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Take One False Step

Take One False Step(1949)

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Renowned educator Andrew Gentling is visiting Los Angeles to raise funds for a new university, when he runs into Catherine Sykes, a former girl friend. Although Andy, who is now married, tries to discourage the still-enamored Catherine from flirting with him, she persists and later cajoles him into attending a party she is throwing. Before leaving for the party, Andy telephones his wife Helen in New York and convinces her to fly to Los Angeles. Andy turns out to be the intoxicated Catherine's only guest, until mutual friend Martha Wier, in whose home Catherine is entertaining, appears. Martha, who like Catherine met Andy during the war, explains to Andy that since marrying crook Arnold Sykes, Catherine has become morose and self-destructive. When Catherine insists on going for a drive with Andy, he takes her home, but she refuses to leave his car. Claiming that Andy and a man named Freddie Blair are the only men she has ever loved, Catherine then tries to kiss Andy. Flustered, Andy jerks the car forward, causing Catherine to cut her head on his windshield. After Andy gives Catherine his scarf to apply to her cut, he leaves her standing outside her house. The next day, while meeting with A. K. Arnspiger, the millionaire from whom Andy and two colleagues hope to obtain money, Andy notices a newspaper story about the disapperance and presumed murder of Catherine. Andy acts so rattled by the story, in which his bloodied scarf is identified as a piece of evidence, that he causes the conservative Arnspiger to reconsider his investment. Later, at his hotel room, a concerned Martha confers with Andy and persuades him to investigate Catherine's disappearance before the police connect him to her. Martha tells him about a diary that Catherine kept and advises him to retrieve it from Catherine's closet, while she keeps Sykes busy over lunch. By chance, Andy discovers that Catherine left her purse in his rental car and uses her keys to sneak into her house. He soon is detected by Sykes's large dog, whom he locks in the den before heading for the bedroom. When police captain Gledhill and his assistant, Pacciano, suddenly show up, Andy hides in Catherine's closet. While the detectives are searching the house, Andy overhears them discussing Sykes's gambling connections as well as their plan to tail Martha. Alerted to Sykes's imminent return, the police hastily depart, but before Andy can leave, he is attacked by the now-loose dog and is forced to wound him in order to make his escape. Upon finding his injured dog, Sykes assumes that Freddie, with whom he stole some syndicate money, is responsible and calls the police. Andy and Martha, meanwhile, find Freddie's San Francisco phone number in Catherine's diary and deduce that he is somehow involved in her disappearance. Andy decides to go to San Francisco and, with the help of his bemused but trusting colleagues, makes plans to give a lecture at the University of California in Berkeley, which he hopes Arnspiger will attend. While driving north in a new rental car, Andy hears a radio report alerting people to look out for a man on the run who has been bitten by a rabid dog. Terrified, Andy asks an elderly, small-town doctor to treat him, but flees as soon as the doctor connects him to the report. Andy soon encounters a police roadblock, but avoids it and makes it to San Francisco. From his hotel, Andy calls Freddie, who agrees to speak only on condition that they meet on a street corner late that night. Hoping to see Freddie before his talk, Andy asks influential physician Dr. Markheim, who has made the arrangements for that night's lecture, to find out Freddie's address. When Andy arrives at Freddie's out-the-way house, he sees a beaten and bruised Sykes leaving and offers him a ride. Sykes soon suspects that Andy has been sent by the syndicate and, in a panic, causes Andy to crash into a tree. Andy is knocked unconscious, and Sykes escapes. Later, at the Berkeley lecture hall, Dr. Markheim, the professors, Arnspiger and Helen, who has come with Martha from Los Angeles, await Andy's arrival. Having followed Martha, Gledhill and Pacciano also show up. Andy turns up an hour and a half late but delivers his lecture to a receptive audience. Andy then dashes out to meet Freddie, just moments before Pacciano gets word that the bloody scarf has been identified as Andy's. While talking on the street corner with Andy, Freddie assumes that he is from the syndicate and tries to bribe him into letting him go. When Andy asks him about Catherine, however, Freddie starts beating him. Just then, the police pull up, and Freddie runs onto some train tracks and is hit by an oncoming train. Andy slips away unnnoticed and returns to Freddie's house, where he finds Catherine, alive and well. Andy demands that Catherine return to Los Angeles with him, and on the way, she explains that on the night she disappeared, Freddie, who had taken Sykes's share of the syndicate money, dragged her away with him. To get back for his double-cross, Sykes then called the police and reported Catherine the victim of foul play. After Andy refuses to run away with her, Catherine jumps from the car and threatens to throw herself off a seaside cliff. Just as she is about to jump, Andy grabs her. Gledhill and Pacciano then drive up and, seeing Catherine safe in Andy's arms, tell him that the rabies story was a hoax. Later, Andy dedicates the cornerstone of his new university, as a proud Helen and still affectionate Catherine watch from the sidelines.