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Nobody Lives Forever (1946) is a classic title for one of the first films of the dark, gritty, morally ambiguous style that would later be dubbed film noir. This one, however, moves from darkness into brilliant sunshine as the action switches from the streets of New York to California’s Malibu beaches. The setting may be bright, but the hero still carries a dark purpose.
John Garfield stars as Nick Blake, a racketeer returning to the U.S. after serving in World War II as a sergeant in the First Army. His homecoming is no hero’s welcome. Betrayed by both his wife and his former gambling partners, Blake has to fight to get back his money. He succeeds and heads off for rest and relaxation in California but, before long, he is pulled into a scam to bilk a rich, young widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald).
W. R. Burnett, the author of Little Caesar (1931) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950), adapted the screenplay from his own novel I Wasn’t Born Yesterday. Warner Brothers initially announced Humphrey Bogart for the lead but he turned the film down and the role went to John Garfield. Garfield was not that happy about the role either, but he took the part because of his admiration for the acting of his co-star Geraldine Fitzgerald, the Irish actress who had been a sensation on Broadway in Orson Welles’ 1938 production of Heartbreak House. Fitzgerald would put her film career on hold shortly after the release of Nobody Lives Forever to return to the Broadway stage.
Nobody Lives Forever went into production in 1944 but was shelved for over two years by Warner Brothers, not being released until November 1, 1946. Warner Brothers produced a number of films during World War II that were held up for later release such as The Big Sleep (1946), which also had a two-year gap between its production and release. Perhaps another reason for the delay was Warner Brothers’ desire to get what they could out of Garfield’s rising popularity when they knew he would leave them shortly. Jack Warner wrote in a September 7, 1945 telegram: “Confidentially, impossible sign up Garfield after he makes one more picture for us. He has forgotten days when I picked him up when making six bits weekly.”
Producer: Robert Buckner, Jack Warner
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: W.R. Burnett
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Film Editing: Rudi Fehr
Art Direction: Hugh Reticker
Music: Adolph Deutsh
Cast: John Garfield (Nick Blake), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Gladys Halvorsen), Walter Brennan (Pop Gruber), Faye Emerson (Toni Blackburn), George Coulouris (Doc Ganson), George Tobias (Al Doyle).
BW-110m. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady