Railroaded!

Railroaded! is a 1947 American crime film noir directed by Anthony Mann starring John Ireland, Sheila Ryan, Hugh Beaumont and Jane Randolph.[2]

Railroaded!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Mann
Produced byCharles Reisner
Screenplay byJohn C. Higgins
Story byGertrude Walker
StarringJohn Ireland
Sheila Ryan
Hugh Beaumont
Jane Randolph
Music byAlvin Levin
CinematographyGuy Roe
Edited byLouis Sackin
Production
company
Distributed byEagle-Lion Films
Release date
  • September 25, 1947 (1947-09-25) (United States)
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$500,000[1]

It was based on the same real life case that inspired Call Northside 777.[1]

Plot

The innocent owner of a van that is unsuspectingly used in a back-room bookie operation robbery is "railroaded" (informal, refers to the conviction of someone based on false or weak evidence without proper corroboration) for the killing of a cop during the getaway.

Clara Calhoun is a beautician with a shop in New York. Her shop is in fact a front for a bookmaking operation. One evening when she closes up for the night, she gives a silent signal to two masked gunmen lurking outside. These two bandits then burst into the shop and hold up both Clara and her unsuspecting assistant, Marie Westin. The money they get hold of is betting money from the illegal operation.

During the robbery, a policeman on patrol in the neighborhood hears Marie's screams. He sees the hold up and tries to interrupt the robbery. When the policeman intervenes, he shoots one of the robbers, "Cowie" Kowalski, but is then shot and killed by the other robber, Duke Martin. The two robbers then escape the scene in a laundry truck, and Duke drops off Cowie at a doctor's house for medical care. Before leaving Duke reminds Cowie of the plan to implicate a certain Steve Ryan in the crime.

Later on, Clara and Marie are interrogated by detectives Mickey Ferguson and Jim Chubb. Marie describes both robbers as black-haired, but Clara insists that one of them, the "shooter", had sandy hair. Clara's version is believed, and soon the sandy-haired Steve Ryan, who usually drives the laundry truck and whose Navy scarf was found at the shop, is found and brought in for questioning. After a round of tough questioning by Mickey and Chubb, Steve is then taken to a hospital, where Cowie identifies him as the killer.

Steve claims that he is framed by Cowie for something he didn't do. He says the reason for this is that he beat him up for making a pass at his sister Rosie. But the detectives don't believe Steve's story. Clara too confirms Cowie's identification, and the unfortunate Steve is arrested. Steve's sister Rosie is sure of her brother's innocence.

Rosie pleads her brother's case to detective Mickey, but he is quite convinced of Steve's guilt and intends to perform a thorough investigation. Clara, who has come up with the robbery scheme together with Duke, who in fact is her boyfriend, starts drinking heavily, angering Duke in the process. Their plan was to steal the money from Jacklin Ainsworth, Clara's gambling boss and the owner of the Club Bombay.

When it turns out Cowie dies from his gunshot wound, Rosie goes over to Clara's apartment and confronts her about her identification. A fight ensues between the two women. Duke watches the fight in hiding, and afterwards, Duke enters the room and tells Clara he will "straighten out" Marie before Rosie talks with her. Duke also tells Clara that she should lay low and disappear for a while, until Steve's trial. Rosie goes straight to Marie's beauty salon, but is unable to find her. Also looking for Marie is Mickey, and he finds her outside the shop and offers her a ride home. Rosie accepts the ride, and on the way, Mickey confesses his doubts about Steve's guilt.

Back at home, Rosie receives a message from Duke, telling her to come to the Club Bombay, where he normally works as manager. Rosie goes to meet Duke at the club, and in the meantime Mickey breaks into and inspects Clara's now-deserted apartment. He finds a lead in a photograph of Duke, and connects the two. Since Mickey has had dealings with Duke before, he recognizes the photo and goes to the club to question Duke about his relation to Clara.

Duke suggests to Rosie that he knows who is framing Steve, and Rosie denounces Mickey in front of Duke. Mickey doesn't give up though, concernedly warning Rosie to stay away from Duke. However, Rosie is determined to do anything to get her Steve off the hook, and puts more trust in Duke. In an attempt to disclose the relation between Clara and Duke, Mickey waits outside Clara's hideout apartment. When Duke appears and is about to enter the building, Mickey makes his presence known to him.

Duke tries to get out of the implicating situation by accusing Clara of double-crossing him. He then runs off, and Mickey goes inside to speak with her. Mickey tells her that Marie has been found dead in the river. Because of this, he advises Clara to call him later at Rosie's house, for her own protection. Meanwhile, Duke has found another solution to his problem, by convincing an alcoholic named Wino to confess to the robbery in exchange for a sum of money. He then talks to Rosie and assures her that Wino's statements will get Steve out of jail.

Rosie buys the whole concept and goes home to get money for Wino. Duke goes back to Clara's apartment, but she isn't there. After some searching he finds the frightened Clara calling Mickey at a drugstore. Clara arranges to meet Mickey at her apartment, but before the detective arrives, Duke shoots her down. Duke then goes to the Club Bombay and shoots and robs Ainsworth. Aware that Clara had called Rosie's phone number, Duke waits for Rosie at the club and accuses her of betraying him.

Just when Duke is about to shoot Rosie too, Mickey arrives with the police, having ordered a raid on the club. In the ensuing commotion, Duke manages to fire a round at Rosie, and wounds her, but not fatally. Duke is then killed in a shootout with Mickey. Steve is eventually released from jail and Mickey and Rosie kiss each other.

Cast

Reception

Critical response

Critic Roger Westcombe praised the film, writing, "It's a standard frame-up story, solidified through the strength of Mann's directing skills beyond the merits of the material. Preceding his now legendary teaming with cinematographer John Alton for the unbeatable run of Raw Deal, T-Men, Border Incident, and He Walked by Night, Railroaded! is still very dark but grim. The absence of Alton's breathtaking set-ups pedestrianises this effort into something merely heavy-handed. Mann’s transitional work Desperate (1947), also pre-Alton, gained an edge of complexity through Raymond Burr's latent menace and a more nuanced study of human corruption than is found here. Yet for all these shortcomings Railroaded's tension is remarkably well maintained, primarily due to the acting of all the principals."[3]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz, gave the film a mixed review, writing, "A second-rate crime thriller made before Anthony Mann (Desperate) reached prime time. Railroaded is a well-crafted and fast-paced mystery tale. It's a low-budget film noir that is held together by John Ireland's nasty performance as the heartless villain without redemption ... The plot was uninteresting and predictable, while the acting was so-so."[4]

References

  1. https://archive.org/stream/variety167-1947-08#page/n106/mode/1up
  2. Railroaded! at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. Westcombe, Roger. Crime Culture, film review, no date. Accessed: July 13, 2013.
  4. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, October 5, 2004. Accessed: July 13, 2013.
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