Raw Deal (1948 film)

Raw Deal is a 1948 American film noir crime film directed by Anthony Mann and shot by cinematographer John Alton.[1]

Raw Deal
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Mann
Produced byEdward Small
Screenplay byLeopold Atlas
John C. Higgins
Story byArnold B. Armstrong
Audrey Ashley
StarringDennis O'Keefe
Claire Trevor
Marsha Hunt
Music byPaul Sawtell
CinematographyJohn Alton
Edited byAlfred DeGaetano
Edward Small Productions
Distributed byEagle-Lion Films
Release date
  • May 26, 1948 (1948-05-26) (United States)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States


Prison convict Joe Sullivan (Dennis O'Keefe) has "taken the fall" for an unspecified crime. His share for committing the crime was to be $50,000. Joe breaks out of jail with the help of his girl Pat (Claire Trevor). Neither is aware that the escape has been facilitated by their former accomplice Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr), a sadistic mobster, who expects Joe to be killed during his escape and so avoid having to pay Joe his $50,000. When against all expectations the break-out succeeds, Rick decides that he must have Joe killed.

Pat and Joe's getaway car is damaged and Joe decides that they will hide out at his legal caseworker Ann's (Marsha Hunt) apartment. Ann had been visiting Joe in prison because she was trying to reform him and also because she was developing feelings for him. When the police close in on Ann's apartment she tries to convince Joe to give himself up. Instead Joe forces Ann to escape with him and Pat. Pat sees the attraction between Joe and Ann and doesn't know what to do about it. Joe finds himself between two women who love him. The three of them continue to evade the police until one of Rick's men finds them. Rick's man (John Ireland) and Joe get into a fight and Ann saves Joe by shooting Rick's man in the back. After acting in Joe's defense this way, Ann realizes how much she is in love with him. Out of loyalty to Pat, Joe sets Ann free and prepares to flee the country with Pat. In Joe and Pat's hotel room, Pat takes a phone call warning them that Rick has seized Ann and will harm her unless Joe and Pat come out of hiding. Pat does not want Joe to go back to Ann, so lies about the call, saying it was from the hotel desk clerk asking about their checkout time.

After boarding a ship, Joe attempts to convince Pat that they can start a new life in South America together. He even proposes marriage to her. A guilt-stricken Pat now confesses to Joe that Ann has been abducted by Rick. Joe races to save Ann from her captor. Under the cover of a thick fog, Joe manages to get past Rick's henchmen and sneaks into Rick's room. A gunfight erupts with Rick and Joe shooting each other and inadvertently starting a fire. Joe and Rick, both wounded, fight hand-to-hand with Joe finally pushing Rick through an upper story window to his death. Mortally wounded and lying in the street, Joe dies in Ann's arms as Pat looks on. Seeing the resigned contentment in Joe's face, Pat comments in voice-over that: "This is right for Joe. This is what he wanted."




The film was a success at the box office and was profitable.[2]

Critical reception

When the film was released, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther panned it. "But this, of course, is a movie—and a pretty low-grade one, at that—in which sensations of fright and excitement are more diligently pursued than common sense...Except for the usual moral—to wit, that crime does not pay—the only thing proved by this picture is that you shouldn't switch sweethearts in mid-lam."[3]

In Girl and a Gun: The Complete Guide to Film Noir, David N. Meyer wrote: "It's the richest cinematography in noir outside of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane."[4]

The title characters in Harlan Ellison's 1969 post-apocalyptic novella A Boy and His Dog watch Raw Deal, which is said to be 86 years old (setting the Ellison story in the year 2034).


  1. Raw Deal at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 31
  3. Crowther, Bosley (July 9, 1948). "Raw Deal (1948)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  4. Meyer, David N. (1998). A Girl and A Gun: The Complete Guide to Film Noir. ISBN 0-380-79067-X.
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