Dark City (1950 film)

Summary

Dark City
Dark City-1950-poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Dieterle
Screenplay byJohn Meredyth Lucas
Larry Marcus
Based onthe story "No Escape"
by Larry Marcus
Produced byHal B. Wallis
StarringCharlton Heston
Lizabeth Scott
Viveca Lindfors
Dean Jagger
Don DeFore
CinematographyVictor Milner
Edited byWarren Low
Music byFranz Waxman
Production
company
Hal Wallis Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 17, 1950 (1950-10-17) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Dark City is a 1950 American film noir crime film produced by Hal B. Wallis, directed by William Dieterle, and starring Charlton Heston in his Hollywood debut. The cast also features Lizabeth Scott, Viveca Lindfors, Dean Jagger, Don DeFore, Ed Begley, Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. Webb and Morgan both went on to co-star in the popular police drama television series Dragnet.[1] This was Heston's first appearance in a professional film production, following his participation in David Bradley's amateur Peer Gynt (1941) and semi-professional Julius Caesar (1950). In later interviews, he would refer to Dark City as "definitely not an 'A' picture, but a pretty good 'B'."

Plot

Danny Haley is an owner of an illegal gambling location that the police raid even though he pays the police for protection. Danny hangs out at a café where he listens to singer Fran Garlan. Fran is in love with Danny but Danny tells her that he cannot commit to a relationship and that she is just a girlfriend.

Later that evening at the café, Danny meets businessman and Air Force veteran Arthur Winant, who is in town to buy some equipment for a sports club. When Danny notices a check for $5,000 in Winant's wallet, he invites Winant to play poker at his closed establishment with Danny's pals Soldier, Barney and Augie. During the game, Winant talks about his older brother Sidney, who is coming to meet him late the next evening. Barney and Augie let Arthur win $325, but the next evening, they cheat Arthur out of all his money, including the $5,000 check.

The next day, Danny learns that Winant has committed suicide. Fearing police attention, Danny tells his friends to wait a few days before cashing Winant’s check. Barney, the most nervous of the group, thinks that someone is following him, and the next morning he is found dead.

Police captain Garvey interviews Danny and Augie and tells them that he knows that there is a connection between Winant's death and the poker game, and that Winant left a letter for his brother Sidney. He informs them that Sidney is a dangerous criminal and likely to avenge his brother's death, and that Barney was probably killed by Sidney. Danny and Augie deny any connection with Winant’s death.

Danny and Augie try to find Sidney before he finds them. In Los Angeles, Danny poses as an insurance agent and visits Winant's widow Victoria, telling her that he needs to locate Sidney, the beneficiary of Winant's life-insurance policy, and that Victoria will be the beneficiary if Sidney is not found. Victoria cannot provide a photo of Sidney because she has destroyed them. Danny spends a romantic evening with Victoria and confesses his true identity to her, and she then chases him out of the house in a rage. Danny tries to give her Winant’s check, but she refuses to accept it.

Returning to his motel, Danny finds Augie's body hanging from the shower in his room. The police arrest Danny after the hotel manager tells them that he heard both men having a loud argument the day before. Captain Garvey arrives in Los Angeles and, believing Danny to be innocent, persuades the police to release Danny, provided that he immediately leaves the city. Danny knows that the police are using him as bait to catch Sidney.

Danny travels to Las Vegas, where Soldier now lives and holds a job at a casino. Soldier gets Danny a job as a croupier at the casino. Fran comes to Las Vegas and Soldier finds her a job as the singer in the casino's lounge.

After work one day, Danny goes to a nearby casino to play craps and builds a small stake into more than $10,000. Victoria phones and tells Fran that Sidney knows that Danny is in Las Vegas and is on his way there. Danny asks Fran to send the money that he had won to Victoria the next morning if anything should happen to him. Believing that Danny is in love with Victoria, Fran leaves for Chicago.

Feeling that he is being followed, Danny retreats to his motel room where he sits with a gun in his hand, waiting for Sidney's attack. Sidney emerges from the bathroom, catching Danny by surprise, and starts to choke Danny. Captain Garvey and his men, who were following Danny all along, burst into the room and shoot Sidney.

The next morning at the airport, Danny runs onto Fran's Chicago-bound plane to tell her that he loves her. They kiss and walk back into the airport.

Cast

Production notes

The film, with a working title of No Escape, was produced between April 5 and May 12, 1950 with additional scenes and retakes completed between May 9 and May 11. Several Los Angeles locations were used: Griffith Observatory, Union Station, North Hollywood, an amusement pier in Ocean Park, the Wilshire Plaza Hotel and the Valley Vista Motel in the San Fernando Valley. Background shots were also filmed in Las Vegas and Chicago.[2]

Reception

Critical response

Upon the film's release, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther applauded the work of newcomer Heston but panned the film, writing:

A new star named Charlton Heston — a tall, tweedy, rough-hewn sort of chap who looks like a triple-threat halfback on a midwestern college football team—is given an unfortunate send-off on the low and lurid level of crime in Hal Wallis' thriller, Dark City, which came to the Paramount yesterday. Apparently Mr. Heston, who has worked for the stage and video, has something more than appearance to recommend him to dramatic roles. He has a quiet but assertive magnetism, a youthful dignity and a plainly potential sense of timing that is the good actor's sine qua non. But in this 'clutching hand' chiller, he is called upon to play nothing more complex or demanding than a crooked gambler marked for doom.[3]

In 2004, film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a mixed review, writing:

Veteran director William Dieterle (The Devil and Daniel Webster) has been dealt a bad hand by the weak script, but the talented cast play out the hand as best they could ... The dark mood is set by Victor Milner's excellent B&W photography. Heston's finely tuned nuanced performance, as a guy gone bad but who can be saved by love, gives the melodrama enough film noir qualities to get over but not enough to relieve it of its tedium.[4]

References

  1. ^ Dark City at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. ^ IMDb, locations section. Accessed: August 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley (October 19, 1950). "Charlton Heston Makes His Film Debut in Dark City, Feature at the Paramount Theatre". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 9, 2004. Accessed: July 10, 2013.

External links