AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Deadline at Dawn
Director: Harold Clurman (Dir)
Release Date:   Mar 1946
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 3 Apr 1946
Production Date:   mid-May--mid-Jun 1945
Duration (in mins):   82-83 or 85
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Cast:   Susan Hayward (June Goffe)  
    Paul Lukas (Gus Hoffman)  
    Bill Williams (Alex Winkler)  
    Joseph Calleia (Val Bartelli)  
    Osa Massen (Helen Robinson)  
    Lola Lane (Edna Bartelli)  
    Jerome Cowan (Lester Brady)  
    Marvin Miller (Sleepy Parsons)  
    Roman Bohnen (Collarless man)  
    Steven Geray (Edward Honig)  
    Joe Sawyer (Babe Dooley)  
    Constance Worth (Nan Raymond)  
    Joseph Crehan (Lieutenant Kane)  
    Phil Warren (Jerry Robinson)  
    Jason Robards (Policeman)  
    Eddy Chandler (Policeman)  
    Philip Morris (Policeman)  
    Dick Rush (Policeman)  
    Jack Cheatham (Policeman)  
    Frank Meredith (Policeman)  
    Roger Creed (Policeman)  
    Eddie Hart (Policeman)  
    Sammy Blum (Sam, cab driver)  
    Emory Parnell (Captain Bender)  
    Lee Phelps (Philosophical policeman)  
    Ernie Adams (Waiter)  
    Jerome Franks Jr. (Waiter)  
    Billy Bletcher (Waiter)  
    Larry McGrath (Whispering man)  
    Connie Conrad (Mrs. Bender)  
    Carl Faulkner (Policeman drawing diagram)  
    Dorothy Curtis (Giddy woman)  
    Mike Pat Donovan (Sweating trickster)  
    Fred Aldrich (Beefy guest)  
    Pearl Varvalle (Woman with whispering man)  
    John Ince (Elderly sleeper)  
    Billy Wayne (Billy White)  
    Jack Kenny (Headwaiter)  
    Edmund Glover (Cab driver)  
    Al Eben (Cab driver)  
    Betty Gillette (Woman with dog)  
    Annelle Hayes (Society woman)  
    Larry Wheat (Derelict)  
    Shimen Ruskin (Sam)  
    Myrna Dell (Hat check girl)  
    George Tyne (Ray)  
    Larry Thompson (Drunk)  
    Ed Gargan (Bouncer)  
    Edgar Caldwell (Dancer)  
    Florence Pepper (Taxi dancer)  
    Dorothy Grainger (Ticket girl)  
    John Elliott (Sleepy man)  
    Louis Quince (Markey)  
    Alan Ward (Yerkes)  
    Armand Curly Wright (Fruit peddler)  
    John Barton (One-legged man)  
    Dick Elliott (Chap)  
    Earle Hodgins (Barker)  
    Walter Soderling (Husband)  
    Virginia Farmer (Janitress)  
    Al Bridge (Detective Smiley)  
    Ralph Dunn (Captain Dill)  
    Tommy Quinn (Counter man)  
    Peter Breck (Counter man)  
    Jack Daley (Snoring man)  
    William Challee (Ray at news stand)  

Summary: Young sailor Alex Winkler walks the streets of New York late one night, unaware of how $1,400 in cash ended up in his pocket. Alex, a radio specialist scheduled to leave at dawn for duty in Norfolk, Virginia, wanders into a dance hall and meets taxi dancer June Goffe. Feeling sympathy for the na├»ve Alex, June invites him for a sandwich at her place. There Alex confesses to June that, although he has no recollection of the evening's events, he must have stolen the $1,400 from Edna Bartelli after her brother fleeced him in a card game and she plied him with drinks. A guilt-ridden Alex persuades June to accompany him to Edna's apartment at 51st and Lexington, and there Alex discovers Edna's strangled body in the living room. Although the tough-talking June tries to reassure him of his innocence, Alex is torn with doubt and is convinced that the police will arrest him. Again, June chooses to help Alex and suggests that they think like the killer in order to deduce his whereabouts. At the corner soda fountain, June finds out that a blonde with a limp left the counter in a rush and, posing as the blonde's sister, orders the taxi cab that picked up the blonde to take her to the blonde's destination. While June questions Helen Robinson, the blonde, about her activities at 51st and Lexington, Alex pursues a distraught man in a taxi cab. Alex soon learns that the man raced off because his cat was choking and orders his cab back to Edna's. Although June concludes that Helen knows nothing about Edna, Helen discusses Edna's murder with her tense husband Jerry after June leaves. When June returns to Edna's apartment, she finds Alex there with his sympathetic cab driver, Gus Hoffman. Gus tries to convince Alex to forget about Edna, but June insists that Alex be cleared of all suspicion. After the trio discovers a stack of love letters that Edna used for blackmailing purposes, a gun-wielding woman, Mrs. Nan Raymond, sneaks into the apartment. Nan grabs Edna's letters, but drops them as she flees after being confronted by Gus. Alex then calls Lester Brady, a theatrical producer whose bounced check to Edna they also find, and makes an appointment with him. Nan, meanwhile, goes to see Brady, her lover, and tells him about Edna, who was blackmailing her over the affair. Hoping to retrieve the incriminating letters, Nan and Lester then inform Val Bartelli, Edna's gangster brother, about Edna's demise. When the unsuspecting Alex arrives at Lester's, Val accuses him of killing Edna, then reluctantly agrees to return with him to Edna's. There Val, unable to control his rage, starts to beat up Alex but is stopped by Gus, who returns with June after pursuing one of June's lovestruck dance partners. After Gus convinces Val that Alex is guiltless, he, Val, Alex, June, Nan and Lester go to a nightclub, where Edna's ex-husband, blind pianist Sleepy Parsons, is performing. Sleepy, who had been arguing with Edna just before her death, acts nervously, causing Val to explode with accusations. Val's subsequent attack on the sickly Sleepy, which leads to a fatal heart attack, attracts the police, and the entire group is brought in for questioning. At the same time, Edna's body is discovered by the police, and Alex comes under suspicion. After a calculating interrogation, the police force Alex to admit that he might have murdered Edna, but are startled when Jerry Thompson fully confesses to the crime. When the police unravel Jerry's confession, however, Gus finally admits that he killed Edna because she was having an affair with Jerry, his son-in-law, and wanted to save his daughter's marriage. The remorseful Jerry, in turn, confessed to protect Helen. His name cleared, Alex leaves on time for Norfolk with the faithful June at his side. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Harold Clurman (Dir)
  William Dorfman (Asst dir)
Producer: Adrian Scott (Prod)
  Sid Rogell (Exec prod)
Writer: Clifford Odets (Scr)
Photography: Nicholas Musuraca (Dir of photog)
  Fred Bentley (2d cam)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Jack Okey (Art dir)
Film Editor: Roland Gross (Ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
Costumes: Renie (Gowns)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Hanns Eisler (Mus)
Sound: Earl A. Wolcott (Sd)
  James G. Stewart (Sd)
  Earl B. Mounce (Mus mixer)
Special Effects: Vernon L. Walker (Spec eff)
  Al Simpson (Matte paintings)
  Lynn Dunn (Opt eff)
  Harold Stine (Transparency projection shots)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Deadline at Dawn by Cornell Woolrich (Philadelphia, 1944).
Authors: Cornell Woolrich

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 1/1/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP255

PCA NO: 10937
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
Subjects (Major): Murder
  New York City
  Taxi dancers
  Taxicab drivers
Subjects (Minor): Blackmail
  Brothers and sisters
  Confession (Law)
  Dance halls
  Fathers and daughters
  Heart disease
  Soda fountains
  Theatrical producers
  Unrequited love

Note: Harold Clurman, a noted stage director from New York's Group Theatre, made his screen directing debut with this production. It was the only film that Clurman and his frequent theatrical collaborator, Clifford Odets, made together. A Jun 1944 HR news item noted that Clurman worked on the film's script with Odets. Although some modern sources claim that this picture was Susan Hayward's first as a non-contract star, HR news items announced that RKO was borrowing her from Paramount for the production. Deadline at Dawn was the first film that Hayward made following the birth of her twin sons. Night New York street scenes were shot on the Twentieth Century-Fox lot, according to HR news items. According to modern sources, the film had its premiere in Rockford, IL. Paul Lukas and Bill Williams reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 20 May 1946. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   23 Feb 1946.   
Daily Variety   12 Feb 46   pp. 3, 10
Film Daily   18 Feb 46   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jun 44   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Mar 45   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 May 45   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jun 45   p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 45   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Feb 46   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   22 Dec 45   p. 2776.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   23 Feb 46   p. 2859.
New York Times   4 Apr 46   p. 33.
Variety   13 Feb 46   p. 10.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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