The Chase (1946 film)

The Chase is a 1946 American film noir directed by Arthur Ripley. The screenplay by Philip Yordan is based on Cornell Woolrich's 1944 novel The Black Path of Fear.

The Chase
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Ripley
Produced bySeymour Nebenzal
Screenplay byPhilip Yordan
Based onThe Black Path of Fear
by Cornell Woolrich
StarringRobert Cummings
Michele Morgan
Steve Cochran
Music byMichel Michelet
CinematographyFrank F. Planer
Edited byEdward Mann
Nero Films
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 17, 1946 (1946-11-17) (New York City)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States


Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings) is a World War II veteran who is now a penniless drifter in Miami tormented by bizarre dreams. After finding a wallet and showing his honesty by returning it to Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran), a vicious gangster, he is hired by Roman to be his driver. Roman tests his new driver, whom he nicknames 'Scotty,' by assuming control of his car from the back seat. Unbeknownst to Scotty, Roman has an accelerator installed in the rear passenger compartment so that he can "take over" the vehicle whenever he wants. This bizarre trick unnerves his new driver as well as Roman's right-hand man, Gino (Peter Lorre).

Roman reveals himself as a tough gangster by killing any competition, and even locks his wife, Lorna (Michèle Morgan), in her room every night to control her. Lorna goes for a drive every night at 9:30 pm, and one day she asks Scotty to take her to Havana, Cuba in exchange for $1,000. He consents and realizes that he is in love with her. When they get to Havana, they stop for a drink at a club, where Lorna is murdered with a knife while in Scotty's arms. All the evidence, including the fact that Scotty apparently purchased the knife that was used to kill Lorna earlier that day, points to Scotty being the killer, and he realizes he is being framed. The photograph from the club that proves Scotty was innocent is destroyed by Gino, who has come down to Cuba to exact revenge against Lorna and Scotty. Scotty escapes police custody, but is gunned down by Gino when he returns to the curio store where the knife came from.

Suddenly, Scotty wakes up back in Miami on the night he and Lorna are supposed to abscond to Havana. He is sweating profusely and immediately takes his pills that he is prescribed, presumably to deal with posttraumatic stress disorder from battle. Scotty remembers nothing, and goes to the naval hospital to seek treatment from his doctor, Commander Davidson (Jack Holt). Davidson urges him to try to remember details of why he was dressed as a driver, but Scotty is unable. The two go drinking at the Florida Club.

Meanwhile, Lorna is shocked that Scotty abruptly quit his job and left earlier that night, and she is locked in her room after Roman discovers her writing a love letter to Scotty. Roman and Gino go to the Florida Club to cool down, unknowingly sitting across the club, and behind a partition, from the missing Scotty. Davidson, who presumably had been treating Roman, realizes that the woman Scotty is in love with is actually Roman's wife, but by this time, Scotty remembers where he was supposed to be and leaves to find Lorna. He rescues her and the two head for the port, but Gino and Roman are also heading to the port once they find out that Scotty was seen at the port buying tickets earlier that morning. Because Roman uses his master accelerator to push the car up to speeds of 100 mph, it crashes with an oncoming train, killing both gangsters. Scotty and Lorna are now free to sail to Cuba and be together.



The Black Path of Fear was published in 1944. The New York Times called it "a fiendishly ingenious plot and thrilling episodes."[1]

Producer Seymour Nebenzal bought the rights. In January 1946 he announced Phil Yorda, with whom he had made Whistle Stop, was writing the script.[2]

Adjustments had to be made to get the story past the censor. Much of the action had to be turned into a dream sequence so the characters could escape the consequences of their actions. Robert Cummings' character was originally going to re-enlist in the army at the end but the producer said every veteran he consulted with thought this was a bad idea; so he advanced the time of the death of Michele Morgan's husband so Morgan could wind up with Cummings. A death in the book at the hands of a mad dog was changed to a death via a railway accident. Adjustments had to be made to scenes set in Cuba so as not to upset the Cuban government.[3]

In March 1946 Robert Cummings signed to play a lead role.[4] The same month Joan Leslie was borrowed from Warner Bros to co star.[5] Arthur Ripley signed to direct.[6] Warner Bros then insisted Leslie was still under contract to them.[7] Principal photography was even pushed back for a month (from April 1946 to May) in the hopes of securing her. (Showman Trade Review 46’) Tired of waiting, Nebenzal replaced her with Michèle Morgan, who had made some films in Hollywood in the early 1940s but was then back in France. Leslie then sued Nebenzal for lost wages and damages.(Variety, January 1, 1947). (In May 1946 Leslie went to court to get released from her Warners contract.[8]) Morgan joined the cast in May along with Steve Cochran, who was borrowed from Sam Goldwyn.[9]

Peter Lorre joined the cast in June.[10]

Also according to Variety (July 3, 1946), production was delayed by an electrical workers' strike at RKO's Culver City studio.


The Chase was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.[11]

Critic Gene Arieel of The Hollywood Scene said “The Chase has flaws, to be sure, but it has additionally a good share of suspense and excitement.” He also noted: “the performances are indispensably good.”

Leyen Decker of The Independent trade journal wrote: “ The Chase is fascinating and suspenseful but falls back on the familiar dream solution as the easiest way out, and the audiences will be confused and disappointed.”

In a retrospective review in the New York Times, J. Hoberman wrote: “The Chase” is nothing if not arty. Mrs. Roman is dressed and posed as if she were one of the subjects of Cecil Beaton’s Surrealist-inflected Vogue portraits.”

Noir analysis

Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward write in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style: "Phantom Lady excepted, The Chase is the best cinematic equivalent of the dark, oppressive atmosphere that characterizes most of Cornell Woolrich's best fiction."[12]

The story was adapted for TV in 1954. In 1957 Steve Sekeley was reportedly preparing a version of the novel for United Artists but it was not made.[13]

Home media

It was released on DVD in the US from Alpha Video on July 22, 2003 and in many other DVD collection since then.[14]

See also


  1. THE BLACK PATH OF FEAR. By Cornell Woolrich. 183 pp. New York: Crime Club-Doubleday, Doran & Co. $2. By ISAAC ANDERSON. New York Times 4 June 1944: BR14.
  2. Tufts May Play 'Brown;' Claire Trevor to Star Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 23 Jan 1946: A3.
  3. MAUGHAM IN HOLLYWOOD: Anthor's Viewpoint Minor Alteration OUT OF HOLLYWOOD'S NEWS HOPPER Scott Reversed Unusual Deal Pitfalls By THOMAS F. BRADY. New York Times 28 July 1946: X1.
  4. NEWS OF THE SCREEN New York Times 9 Mar 1946: 20.
  5. NEW 'CHAMP' FILM AGAIN STARS BEERY New York Times 20 Mar 1946: 31.
  7. Leslie in Godiva Role; Maxwell as Shady Lady Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 3 Apr 1946: 9.
  8. JOAN LESLIE SIGNS FOR UA FILM LEAD: Released From Contract With Warners, Actress Gets Role in 'Personal Column' Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.28 May 1946: 32.
  9. Lee Bowman Borrowed for Lead in 'Smash-up' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 16 May 1946: A3.
  10. Of Local Origin New York Times 10 June 1946: 38.
  11. "Festival de Cannes: The Chase". Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  12. Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
  13. Unique Shaw Play Slated: 'Undying Flame' to Star Loren, Brazzi; Schell Return Speeded Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times6 Nov 1957: B9.
  14. Allmovie by Rovi. Releases section. Accessed: August 1, 2013.

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