a gangland assassination.

After a suffering through a series of disappointing roles at Warner Bros, Sheridan bought out her remaining contract and turned to the upstart independent Fidelity Pictures in an attempt to re-establish her career as a leading lady.  The resultant film was Woman on the Run, and Sheridan delivers a tour-de-force performance, aided by equally strong turns by Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Keith, and Ross Elliott in the supporting roles.

Director Norman Foster, a former protégé of Orson Welles, had just returned to Hollywood after helming a successful string of features in Mexico and captured the anxiety-driven mood of Alan Campbell’s screenplay with seemingly effortless dexterity.  The Bay Area location filming—in addition to the opening sequence shot in Bunker Hill and the dramatic climax staged at the Santa Monica Pier—was beautifully shot by esteemed cinematographer Hal Mohr and adds atmospheric realism to the production that studio-bound efforts of the era could not hope to match.

Although the film opened strongly amidst positive critical reviews, attendance dwindled precipitously due in part to a bizarre advertising campaign that touted the movie as a woman’s picture: “a probing study of the failure of modern marriage.”  Quickly falling into obscurity, the film has been long and unjustly neglected, compelling Film Noir Foundation founder and president Eddie Muller to remark that “If Woman on the Run had been directed by Raoul Walsh or Joseph H. Lewis or Don Siegel, it would have been rediscovered decades ago and heralded as a minor masterpiece.”

For years it was believed that a restoration of Woman on the Run was impossible after the last known surviving print of this film was destroyed in a studio fire.  An exhaustive worldwide search was eventually rewarded with the discovery of duplicate pre-print elements in the vaults of the British Film Institute.  —Steven K. Hill

Director: Norman Foster.  Production: Fidelity Pictures Corporation.  Distribution: Universal Pictures Company, Inc. Producer: Howard Welsch.  Screenwriters: Alan Campbell, Norman Foster.  Based on the short story “Man on the Run” by Sylvia Tate.  Cinematographer: Hal Mohr.  Art Direction: Boris Leven.  Editor: Otto Ludwig.  Music: Arthur Lange, Emil Newman.  Cast: Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Frank Jenks.  35mm, b/w, 86 min.

Restored from a 35mm nitrate dupe picture negative, a 35mm nitrate composite print and a 35mm acetate composite print.  Laboratory services by Film Technology Company, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Simon Daniel Sound.  Special thanks to: The British Film Institute, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Universal Pictures.