AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Alternate Title: Dead on Arrival
Director: Rudolph Maté (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Apr 1950
Production Date:   early Aug--early Sep 1949 at Motion Pictures Center
Duration (in mins):   83
Duration (in feet):   7,519
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Edmond O'Brien (Frank Bigelow)  
    Pamela Britton (Paula Gibson)  
    Luther Adler (Majak)  
    Beverly Campbell (Miss Foster)  
    Lynne Baggett (Mrs. Philips)  
    William Ching (Halliday)  
    Henry Hart (Stanley Philips)  
    Neville Brand (Chester)  
    Laurette Luez (Marla Rakubian)  
    Jess Kirkpatrick (Sam [Haskell])  
    Cay Forrester (Sue [Haskell])  
    Frank Jaquet (Dr. Matson)  
    Larry Dobkin (Dr. Schaefer)  
    Frank Gerstle (Dr. MacDonald)  
    Carol Hughes (Kitty)  
    Michael Ross (Dave)  
    Donna Sanborn (Nurse)  
    Virginia Lee (Jeanie)  
    Roy Engel (Police captain)  
    George Lynn (Detective)  
    Frank Conlan (Waiter)  
    Bill Baldwin (Desk clerk)  
    Lynne Roberts (Jane Carlisle)  
    William Forrest (Eddie)  
    Peter Leeds (Bartender)  
    Ivan Triesault (Photographer)  
    Philip Pine (Angelo)  
    George Guhl (Hood)  
    Frank Cady (Little man, bartender)  
    Edwin Chandler (Officer)  
    Jerry Paris (Bellhop)  
    Jadie Carson (Band leader)  
    Douglas Evans (Eddie, salesman)  
    Hugh O'Brian (Jazz fan)  
    Harold Miller (Man in hallway)  
    Von Streeter (Club saxophonist)  
    Ray Larue (Club pianist)  
    Cake Wotchard (Club drummer)  
    Shifty Henry (Club bassist)  
    Teddy Buckner (Club trumpeter)  

Summary: In Los Angeles, Frank Bigelow enters a police station to report that he was poisoned the previous night in San Francisco and will soon die. Upon questioning by the police chief, Frank recounts the events that led him to this fateful moment: Two days earlier in Banning, California, Frank, a notary and tax consultant, bids farewell to his secretary and girl friend, Paula Gibson, departing for a short vacation to San Francisco. When Frank arrives at his hotel, Paula telephones to tell him that Eugene Philips, of Philips' Import and Exporting Company, urgently needs to speak with him and refuses to leave a message. That evening Sam Haskell, a guest in the room opposite Frank's, invites him to a party which eventually ends up at a bar on the Embarcadero. In the bar, Frank leaves his drink momentarily unattended and a shadowy figures replaces it with another without Frank's knowledge. Frank drinks from the glass, noticing a strange taste, but nothing more. The next morning Frank feels vaguely ill and is eventually disturbed enough to go to a medical center for an examination. After several tests, the doctor informs Frank he has ingested a fatal amount of luminous toxic poison that will kill him in the next few days. Panicked, Frank goes to another hospital where he receives the same prognosis. Frantic to find out why he has been poisoned, Frank returns to the Embarcadero bar, which is closed, then looks for Haskell, who has already checked out. Later, Paula telephones again and informs him that Philips, the man trying so desperately to contact him, died the day before. Driven by an impulse, Frank goes to Philips' Los Angeles office, where his secretary, Miss Foster, tells him that Philips committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of his highrise apartment. The company controller, Halliday, claims no knowledge of why Philips sought to speak to Frank. Frank then goes to see Philips' widow and brother Stanley, but both are evasive, although Stanley does explain that his brother had sold a rare form of iridium, a luminous toxine, and faced possible imprisonment, which drove him to suicide. Back at the hotel, Paula again telephones Frank to say she has discovered that some months prior, Frank notarized a bill of sale of iridium from a George Reynolds to Philips. Returning to question Mrs. Philips, Frank discovers that both the bill of sale and Reynolds have disappeared. Believing that all evidence of the sale is being systematically eliminated, Frank thinks he has the motive for his poisoning and is determined to find the culprit. Convinced that Philips was also murdered, Frank again questions Miss Foster, who reveals that on the day of his death Philips saw Marla Rakubian, a model and former girl friend. Frank goes to see Marla and accuses her of being in league with Reynolds, then takes a portrait picture she has of Reynolds. Frank tries to locate Reynolds through the portrait studio, but instead discovers Reynolds' real name is Raymond Rakubian. When he goes to see Reynolds at the address provided by the photographers, Frank finds an abandoned warehouse and is fired upon. After returning to Philips' office, Frank is kidnapped by Chester, a henchman of Reynolds' gangster uncle, Mr. Majak, the illegal purchaser of the iridium. Majak insists that his nephew cannot be connected to the murders as he has been dead for five months. Frank escapes from Majak, and goes back to Philips' office where Stanley, who has just been poisoned by Halliday, gives him evidence that the controller and Mrs. Philips had been having an affair for over two years. At her apartment, Mrs. Philips admits that her husband had just discovered the affair and fallen from the balcony in a struggle with Halliday. The critical bill of sale proved the original transaction was legal and was not motive for a suicide. Believing Philips had succeeded in contacting Frank, Halliday poisoned him. Frank returns to Philips' office, finds Halliday and kills him. As he finishes reciting his story at the police station, Frank calls out for Paula before slumping to the floor, dead. 

Production Company: Cardinal Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Harry M. Popkin Production
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Rudolph Maté (Dir)
  Marty Moss (Asst dir)
Producer: Harry M. Popkin (Pres)
  Harry M. Popkin (Exec prod)
  Leo C. Popkin (Prod)
  Joseph H. Nadel (Assoc prod)
Writer: Russell Rouse (Story and scr)
  Clarence Greene (Story and scr)
Photography: Ernest Laszlo (Dir of photog)
  Gene Hirsch (Cam op)
  Jack Fuqua (Cam op)
  Jim Potevin (Gaffer)
  Frank Tanner (Stills)
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Arthur H. Nadel (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Al Orenbach (Set dec)
Costumes: Maria Donovan (Cost)
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin (Mus wrt and dir by)
Sound: Ben Winkler (Sd rec)
  Mac Dalgleish (Sd rec)
Make Up: Irving Berns (Makeup)
Production Misc: Edward F. Dunne M.D. (Tech adv)
  Arnold Laven (Scr supv)
  Carl Gibson (Grip)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Cardinal Pictures, Inc. 21/4/1950 dd/mm/yyyy LP63

PCA NO: 14188
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Film noir
Subjects (Major): Iridium
Subjects (Minor): Armenian Americans
  Banning (CA)
  Falls from heights
  Love letters

Note: At the end of the film, just prior to the cast list, the following written epilogue appears: "The medical facts in this motion picture are authentic. Luminous toxin is a descriptive term for an actual poison." Actress Lynne Baggett's name is misspelled "Lynn" in the onscreen credits. The film marked the motion picture debut of actress Beverly Garland (1926--2008), who was billed as Beverly Campbell on her first few films. Some modern sources erroneously state that D.O.A. was character actor Neville Brand's first film. Although D.O.A. marked Brand's first onscreen billing, he previously had appeared in the 1949 film Port of New York (see below).
       D.O.A. was shot on location in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles. According to modern sources, the idea for D.O.A. 's unusual storyline was taken from a 1931 German film, Der Mann, Der Seinen Morder Sucht [The Man Who Seeks His Murderer], directed by Robert Siodmak. An Australian version of Russell Rouse and Clarence Green's story, entitled Color Me Dead , was directed by Eddie Davis and released in 1969. That version, produced by Goldsworthy, starred Tom Tryon and Carolyn Jones. In 1988, a much-altered remake of D.O.A. was produced by Touchstone Pictures. That version retained the original title and was directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, and starred Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   31 Dec 1949.   
Daily Variety   23 Dec 49   p. 3.
Film Daily   27 Dec 49   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Apr 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Aug 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Aug 49   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Aug 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Aug 49   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 49   p 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Sep 49   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Sep 49   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 49   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 49   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   31 Dec 49   p. 137.
New York Times   1 May 50   p. 18.
Variety   28 Dec 49   p. 6.

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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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