Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1947. Hal Wallis Productions. Screenplay by Robert Rossen, based on the novel Desert Town by Ramona Stewart. Cinematography by Edward Cronjager, Charles Lang. Produced by Hal B. Wallis. Music by Miklos Rozsa. Production Design by Perry Ferguson. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by Warren Low.
Problem child Lizabeth Scott comes home to her saloon-owning mother (Mary Astor) after having been thrown out of yet another boarding school. Astor has tried to raise her to be more than just a booze-slinging casino owner, but trying to get her daughter beyond her origins proves very difficult when Scott falls in love with shady hood John Hodiak and insists on getting into his kind of trouble. Good-hearted cop Burt Lancaster is on hand to help things out, the whole cast of characters gorgeously playing out their drama against a vast desert backdrop that is richly photographed in saturated colours: the deep brown sand and rich green cactus are broken up intermittently by a sharp headlight or a stunning gown. Lewis Allen’s superb direction makes a very familiar story feel like something subversive and sexy, helped along by the effective heat between the lovers and Astor’s intelligent and hardy performance. Most impressive, the film works out its conflicts out to a satisfying end but doesn’t go soft in the conclusion; without wanting to give anything away, these tough people don’t get sappy even when they find the middle of the road. Great stuff, the usually unreliable Scott never more appealing, and a film that rarely feels dated.