AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Pitfall
Director: Andre DeToth (Dir)
Release Date:   19 Aug 1948
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Atlantic City, NJ: 11 Aug 1948
Production Date:   15 Jan--18 Feb 1948 at General Service Studios
Duration (in mins):   85
Duration (in feet):   7,650
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Dick Powell (John Forbes)  
    Lizabeth Scott (Mona Stevens)  
  with Jane Wyatt (Sue Forbes)  
    Raymond Burr (J. B. MacDonald)  
    John Litel (District Attorney)  
    Byron [S.] Barr (Bill Smiley)  
    Jimmy Hunt (Tommy Forbes)  
    Ann Doran (Maggie)  
    Selmer Jackson (Ed Brawley)  
    Margaret Wells (Terry)  
    Dick Wessel (Desk sergeant)  

Summary: Insurance agent John Forbes enjoys a comfortable, suburban home life in post World War II, Los Angeles with his wife Sue and son Tommy. He feels, however, that they should have accomplished more and expresses dissatisfaction with his work and social routine. Former policeman turned private investigator J. B. MacDonald has been investigating an embezzler, Bill Smiley, whom Forbes' company, Olympic Mutual Insurance Co., had bonded. MacDonald reports that although the embezzler is in jail, he has traced presents bought with stolen funds to Smiley's girl friend, May Co. model Mona Stevens. MacDonald indicates that he is attracted to Mona and intends to see her again socially. John visits Mona at her apartment and requests a list of presents she has received from Smiley. Mona challenges John's conformity and he responds by inviting her out for a drink, during which they become attracted to each other. Later that evening as he leaves her apartment, he is observed by MacDonald, who has been tailing them. The next day, John finds MacDonald waiting in his office. MacDonald has seen the list of items recovered and asks John about a speed boat that, as a favor to Mona, he has not listed. John then tells Mona he has to take possession of the boat as MacDonald might cause trouble. She thanks him for his help and they begin an affair. When John returns home, he finds MacDonald waiting for him at his garage. MacDonald tells John that he has been following them and emphasizes his continued interest in Mona by beating John up. Meanwhile, Mona discovers that John has left his attache case in her apartment and, in attempting to return it, drives to his house where she discovers he is married. Mona tells John that she wants out, and that he should return to his wife. John does and, for a while, appears more contented. MacDonald continues to bother Mona, even though she tells him that she does not like him and threatens to call the police about him. When he says he will tell John's wife about the affair if she is not "cooperative," Mona seeks help from John, whose response is to beat up MacDonald. In retaliation, MacDonald goes to visit Smiley in prison and tells him about John and Mona. As a result of Mona having returned the misbegotten goods, Smiley is released early from captivity and goes to Mona's apartment. MacDonald has given him a gun and wants him to kill John. Mona then threatens to kill MacDonald should anything happen to either John or Smiley, of whom she is still fond. When Smiley goes to John's house, John shoots him and later claims that it was self-defense against a prowler. When Mona learns of Smiley's death, she shoots MacDonald. John confesses all to Sue and, later, to the district attorney, who tells him that Mona's fate will be determined by whether or not MacDonald survives the shooting. The district attorney lectures John that Smiley's killing, though justified, should have been avoided. After considering divorce, Sue suggests to John that they move to another town and try to rebuild their life together. 

Production Company: Regal Films, Inc.  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Andre DeToth (Dir)
  Joseph Depew (Asst dir)
  Dick Dixon (Asst dir)
Producer: Samuel Bischoff (Prod)
Writer: Karl Kamb (Scr)
Photography: Harry Wild (Dir of photog)
  Charles Straumer (Cam op)
  Frank Tanner (Stills)
Art Direction: Arthur Lonergan (Art dir)
Film Editor: Walter Thompson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Robert Priestley (Set dec)
Music: Louis Forbes (Mus dir)
Sound: Frank Webster (Sd)
Make Up: Robert Cowan (Makeup artist)
  Kiva Hoffman (Makeup artist)
  Hedvig Mjorud (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Ben Hersh (Prod supv)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel The Pitfall by Jay Dratler (New York, 1947).
Authors: Jay Dratler

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Regal Films, Inc. 13/8/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1760

PCA NO: 13041
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Film noir
 
Subjects (Major): Embezzlement
  Infidelity
  Insurance--Agents
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Moral corruption
 
Subjects (Minor): Attempted murder
  Bars
  Boats
  Coffee shops
  Detectives
  District attorneys
  Jealousy
  Models
  Prisons

Note: According to a letter in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, while Samuel Bischoff was a producer at Columbia in 1945, he submitted an early manuscript of Jay Dratler's novel, then entitled "Husbands Die First," for evaluation. He was informed that it could not be approved under the provisions of the Production Code. Regal Films Inc. was an independent company owned by Bischoff that was incorporated in 1947. Dick Powell was on the company's board of directors. A Nov 1947 HR news item reported that director Andre de Toth was negotiating for Mexican star Esther Fern├índez to appear in Pitfall . A radio adaptation of Pitfall , starring Powell, Jane Wyatt and Raymond Burr, and hosted by de Toth, was broadcast on Screen Director's Playhouse on 17 Oct 1948. Powell and Lizabeth Scott reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story on 8 Nov 1948. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Aug 1948.   
Daily Variety   2 Aug 48   p. 3, 8
Film Daily   2 Aug 48   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 47   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Aug 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Aug 48   p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 Jul 48   p. 4226.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Aug 48   p. 4267.
New York Times   25 Aug 48   p. 31.
Variety   4 Aug 48   p. 11.

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.