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Susan Hayward's film work can best be described as forceful- even when she's crying,her acting is never subtle. So it's not unexpected, really, that Deadlineat Dawn (1946), a hard-boiled murder mystery that was written by playwright CliffordOdets, is as strange as it is. It's chock-full of Odets' trademark artificial dialogue,Hayward bulldozes her way through each scene, and the narrative features so manycomplicated twists and turns, it's impossible to tell what's going on. Even BosleyCrowther, the esteemed New York Times critic, wrote at the time:"No wonder it is hard to guess the murderer; there is no basis for assumptionat all."
But, all the same, it's a fun ride to nowheresville. Bill Williams plays a Norfolk-basedsailor who's visiting big, bad New York City. He enters into a rigged card game,only to be slipped a mickey. When he wakes up, he has $1,000 in his pocket, butdoesn't know how he got it. After hooking up with a seen-it-all dance hall girl(Hayward), he tries to return the money, but finds a dead woman instead. (One ofthe key clues to the murder is that hoariest of all evidence, a dropped carnation.)Paul Lukas, as a helpful cab driver, and Constance Worth, as a mystery woman whosteals some love letters, drift in and out of the confusion. It all leads to anunlikely wrap-up that's a little too upbeat for its own good.
Even with its flaws, Deadline at Dawn, which was filmed by stagedirector Harold Clurman, was a big hit, and it came at an opportune time for Hayward.This was her last picture for Paramount, where she was utterly miserable, and Universalquickly signed her to a more lucrative contract.Soon thereafter, her career skyrocketed.
Hayward was not a warm person, and, with at least one notable exception, there wasno love lost between her and her co-workers...and that went double for the higher-upsat Paramount. Robert Preston, who made three movies with her, actually once toldan interviewer, "Anything I can say about Susan Hayward, you couldn't print. " Yikes.
Unlike many other actresses, studio executives couldn't tell Hayward what to wear,who to date, or what party to attend, and - quite scandalously at the time - shewouldn't allow magazines to photograph her children. This deep-rooted suspiciousnessof other people grew from a childhood in which she was openly disliked by her ownmother. Hayward was so aware of her fear of betrayal and rejection that she attendedtherapy sessions to try to rid herself of it. Painful memories from her past werealmost certainly the engine that drove her most searing performances.
Nevertheless, she got along swimmingly with her Deadline at Dawnco-star, Bill Williams, who always described a woman who seemed several steps removedfrom the Hayward everyone else knew. "She was a heck of an actress and a lovelyhuman being," Williams said.
Williams recalled that there was trouble with one Deadline scenein particular, during which he and Hayward shared a kiss. "Either I was holdingher too tight or was a little too innocent about it," he said. "The kissingwent on about three or four hours. I finally said, "Gee, Susie, it's been a long time kissing you, hasn't it?' She said, "Bill, I have to tell you something.You didn't do anything for me either." Such candor must have cemented theirmutual trust, since Hayward and Williams eventually became fast friends.
Director: Harold Clurman
Producer: Adrian Scott
Executive Producer: Sid Rogell
Screenplay: Clifford Odets (based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich)
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Editor: Roland Gross
Music: Hanns Eisler
Art Designer: Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey
Special Effects: Vernon L. Walker
Set Designer: Darrell Silvera
Costume Designer: Renie
Cast: Susan Hayward (June Goff), Paul Lukas (Gus), Bill Williams (AlexWinkley), Joseph Calleia (Bartelli), Osa Massen (Helen Robinson), Lola Lane (EdnaBartelli), Jerome Cowan (Lester Brady), Marvin Miller (Sleepy Parsons), Roman Bohnen(Collarless Man), Steven Geray (Man with Gloves), Joe Sawyer (Babe Dooley).
B&W-84m. Closed captioning.
by Paul Tatara