AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Woman on Pier 13
Alternate Title: Beautiful But Dangerous
Director: Robert Stevenson (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Jun 1950
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 7 Oct 1949; San Francisco opening: 12 Oct 1949
Production Date:   25 Apr--late May 1949
Duration (in mins):   72-73
Duration (in feet):   6,535
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Cast:   Laraine Day (Nan Collins)  
    Robert Ryan [1909-1973] (Brad Collins [previously known as Frank Johnson])  
    John Agar (Don Lowry)  
    Thomas Gomez (Vanning)  
    Janis Carter (Christine [Norman])  
    Richard Rober (Jim Travers)  
    William Talman (Bailey)  
    Paul E. Burns ([J. T.] Arnold)  
    Paul Guilfoyle (Ralston)  
    G. Pat Collins (Charles Dover)  
    Fred Graham (Grip Wilson)  
    Harry Cheshire (Mr. [J. Francis] Cornwall)  
    Jack Stoney (Garth)  
    Lester Mathews (Dr. Dixon)  
    Marlo Dwyer (Evelyn)  
    Erskine Sanford (Clerk)  
    Bess Flowers (Secretary)  
    Charles Cane (Hagen)  
    Dick Ryan (Waiter at cocktail bar)  
    Barry Brooks (Burke)  
    William Haade (Cahill)  
    John Duncan (Bellhop)  
    Iris Adrian (Waitress)  
    Don Brodie (Drunk)  
    Al Murphy (Jeb)  
    Evelyn Ceder (Girl friend)  
    Marie Voe (Strip tease dancer)  
    George Magrill (Tough)  
    Louise Lane (Girl)  
    Jim Nolan (Policeman)  
    Allan Ray    

Summary: While on their honeymoon, Nan and Bradley Collins, who have known each other for only a week, run into Brad's former girl friend, fashion photographer Christine Norman. Still in love with Brad, Christine bristles with jealousy upon meeting Nan, and later confers with her Communist party cohort, J. T. Arnold, about Nan's background. Christine learns that Brad, the vice-president of San Francisco's Cornwall Shipping Company, has obtained a stevedore job for Nan's younger brother, Don Lowry. Cornwall Shipping is in the midst of a labor dispute, and president J. Francis Cornwall assigns the much-respected Brad, a former dock worker, to act as an intermediary between management and the union. Brad's new authority is endorsed by Jim Travers, the head of the union and Nan's recent ex-boyfriend. Before Brad can act on his assignment, however, he is visited by Vanning, a secretive Communist leader, who reminds Brad about his past as a Communist agitator named Frank Johnson. Annoyed, Brad goes to see Christine and declares that he has long since "graduated" from both her and the "party." Vanning counters Brad's defiance by ordering him to the party's dockside headquarters and threatening to expose him unless he donates two-fifths of his salary to the party. Vanning also forces Brad to witness the brutal drowning of Ralston, a party member suspected of being an FBI informant. Despite Vanning's vicious tactics, Brad announces that he is going to tell Nan and Cornwall the truth about his past. Producing a photostat copy of a party document written by Brad years before, in which Brad assumed responsibility for a killing that occurred during a walkout he orchestrated, Vanning effectively ends Brad's resistance. Faced with the prospect of a murder conviction, Brad agrees to help Vanning shut down the waterfront for sixty days by sabotaging the labor talks. The rebuffed Christine, meanwhile, pursues Don, much to Nan's dismay, and subtly draws him into her Communist circle. During the doomed labor meetings, Don loudly repeats the "party line," agitating his fellow workers, while Brad counsels management to reject all of labor's compromises. Finally, the negotiations are canceled, and the waterfront is shut down. Concerned about Christine's growing attachment to Don, the coldhearted Vanning demands that she break all ties with him. As Christine is about to leave for an assignment in Seattle, however, Don proposes marriage, and a conflicted Christine pledges her love. Sensing that Brad is in trouble, Nan, meanwhile, presses him to confide in her, but he denies any trouble. When Nan hears that Don has proposed to Christine, however, she confesses to Jim her apprehensions about the photographer, and Jim reveals that Christine is a Communist. Jim then accuses Don of being Christine's "stooge," and although he denies the charge, Don later asks Christine if Jim's allegations are true. While insisting that she truly loves him, Christine admits her Communist involvement to Don, but also implicates Brad in the conspiracy. Vanning overhears Christine and Don's conversation and, worried that Don will expose Brad, arranges for Don to be murdered by hired killers Bailey and Grip Wilson. Just after Christine telephones Nan to warn her about Don, Don is run down outside Nan and Brad's apartment. Although Brad tries to convince Nan that the death was accidental, Nan is suspicious and goes to see Christine. The grief-stricken Christine reveals that Don was indeed murdered, but also shows Nan a copy of Brad's party membership. With information provided by Christine, Nan finds the womanizing Bailey at the shooting gallery he operates and, while posing as an unhappily married rich woman, cajoles Bailey into revealing he is a hired killer. Vanning, meanwhile, forces Christine to write a suicide note and pushes her out of her apartment window, just as Brad arrives looking for Nan. Brad tries to retrace his wife's steps, but is waylaid by Grip, who has been notified by Vanning of Nan's activities. Eventually, however, Brad tracks Nan to the party warehouse, where she is about to be killed by Vanning. Brad bursts in on Vanning, brandishing a gun, but Vanning pulls out his own gun and tries to outdraw Brad. In the ensuing confusion, Brad and Nan escape and hide themselves in the warehouse. While exchanging gunshots with Vanning and his men, Brad apologizes to Nan for his past. Vanning finds Nan and is about to shoot her when Brad charges him. Brad manages to throw a grappling hook into Vanning, causing him to fall to his death, but is shot several times in the process. As a forgiving Nan holds him in her arms, Brad whispers that he met her too late and then dies. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Robert Stevenson (Dir)
  William Dorfman (Asst dir)
Producer: Sid Rogell (Exec prod)
  Jack J. Gross (Prod)
Writer: Charles Grayson (Scr)
  Robert Hardy Andrews (Scr)
  George W. George (Story)
  George F. Slavin (Story)
Photography: Nicholas Musuraca (Dir of photog)
  Fred Bentley (Cam op)
  Charles Beckett (Gaffer)
  Gaston Longet (Stills)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Walter E. Keller (Art dir)
Film Editor: Roland Gross (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  James Altwies (Set dec)
Costumes: Michael Woulfe (Gowns)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Leigh Harline (Mus)
Sound: Phil Brigandi (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
Make Up: Larry Germain (Hair styles)
  W. H. Phillips (Makeup)
Production Misc: Irving Cooper (Scr supv)
  Ralph Clement (Grip)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 28/9/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2633

PCA NO: 13811
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Drama
Subjects (Major): Blackmail
  Employer-employee relations
Subjects (Minor): Brothers and sisters
  Dock workers
  Falls from heights
  San Francisco (CA)
  Trade unions

Note: The working titles of this film were I Married a Communist and Beautiful But Dangerous . In Oct 1949, the picture had "test runs" in Los Angeles and San Francisco under the title I Married a Communist . In Feb 1948, HR announced that Eagle-Lion had purchased an original screen story entitled "I Married a Communist" and had assigned the picture to producer Aubrey Schenck. In Sep 1948, however, RKO head Howard Hughes announced in LAT that he was making the film. According to a Jun 1949 NYT article, Art Cohn, James Edward Grant and credited writer Charles Grayson wrote the original drafts of the script, while Robert Hardy Andrews did the "final polish job." The exact nature of Cohn's and Grant's contribution to the final film has not been determined. The NYT article also noted that for the rewrites, Andrews was instructed to remove any "soapboxing" from the story and delete all references to Russia, including Slavic-sounding names. The studio was also concerned about not sending an anti-labor message and consequently created the "Jim Travers" character, who is a sympathetic union leader, but a Communist detractor as well. A Sep 1948 LAT article notes that George W. George, who is credited with the film's story, was a "well-known writer" working under a pseudonym. The writer's real name has not been discovered.
       Contemporary news items add the following information about the film's production: At the time of Hughes's purchase of the story, Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Young were announced as the stars, and John Cromwell, the director. Merle Oberon was then slated to star, and Cromwell was taken off as director. In late Nov 1948, Jane Greer was announced as a possible replacement for Oberon, but because of scheduling conflicts with The Big Steal (see above entry), Hughes eventually pulled Greer from the part. Nicholas Ray was then assigned to direct, and Glenn Ford and Paul Lukas were announced as the film's male leads. In Jan 1949, production was delayed after Ford and Lukas both dropped out and were replaced by Robert Ryan and Thomas Gomez. RKO borrowed John Agar from David O. Selznick's company and Janis Carter from Columbia for the production.
       Background shots were taken in San Francisco, CA. Following the test runs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Hughes pulled the film from distribution because, despite its ad campaign, which tried to make clear that it wasn't a documentary, audiences were still perceiving it as such. To combat the misperception, Hughes temporarily renamed the film Beautiful But Dangerous , a title he purchased from Leon Gutterman. Many reviewers criticized the picture for depicting American Communists like Depression-era gangsters. The NYT review also commented that if "Louis Budenz and Whittaker Chambers, among others, could renounce the party, why can't a movie hero do the same for once without having to shoot it out and be killed himself in the end?" According to modern sources, the film lost $650,000 at the box office. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   24 Sep 1949.   
Daily Variety   19 Sep 49   p. 3.
Film Daily   26 Sep 49   p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Feb 1948.   
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Nov 48   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Nov 48   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Nov 48   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Dec 48   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Feb 49   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Apr 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Apr 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Apr 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jun 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Oct 49   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Oct 49   p. 1.
Los Angeles Daily News   7 Oct 1949.   
Los Angeles Examiner   3 Sep 1948.   
Los Angeles Times   1 Jul 1950.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   24 Sep 49   p. 28.
New York Times   8 Jun 1949.   
New York Times   16 Jun 50   p. 28.
Variety   21 Sep 49   p. 8.

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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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