Golly, the misery that walks around on this pretty, quiet night.
So a couple years ago I rented a DVD collection Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 5, and reviewed two movies from it Backfire and Dial 1119. I really had a hankering for watching Backfire and rerented it. The DVD that holds Backfire, also has this film Deadline at Dawn.
This film is…interesting. The main character is extremely annoying, but the others I love and the ending has one amazing twist. So as you can see I have mixed emotions about it.
The film starts off with Edna Bartelli, a drunk, player of a woman, who uses blackmail to make her money. This morning, she was completely wasted when her ex-husband comes to get his money. But his money is missing. It must have been taken by the guy she was with last night. Edna doesn’t care, but her ex, Sleepy, is none too happy.
We fade and find ourselves with Navy sailor Alex Winkler, annoying dimwitted baby. He’s the character I can’t stand, and I wish that they had someone different.
So Alex wakes up at a newsstand with the mother of hangovers and a wad of cash. He had been sprawled out on the sidewalk until this guy found him and began giving him coffee. He’s on leave and walks about with his radio unsure of what to do next.
He goes to a dance hall and rescues June Goffe (Susan Hayward) from a particularly annoying client. After he uses up his dance tickets on her, she gets off work and the two go get some supper and head to her apartment.
No not that, she’s just tired and the restaurants are packed. They get to her apartment and start talking. Alex is a dope, but sweet and innocent. Don’t have to worry about him doing anything.
They discover that the two grew up in the same area. When Alex is leaving, June asks him to give her mom a message when he heads home. Let her know her daughter is doing good, even though June isn’t.
Alex doesn’t believe in lying, but offers her the $40,000 he is carrying.
It’s not his money and he wants nothing to do with it. What happened was the night before he stopped at an Italian restaurant. The brother had him go at gambling and took some money, plying him with drinks. The sister asked him up to her apartment to fix her radio. He went up to fix it, but that wasn’t what she had in mind. She got drunk and was “not being a lady” so he got upset and that’s the last thing he remembers. He woke up drinking coffee in the newsstand with the $40,000. I guess he stole it on his way out.
June convinces him to take the money back. He is such a baby he has June hold his hand through it. They head back to the apartment, he goes up while she waits on the steps. Alex comes back down in shock, the woman, Edna has been murdered.
June Goffe: [walking into Edna’s apartment and seeing that she has been strangled] I hear the whistle blowing.[After a pause] Who did it? You?
Alex Winkler: You mean you think I did it?
June Goffe: Didn’t you?
Alex Winkler: Don’t look at me like that! I think you’d better leave.
June Goffe: Yes. Well, this is New York… where “hello” means “goodbye”.
June feels sorry for the pup, and stays to help him. They look through trying to figure out what to do next. They look at cigarettes, matches, letters, etc. They walk downstairs and try to think where the murderer might go next. They have four hours to solve it before Alex has to take the bus and ship out. Get it, Deadline at Dawn.
They head to a little diner to get a drink, but neither is thirsty. June gets the idea that maybe the murderer did the same thing. They question the soda jerk (real term not referring to personality) and discover a beautiful blonde with a slightly lame leg did the same thing.
June then questions a cabbie to see if his last ride was a blonde with a lame leg. She gets bingo and heads off to follow her. Alex wants to come to but she tells him to try and find the man who murdered Edna. They know that it must be a man as she was strangled.
Alex sees a guy running in a hurry and upset and follows him in a cabbie.
June finds the woman and questions her. She was going to try and get some letters-something Edna was using for blackmail, but hurried home as she found her dead. She was crying because she was happy it was over.
She hears her husband, and begs June to go. She doesn’t want him to know about it. June leaves it as a red herring and heads back to Edna’s to see what Alex uncovered.
The woman and her husband argue, he’s yelling about her going out. She says that she went to a movie and tells her husband that Edna is dead. He repeats you were at a movie? And she says yes, where were you?
Alex’s lead turns out to be a wild goose chase as the man was rushing to have his pet looked after. Alex is disappointed, there are no leads and it doesn’t seem as if there is any other answer then it was him.
Alex Winkler: [sighs in the back of Gus’ cab]
Gus Hoffman: Beg pardon?
Alex Winkler: [distracted] What?
Gus Hoffman: You sigh like the end of summer. Troubled?
Alex Winkler: Personal.
Gus Hoffman: Oh… personal. That’s killed a lot of people in its day.
Alex Winkler: Yes.
Gus Hoffman: [after Alex gets out of the cab] By the way, if it’s not too personal, what was that all about down there?
Alex Winkler: Oh, uh, uh, personal.
Gus Hoffman: All right, I’ll buy it back. Forget I asked. Good night.
Alex Winkler: Good night
Alex meets up with June and both discover they have nothing. Gus follows them up to Edna’s, and ends up joining their investigation. He too feels sorry for Alex. He takes a look around the room and tries to help them find clues.
Gus Hoffman: [looking over Edna’s correspondence] The Divine Being made many loathsome creatures, but none so low as a woman with a cold heart. She held these letters for blackmail, even her own brother. [Looks at photographs of various men on the wall] A blind man can see how many boyfriends she had. Evidently the water tasted good, so she jumped down the well.
They discuss what to do next when a woman comes in looking for Edna, she wants her blackmail letters back. She ends up giving them the slip and they are back at square one.
There are two leads they discover, a bad check from a Lester Brady and that there is someone watching them downstairs. They send Alex to talk to Lester, while June and Gus drive away to see who the follower is.
Lester Brady is extremely nervous and prepared to do anything to get that check and his letters back. But then the woman who gave them the slip, Mrs. Nan Raymond appears. She came to tell Lester that Edna is dead and about the Scooby-Doo gang. They decide to call Edna’s brother and try and weasel a way out of the situation with the letters.
Meanwhile, June and Gus discover who their stalker is. It is the guy from the dance hall that was bothering her. He still wants to be with her.
Gus and June have a bit of time talking. Gus shares that the reason June really wants to help is because she’s in love with Alex. He shares his backgrund how his wife left him and all he had was his daughter, the apple of his eye. She is married, her husband having some trouble, but they have a baby. They head back to the apartment but no Alex, they hurry after him.
Meanwhile Alex was jumped by Edna’s brother Val Bartelli. You may recognize him as Dancer in The Thin Man Returns. They head back to Edna’s looking for the blackmail, and Gus and June get there in time. All convene and head to the club to see of maybe the ex-husband, Sleepy did it.
I have to say I love how they just keep picking people up and having them join them investigating. A regular Scooby-Doo gang.
After they leave, one of Edna’s boyfriend’s goes up to her room and finds her body He calls the police.
Meanwhile the group goes to the club, interrupting a police officer’s birthday bash, ooh.
They question Sleepy, who turns out to be blind, but no dice -he didn’t do. The police officers arrest Alex and strike a confession out of him.
Oh no, its all over. June is horrified and angry, Gus tries to calm her down.
But it turns out they already have a confession at another station. In come the blonde with a lame leg and her husband. Her husband confessed to killing Edna. They had a relationship and she was blackmailing him and he killed her.
But after questioning them, it is clear that this is not the guy. He got the murder wrong and obviously has no clue what they are talking about. Who is he protecting? The wife?
But it turns it it is not the wife. She was protecting her father-Gus the cabdriver.
Yes, Gus. Gus was tired of the relationship between Edna and the husband. He wanted her to stop, his daughter and son-in-law were having a baby. Edna refused, that jerk.
Gus became angry and in the heat, killed her. He kept trying to get rid of Alex, send him home, and felt so sorry for him he began helping him. In the end he couldn’t let anyone take the rap for him, but admits the truth.
He sends June off with Alex, the two taking the bus together, and all ends as dawn’s light arises.
To start Horrorfest VII from the beginning, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)
For the previous post, go to The Murderer is Never the One You Initially Suspect: Crooked House (2017)
For more from the Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 5, go to It’s A Hard World: Backfire (1950)
For more film noir, go to Which Husband Ran Off With Addie Ross?: A Letter to Three Wives (1949)