Where Danger Lives

Where Danger Lives is a 1950 film noir thriller directed by John Farrow and starring Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue and Claude Rains.

Where Danger Lives
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Farrow
Produced byIrving Cummings Jr.
Screenplay byCharles Bennett
Story byLeo Rosen
StarringRobert Mitchum
Faith Domergue
Claude Rains
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyNicholas Musuraca
Edited byEda Warren
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • July 8, 1950 (1950-07-08) (US)[1]
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States


Dr. Jeff Cameron (Mitchum) saves an attempted suicide victim (Domergue) brought to San Francisco General Hospital. She checks out, but sends a telegram telling him her name – Margo – and her address. To his surprise, he finds she lives in a mansion. He breaks a date with his nurse girlfriend, Julie (Maureen O'Sullivan), because he is worried Margo may try to commit suicide again.

Jeff falls in love with Margo and they begin seeing one another. Told she is flying to Nassau with her aged father the next day, a tipsy Jeff shows up unannounced and boldly tells Frederick Lannington (Rains) that he is in love with the man's daughter. Lannington informs him that Margo is his wife. A stunned Jeff leaves despite Margo's pleas. When he hears a scream, he returns and finds her holding an earring ripped from her ear. Lannington starts beating Jeff with a fireplace poker; in the ensuing struggle, Lannington strikes his head on the floor and is knocked unconscious. Dazed, Jeff goes to the bathroom; when he returns, he finds the old man dead.

Jeff wants to call the police, but Margo insists they would believe it was murder. Capitalizing on the fact that Jeff's judgment is impaired by his injuries, she persuades him to run away with her. They first try to use the airline tickets, but spot policemen at the ticket desk. They decide to drive to Mexico instead, taking the precaution of trading in Margo's convertible for a pickup truck provided by larcenous used car salesman "Honest Hal." Jeff diagnoses his continuing headaches and mental fog as a concussion, warning Margo that it will lead to first paralysis of the extremities, followed by a coma within 24 to 48 hours.

In Postville, Arizona, they are taken to the sheriff, but only because Jeff is not wearing a beard for the town's "Wild West Whiskers Week." After Margo explains they are on their way to Mexico to get married, the police chief (Charles Kemper) tells them that marriages are a Postville specialty and insists they get wed there. In their honeymoon suite, Margo hears a radio broadcast about them that discloses she had been undergoing psychiatric treatment. After the couple sneaks away, the police chief identifies Margo from a photo and alerts the border patrol. It is revealed that Lannington was smothered to death with a pillow.

In a border town, the fugitives sell Margo's $9,000 bracelet to a pawnbroker for $1,000. Seeing they are anxious to avoid the police, he sends them to theatre owner Milo DeLong (Philip Van Zandt), who offers to smuggle them into Mexico for $1,000. As they wait, Jeff's left side becomes paralyzed. Then he finally realizes that Margo is mentally unstable and that she killed her husband. He decides not to go to Mexico; when he tries to stop Margo from leaving, she knocks him down, then smothers him. However, he is only rendered unconscious. He drags himself downstairs and out to the border crossing. When Margo sees him coming, she pulls a pistol out of her purse and starts shooting at him. The police return fire, fatally wounding her. Before she dies, she absolves Jeff of any blame.

While recovering, Jeff asks his doctor if he can send flowers to someone. The doctor steps out into the hall and sends Julie in to see him.



Contemporary critical response

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Fogged a bit by several strong drinks and a couple of blows on the head, our hero does not obey his instinct but goes rushing off with the lady into the night. And thus begins a series of adventures on his flight to escape which leads him at last to realize that one should always inform the police. In this solemn demonstration, Mr. Mitchum does a fairly credible job as a man operating in a vacuum and beset by unfortunate circumstances. As the lady who gets him into trouble, Miss Domergue manifests nothing more than a comparatively sultry appearance and an ability to recite simple lines," adding that director Farrow "has previously done better—and he'd better do so again."[2]

Modern critical response

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader wrote, "Director John Farrow nicely hits the nightmarish, hallucinatory qualities in this standard film noir plot: Mitchum spends the last half of the film barreling down the dirt roads of southern California with a brain concussion, passing out periodically and waking up surrounded by some of the bleakest scenery America has to offer."[3]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, especially the work of Mitchum, and wrote, "Robert Mitchum is cast as a stable citizen, which goes against typecast...Danger is beautifully photographed by Nick Musuraca in the dark B&W style of noir and is ably directed by John Farrow, who successfully caught the nightmarish visions. It is interesting mostly as a character study of a capable man blinded by lust, whose life is almost destroyed. Mitchum is the innocent man who is framed and doesn't realize he is innocent until it is almost too late, recovering in the nick of time because he has such a strong character and will to live. Mitchum's convincing portrayal of the innocent man on the run, is what makes this melodrama compelling...The movie plays like a noir cliché. But Mitchum saves the day, realistically showing how a swell guy and such a competent doctor could be so vulnerable. Claude Rains as always is magnificent, in a small part but one where his every gesture seems to be constrained in a maniacal rage ready to burst open. His touch of madness is best exemplified by his mischievous smile while meeting his wife's lover."[4]

British film critic Neil Young wrote, "Though inexplicably little-known these days, Where Danger Lives is an absolutely cracking little film noir with an appealingly absurd screwball edge. The main credit for which presumably belongs not to director Farrow (father of Mia), but to veteran scriptwriter Charles Bennett - whose screenplays for Hitchcock included The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent and Foreign Correspondent, and later wrote Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon."[5]


  1. "Where Danger Lives: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  2. Movie Review by Bosley Crowther, January, 1951 The New York Times.
  3. Kehr, Dave. Film review, Chicago Reader, 1996-2008.
  4. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 17, 2000. Last accessed: August 28, 2008.
  5. Young, Neil. Neil young's Film Lounge, film review, November 8, 2005. Last accessed: October 28, 2008.
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