Blood Alley


1h 55m 1955
Blood Alley

Brief Synopsis

An American sailor breaks out of a Chinese jail and dodges Communist agents on the road to Hong Kong.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Action
Adventure
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 1, 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 28 Sep 1955
Production Company
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Sacramento River, California, United States; San Francisco Bay, California, United States; San Francisco--Sausalito, California, United States; San Rafael, California, United States; Stockton, California, United States; California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Blood Alley by Albert Sidney Fleischman (New York, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Synopsis

In a Communist Chinese prison cell, Merchant Marine Tom Wilder has remained sane for two years by talking to an imaginary woman he calls "Baby." When strangers offer him a means of escape, he accepts and a native, Big Han, takes him by sampan to the small village of Chiku Shan, and given a place to stay in the home of an American, Cathy Grainger. The Communists, in need of Western medical knowledge, have detained her father, a physician who came to the country several years earlier. Tom meets with the village elders, led by Mr. Tso, who explains that the people have spent a year planning an escape to Hong Kong. The 180 villagers, Tom learns, financed the bribe that got him released because they need an experienced sea pilot to navigate a boat through three-hundred-mile Formosa Strait, known as "Blood Alley." For the trip, the villagers plan to steal an antiquated stern-wheeler, which is being used as a ferryboat. They will first have to evade a patrol boat, then sail at night through the fog in order to elude Chinese gunboats in the strait. Although the villagers have carefully worked out all details of the escape, there are other problems: A village family headed by the ardent Communist supporter Old Feng are not privy to the plans, but would be blamed and executed for the disappearance of the rest of the villagers, so they will be abducted and taken along against their will. At first, Tom considers the villagers' scheme impossible, but later, mulling it over with Baby, becomes intrigued by the challenge of freeing the villagers from Communism. When soldiers come looking for Tom, Mr. Tso hides him in a coffin. Tom has left a map he has drawn from memory at Cathy's house and, fearing that it might alert the soldiers to the escape plan, he sneaks back to the house and kills an officer who is trying to rape her. The other soldiers leave before they realize their comrade is missing, and with mixed emotions, Cathy thanks Tom, and admits that she could have feelings for him. Although Tom is physically attracted to Cathy, he gruffly tells her not to "kid herself." Later, without Cathy's knowledge, her maid Susu suggests to Tom that her employer would make a good wife. Tom scares the maid away by pretending to love her instead, thus curtailing further attempts at matchmaking. As part of the escape plan, Mr. Tso's American-educated nephew Tack, the ferry's chief engineer, intentionally ruins the boat's antiquated boiler so that the authorities will install a new one. The night before they plan to steal the steamboat, Mr. Tso reports that Dr. Grainger, who was ordered to tend an ailing commissar, was put to death after his patient died. He asks Tom to tell Cathy, but Tom procrastinates. The next day, Tom, Tack and Big Han use smoke bombs and a replica of the steamboat's smoke stack to create the illusion that the boat has been destroyed in a fire. Tom then pilots the boat to the village, where it is loaded and boarded. When Cathy insists on staying behind with her father, Tom slaps her and brusquely tells her about the doctor's murder. After everyone is on board, they lure the patrol boat into a trap and sail away. Shortly after entering the strait, they encounter several Chinese navy gunboats, but the sailors laugh at the antiquated steamboat and let it pass. Although Tom is beginning to find Cathy hard to resist, he argues with her when she tells him her plans to go ashore at Honghn Bay to confirm her father's death. After villagers discover that members of the Feng family poisoned their food supply, the tainted food is discarded and Tom orders stringent rationing. In addition, fresh water and wood for the boiler is running low. During a storm, one of the Fengs attacks Tom in the pilothouse. In the ensuing fight, Tom knocks out his assailant, but suffers many bruises and wounds. Cathy nurses his injuries, and the next morning declares that she loves him. Tom replies tactlessly that he will not want her around in Hong Kong. At Honghn Bay, the travelers gather wood from the ruins of wrecked ships, along with fresh water and fish. When they are ready to leave, Tom puts the Fengs ashore to save food, but then offers them a choice between continuing on the journey or remaining with Old Feng, who has instigated the troublemaking. The family unanimously decides to abandon their elder, who is killed when gunboats unexpectedly shoot at them. After rescuing Cathy, who confirmed her father's death, Tom escapes the gunboats by hiding the steamboat in shallow, foliage-filled water and turning off the engine. The villagers then get out and pull the boat out of danger. The next evening, after navigating the steamboat into the Hong Kong port, Tom says good-bye to "Baby" and tells Cathy he wants her to stay with him.


Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Action
Adventure
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 1, 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 28 Sep 1955
Production Company
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Sacramento River, California, United States; San Francisco Bay, California, United States; San Francisco--Sausalito, California, United States; San Rafael, California, United States; Stockton, California, United States; California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Blood Alley by Albert Sidney Fleischman (New York, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Articles

Blood Alley


Robert Mitchum was originally cast as Lauren Bacall's co-star in Blood Alley (1955), an action film from John Wayne's production company, Batjac. Mitchum was to have played the anti-Communist hero, an American merchant marine captain who is freed from a prison in China and takes a boatload of villagers on a 300-mile freedom trek to Hong Kong. Bacall provides the love interest as a doctor's daughter who comes along for the ride after her father has been stoned to death by the Communists. As filming began, a conflict quickly escalated between Mitchum and director William A. Wellman Ð even though the pair had worked successfully before and Wellman had guided Mitchum through his star-making role in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). According to film historian Lawrence J. Quirk, tension reached boiling point on the set of in Blood Alley when Mitchum played "one practical joke too many on the crew" and Wellman saw to it that he was removed from the film.

After considering Gregory Peck and Bacall's husband, Humphrey Bogart, as Mitchum's replacement, the Duke himself stepped in - a pattern established in such other Wayne-produced movies as Hondo (1953), in which he replaced Glenn Ford; and The High and the Mighty (1954), in which he took on a role intended for Spencer Tracy. Wayne also directed some scenes of in Blood Alley when Wellman became temporarily ill. Bacall got on well with Wayne, whom she recalled as "to my surprise warm, likable and helpful." Wayne, in turn, enjoyed working with Bacall so much that 11 years later he requested her as his leading lady in his final film, The Shootist (1976). Bacall also approved of Wellman's direction of in Blood Alley, terming it "salty and terrific." Among Wellman's accomplishments in the film was making the "Formosa straits" journey look completely authentic even though it was filmed at San Rafael, CA.

Bacall related in her autobiography that gossip columnist Hedda Hopper had, for some reason, campaigned to keep Wayne from hiring her for in Blood Alley. Bacall had given Hopper the cold shoulder after that until a party where Clifton Webb corralled the two of them and insisted that they make up. Bacall, who had been drinking martinis, told Hopper she'd been "a bitch to try and keep me from working." Hopper agreed and suggested that, to even the score, Bacall should give her a good kick. "Whereupon she turned around and I kicked her in the ass - most unladlylike but very martini-like," Bacall wrote. "Whereupon everyone laughed loudly and a truce was declared."

Director: William A. Wellman, John Wayne (uncredited)
Producer: John Wayne
Screenplay: based on the novel by Aaron Sidney Fleischman
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Editor: Fred MacDowell
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: John Wayne (Capt. Tom Wilder), Lauren Bacall (Cathy Grainger), Paul Fix (Mr. Tao), Joy Kim (Susu), Berry Kroeger (Old Feng), Mike Mazurki (Big Han).
C-116m. Letterboxed.

by Roger Fristoe
Blood Alley

Blood Alley

Robert Mitchum was originally cast as Lauren Bacall's co-star in Blood Alley (1955), an action film from John Wayne's production company, Batjac. Mitchum was to have played the anti-Communist hero, an American merchant marine captain who is freed from a prison in China and takes a boatload of villagers on a 300-mile freedom trek to Hong Kong. Bacall provides the love interest as a doctor's daughter who comes along for the ride after her father has been stoned to death by the Communists. As filming began, a conflict quickly escalated between Mitchum and director William A. Wellman Ð even though the pair had worked successfully before and Wellman had guided Mitchum through his star-making role in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). According to film historian Lawrence J. Quirk, tension reached boiling point on the set of in Blood Alley when Mitchum played "one practical joke too many on the crew" and Wellman saw to it that he was removed from the film. After considering Gregory Peck and Bacall's husband, Humphrey Bogart, as Mitchum's replacement, the Duke himself stepped in - a pattern established in such other Wayne-produced movies as Hondo (1953), in which he replaced Glenn Ford; and The High and the Mighty (1954), in which he took on a role intended for Spencer Tracy. Wayne also directed some scenes of in Blood Alley when Wellman became temporarily ill. Bacall got on well with Wayne, whom she recalled as "to my surprise warm, likable and helpful." Wayne, in turn, enjoyed working with Bacall so much that 11 years later he requested her as his leading lady in his final film, The Shootist (1976). Bacall also approved of Wellman's direction of in Blood Alley, terming it "salty and terrific." Among Wellman's accomplishments in the film was making the "Formosa straits" journey look completely authentic even though it was filmed at San Rafael, CA. Bacall related in her autobiography that gossip columnist Hedda Hopper had, for some reason, campaigned to keep Wayne from hiring her for in Blood Alley. Bacall had given Hopper the cold shoulder after that until a party where Clifton Webb corralled the two of them and insisted that they make up. Bacall, who had been drinking martinis, told Hopper she'd been "a bitch to try and keep me from working." Hopper agreed and suggested that, to even the score, Bacall should give her a good kick. "Whereupon she turned around and I kicked her in the ass - most unladlylike but very martini-like," Bacall wrote. "Whereupon everyone laughed loudly and a truce was declared." Director: William A. Wellman, John Wayne (uncredited) Producer: John Wayne Screenplay: based on the novel by Aaron Sidney Fleischman Cinematography: William H. Clothier Editor: Fred MacDowell Music: Roy Webb Cast: John Wayne (Capt. Tom Wilder), Lauren Bacall (Cathy Grainger), Paul Fix (Mr. Tao), Joy Kim (Susu), Berry Kroeger (Old Feng), Mike Mazurki (Big Han). C-116m. Letterboxed. by Roger Fristoe

John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection


The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection - featuring five classic films from the larger-than-life American hero - will debut on DVD May 3 from Warner Home Video. All five titles in the Collection, including Blood Alley, McQ, The Sea Chase, Tall in the Saddle and The Train Robbers, will be available on DVD for the first time.

Born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, John Wayne first worked in the film business as a laborer on the Fox lot during summer vacations from U.S.C., which he attended on a football scholarship. He met and was befriended by John Ford, a young director who was beginning to make a name for himself in action films, comedies and dramas. It was Ford who recommended Wayne to director Raoul Walsh for the male lead in the 1930 epic Western The Big Trail, and, although it was a box office failure, the movie showed Wayne's potential.

For the next nine years, Wayne worked in a multitude of B-Westerns and serials in between bit parts in larger features. Wayne's big break came in 1939, when Ford cast him as the Ringo Kid in the adventure Stagecoach. Wayne nearly stole the picture from his more seasoned co-stars, and his career as a box-office superstar began. During his 50 year film career, Wayne played the lead in 142 movies, an as yet unsurpassed record, and was nominated for three Academy Awards®, winning the Best Actor award in 1970 for his performance in True Grit.

Details of The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection Films

Blood Alley (1955) - An American seafarer patrolling the South Seas is asked by the daughter of a missionary doctor killed by the Communists to help transport the citizens of a small Chinese town to freedom in Hong Kong. This action-adventure based on A. S. Fleischman's novel, marks the first on-screen pairing of movie legends John Wayne and Lauren Bacall.

DVD special features include:

Newsreel footage
- The Hollywood Foreign Press Honors John Wayne
- Crusade for Freedom
- John Wayne and The Legion Poppy Sale (silent clip)
- Air Force Honors the Cast of Blood Alley
-1955 Promos on Blood Alley - Wayne discusses how he made it into the movies; "the monster" of movie land; the Mitchell BNC camera and his use of his home movie camera to capture scenes while on Blood Alley
- John Wayne trailer gallery

McQ (1974) - John Wayne forcefully enforces the law in this high-velocity thriller that's a revenge western set in the big city. Police Lieutenant Lon McQ (Wayne) investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements of the police department dealing in confiscated drugs. Directed by John Sturges (Ice Station Zebra, The Magnificent Seven), McQ also stars Eddie Albert (Roman Holiday) and Colleen Dewhurst (Annie Hall, Dying Young).

DVD special features include:

- Featurette
- John Wayne trailer gallery

The Sea Chase (1955) - John Wayne and Lana Turner are a formidable romantic team in this harrowing adventure directed by Academy Award-nominee John Farrow (Wake Island). Sea captain Kal Erhlich (Wayne) is an anti-Nazi German freighter captain at the outset of World War II attempting to sail his ship from Australia to the North Sea rather than risk internment. Both Allied and German ships follow in pursuit, while Erhlich battles storms, sharks, and romances.

DVD special features include:

- John Wayne trailer gallery

Tall in the Saddle (1944) - In this fast-paced entertaining western, John Wayne stars as Rocklin, a cowboy who upon arriving at a ranch to work as a cowhand finds his employer was just murdered. Although he has no friends, and no money, Rocklin stays in town, intent on tracking the killers and uncovering a plan to inherit the dead employer's riches.

DVD special features include:

- John Wayne trailer gallery

The Train Robbers (1973) - The action never stops in this western starring John Wayne, Ann-Margret and Ricardo Montalban. A gunhand named Lane (Wayne) is hired by a widow, Mrs. Lowe (Ann-Margret), to find gold stolen by her husband so that she may return it and start fresh. However, once they cross the border into Mexico to recover the loot, they discover two very different pursuers: a large group of bandidos and a lone horseman (Montalban), both of whom know their every move.

DVD special features include:

Two featurettes
Working with a Western Legend - an inside look at Wayne with stuntmen Jerry Gatlin, Dean Smith and Terry Leonard
The Wayne Train
- John Wayne trailer gallery

John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection

The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection - featuring five classic films from the larger-than-life American hero - will debut on DVD May 3 from Warner Home Video. All five titles in the Collection, including Blood Alley, McQ, The Sea Chase, Tall in the Saddle and The Train Robbers, will be available on DVD for the first time. Born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, John Wayne first worked in the film business as a laborer on the Fox lot during summer vacations from U.S.C., which he attended on a football scholarship. He met and was befriended by John Ford, a young director who was beginning to make a name for himself in action films, comedies and dramas. It was Ford who recommended Wayne to director Raoul Walsh for the male lead in the 1930 epic Western The Big Trail, and, although it was a box office failure, the movie showed Wayne's potential. For the next nine years, Wayne worked in a multitude of B-Westerns and serials in between bit parts in larger features. Wayne's big break came in 1939, when Ford cast him as the Ringo Kid in the adventure Stagecoach. Wayne nearly stole the picture from his more seasoned co-stars, and his career as a box-office superstar began. During his 50 year film career, Wayne played the lead in 142 movies, an as yet unsurpassed record, and was nominated for three Academy Awards®, winning the Best Actor award in 1970 for his performance in True Grit. Details of The John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection Films Blood Alley (1955) - An American seafarer patrolling the South Seas is asked by the daughter of a missionary doctor killed by the Communists to help transport the citizens of a small Chinese town to freedom in Hong Kong. This action-adventure based on A. S. Fleischman's novel, marks the first on-screen pairing of movie legends John Wayne and Lauren Bacall. DVD special features include: Newsreel footage - The Hollywood Foreign Press Honors John Wayne - Crusade for Freedom - John Wayne and The Legion Poppy Sale (silent clip) - Air Force Honors the Cast of Blood Alley -1955 Promos on Blood Alley - Wayne discusses how he made it into the movies; "the monster" of movie land; the Mitchell BNC camera and his use of his home movie camera to capture scenes while on Blood Alley - John Wayne trailer gallery McQ (1974) - John Wayne forcefully enforces the law in this high-velocity thriller that's a revenge western set in the big city. Police Lieutenant Lon McQ (Wayne) investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements of the police department dealing in confiscated drugs. Directed by John Sturges (Ice Station Zebra, The Magnificent Seven), McQ also stars Eddie Albert (Roman Holiday) and Colleen Dewhurst (Annie Hall, Dying Young). DVD special features include: - Featurette - John Wayne trailer gallery The Sea Chase (1955) - John Wayne and Lana Turner are a formidable romantic team in this harrowing adventure directed by Academy Award-nominee John Farrow (Wake Island). Sea captain Kal Erhlich (Wayne) is an anti-Nazi German freighter captain at the outset of World War II attempting to sail his ship from Australia to the North Sea rather than risk internment. Both Allied and German ships follow in pursuit, while Erhlich battles storms, sharks, and romances. DVD special features include: - John Wayne trailer gallery Tall in the Saddle (1944) - In this fast-paced entertaining western, John Wayne stars as Rocklin, a cowboy who upon arriving at a ranch to work as a cowhand finds his employer was just murdered. Although he has no friends, and no money, Rocklin stays in town, intent on tracking the killers and uncovering a plan to inherit the dead employer's riches. DVD special features include: - John Wayne trailer gallery The Train Robbers (1973) - The action never stops in this western starring John Wayne, Ann-Margret and Ricardo Montalban. A gunhand named Lane (Wayne) is hired by a widow, Mrs. Lowe (Ann-Margret), to find gold stolen by her husband so that she may return it and start fresh. However, once they cross the border into Mexico to recover the loot, they discover two very different pursuers: a large group of bandidos and a lone horseman (Montalban), both of whom know their every move. DVD special features include: Two featurettes Working with a Western Legend - an inside look at Wayne with stuntmen Jerry Gatlin, Dean Smith and Terry Leonard The Wayne Train - John Wayne trailer gallery

Quotes

Trivia

Robert Mitchum was fired from the film after an altercation in which he shoved the film's transportation manager into San Francisco Bay.

Notes

The title card, which reads: "William A. Wellman's Blood Alley," appears twice in the opening credits, once in Chinese characters and once in English. The final title card at the end contains an acknowledgment of the United States Department of Defense and United States Coast Guard for their cooperation and assistance. "Blood Alley" is a nickname for the Formosa Strait. Throughout the film, the character "Tom Wilder" talks to a non-existent character that he imagines hovers above him. No dialogue is heard during the storm sequence.
       According to several January 1955 news items, Robert Mitchum was originally cast in the role of Wilder, but was fired by director Wellman shortly after location shooting began in San Francisco. Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety news items, both dated January 13, 1955, reported that Mitchum pushed the company transportation boss, George Coleman, into the San Francisco Bay. However, an January 18, 1955 Los Angeles Mirror article refuted that Mitchum dunked a co-worker, stating he was fired for excessive late-night carousing and trying to use company buses for after-hour partying in San Francisco.
       A January 17, 1955 Daily Variety news item reported that although John Wayne's business partner, co-producer Robert Fellows, had announced that Wayne would not take over the part, Jack L. Warner negotiated with Wayne after unsuccessful attempts to interest Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart in the role. According to a January 26, 1955 Los Angeles Times news item, Wayne also temporarily took over directing while Wellman suffered from influenza.
       Although Fred MacDowell is listed as the film editor in the opening credits, all Hollywood Reporter production charts name Ralph Dawson in that capacity. According to Sam O'Steen's autobiography, Dawson, who was near retirement, was in charge and supervised MacDowell, who did the actual cutting. O'Steen stated that he served as an apprentice to the film editors. According to reviews and Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items, portions of the film were shot on location in California in Stockton, San Rafael, Sausalito, on the San Francisco Bay, along the Sacramento River and the northern California coast. A February 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Charley Leone, who wrote for Voice of America, played an extra in the film as research for a series of stories he was writing about the two hundred Chinese-Americans hired for the film. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items also added the following actors to the cast: James B. Leong, Chester Gan, and as the knife thrower, Weaver Levy.
       Blood Alley was the first released film of Wayne's Batjac Productions, Inc., which was incorporated on June 9, 1954. Batjac produced most of Wayne's films until his death in 1979, as well as producing a few films starring other actors. According to a September 1955 Daily Variety article, Wellman asked composer Roy Webb and technical advisor W. F. Hsueh to write the song in the Chinese language that actress Joy Kim sings during the film. The article went on to state that, following the success of The High and the Mighty theme song , Wellman met with Warner Bros. music department head Ray Heindorf to discuss hiring a lyricist to write English words for the song. No additional information about an English-language version of the song has been found.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 1955

Released in United States on Video July 2, 1990

Released in United States on Video July 25, 1990

CinemaScope

Released in United States on Video July 2, 1990

Released in United States on Video July 25, 1990

Released in United States Fall October 1955