Jeopardy


1h 9m 1953
Jeopardy

Brief Synopsis

A woman desperately seeks help to prevent her trapped husband from drowning.

Film Details

Also Known As
Riptide
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Film Noir
Release Date
Feb 27, 1953
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 11 Feb 1953
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Dana Point, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the radio play "A Question of Time" by Maurice Zimm (broadcast undetermined).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 9m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,194ft (8 reels)

Synopsis

Looking forward to a two-week fishing vacation, Doug and Helen Stilwin and their son Bobby drive across the Mexican border and head down the coastline. On the winding, isolated road past Ensenada, they are stopped at a police roadblock, then waved on. As they drive away, Doug reveals that he has brought his old army pistol along for target practice. Eventually, the Stilwins reach the deserted beach where Doug used to fish with his buddies when he was in the Army. While Bobby is exploring the rickety jetty, his foot gets stuck between the boards, and Doug goes out to help him. Bobby makes it safely back to the beach, but a plank collapses and sends Doug crashing to the ground. Before he can move, a piling breaks and lands on his lower leg, pinning Doug to the rocks underneath. Helen and Bobby try various means of dislodging him, but the piling cannot be moved. Thinking they might be able to pull the piling off if they could tie it to the car, Doug suggests that she return to the deserted ranch where they had stopped for water earlier and look for a heavy rope. With an estimated four hours to go before the tide reaches Doug under the pier, Helen sets off for the ranch, leaving Bobby with his father. After a harrowing drive, Helen reaches the ranch. She breaks into the tool shed and has just found a rope when she notices an American man standing outside. She asks him for help and quickly drives away with him, unaware that he is leaving behind the concealed body of a murdered man. On the road, the taciturn stranger, Lawson, finds Doug's gun in the glove compartment and threatens to kill Helen if she does not cooperate with him. They are soon stopped by police officers, who are searching for a dangerous escaped criminal, but Helen, with the gun pressed into her side, can say nothing. When the police go, Lawson takes the wheel but refuses to take Helen to her family. They soon approach another roadblock, and when Helen tries to escape, Lawson drives through, with the police in pursuit. One of the tires blows out, and while Lawson is changing it, Helen notices the prison number on the back of his shirt. Meanwhile, at the beach, Doug and Bobby try unsuccessfully to flag down a passing ship as the tide gets higher. Back on the road, a police car approaches Helen's car and fires at the fugitive, but Lawson escapes. Aware that police cars travel in pairs, Lawson decides to lay low for a while, and they pull off the road. Helen tries to convince Lawson to go to the beach by offering him Doug's clothes and identification papers, and suggestively tells him she would do anything to save her husband. Lawson agrees, and they arrive at the beach as the tide is getting dangerously high. Lawson tries attaching a rope to the piling and towing it off with the car, but the heavy timber will not budge. Undeterred, Lawson resourcefully uses a board to get leverage, and Helen manages to free Doug just as the rope breaks. With Doug safely resting on the beach, Lawson reminds Helen of her promise to go away with him, but when she stoically agrees, he is so impressed by her spirit and dedication to her husband that he simply says goodbye. Before he gets into the car, they notice one of the tires is flat. As the sound of police sirens grows near, Helen and Lawson shake hands, and he escapes under the pier. Alone with her thoughts, Helen muses on the choices she has made.

Film Details

Also Known As
Riptide
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Film Noir
Release Date
Feb 27, 1953
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 11 Feb 1953
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Dana Point, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the radio play "A Question of Time" by Maurice Zimm (broadcast undetermined).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 9m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,194ft (8 reels)

Articles

Jeopardy


Everyone has their favorite family vacation horror story but this one takes the prize. In Jeopardy (1953), Barry Sullivan and Barbara Stanwyck play a married couple traveling with their small son (Lee Aaker) along the Mexican coast. After scouting for an ideal location for their fishing trip, they set up camp near a deserted village. The little boy wastes no time exploring his surroundings and promptly gets stranded on a derelict pier. When his father attempts a rescue, he falls beneath the rotting timbers and is pinned in the sand. High tide is just a few hours away and so is certain death unless Stanwyck can find a rescue party for her husband. She races off in the family car to seek help and is apprehended by Ralph Meeker, an escaped convict who commandeers her vehicle with no interest in saving Stanwyck's husband.

A taut, seventy-minute exercise in suspense, Jeopardy is a perfect example of why John Sturges was considered a master craftsman by Hollywood studio executives. Though modestly budgeted, Sturges elicited excellent performances from his three stars and transformed Jeopardy from a routine thriller into a surprise box-office hit for MGM. It was no easy task considering the original source material was a radio play, A Question of Time by Maurice Zimm. Screenwriter Mel Dinelli had to expand the material to three times its original length to make it a feature.

Jeopardy was Barbara Stanwyck's first film after taking a year off from her screen career. Her original intention had been to retire after Clash by Night (filmed in 1951 but not released until 1952) but after spending some time in Europe, she said, "I simply didn't know what to do with myself, so I went back to work." It was a lucky break for Sturges who later said, "I recall one aspect of her approach to her work that struck me as meaningful. I commented one day on how purposely and yet gracefully she moved, the marvelous sense of contained power in the way she walked, stood, sat down, or whatever. She told me years ago in New York she had the standard heel hitting clack-clack jolting walk of a chorus girl, which she was then. She went to the zoo, and for days and weeks studied the tigers, and made herself move as they did. That straight-on attack to become what she wanted to be seems to me a strong indicator of the kind of make-up she has as a person."

Co-star Barry Sullivan was also grateful for Stanwyck's participation, stating "of the films I did with Miss Stanwyck only Jeopardy sticks in my mind as having any merit, but all three occasions (the others were The Maverick Queen and Forty Guns) cling to my memory as fun experiences."

Director: John Sturges
Producer: Sol Baer Fielding
Screenplay: Mel Dinelli
Cinematography: Victor Milner
Editor: Newell P. Kimlin
Art Direction: William Ferrari, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Helen Stilwin), Barry Sullivan (Doug Stilwin), Ralph Meeker (The Fugitive), Lee Aaker (Bobby Stilwin).
BW-70m. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford
Jeopardy

Jeopardy

Everyone has their favorite family vacation horror story but this one takes the prize. In Jeopardy (1953), Barry Sullivan and Barbara Stanwyck play a married couple traveling with their small son (Lee Aaker) along the Mexican coast. After scouting for an ideal location for their fishing trip, they set up camp near a deserted village. The little boy wastes no time exploring his surroundings and promptly gets stranded on a derelict pier. When his father attempts a rescue, he falls beneath the rotting timbers and is pinned in the sand. High tide is just a few hours away and so is certain death unless Stanwyck can find a rescue party for her husband. She races off in the family car to seek help and is apprehended by Ralph Meeker, an escaped convict who commandeers her vehicle with no interest in saving Stanwyck's husband. A taut, seventy-minute exercise in suspense, Jeopardy is a perfect example of why John Sturges was considered a master craftsman by Hollywood studio executives. Though modestly budgeted, Sturges elicited excellent performances from his three stars and transformed Jeopardy from a routine thriller into a surprise box-office hit for MGM. It was no easy task considering the original source material was a radio play, A Question of Time by Maurice Zimm. Screenwriter Mel Dinelli had to expand the material to three times its original length to make it a feature. Jeopardy was Barbara Stanwyck's first film after taking a year off from her screen career. Her original intention had been to retire after Clash by Night (filmed in 1951 but not released until 1952) but after spending some time in Europe, she said, "I simply didn't know what to do with myself, so I went back to work." It was a lucky break for Sturges who later said, "I recall one aspect of her approach to her work that struck me as meaningful. I commented one day on how purposely and yet gracefully she moved, the marvelous sense of contained power in the way she walked, stood, sat down, or whatever. She told me years ago in New York she had the standard heel hitting clack-clack jolting walk of a chorus girl, which she was then. She went to the zoo, and for days and weeks studied the tigers, and made herself move as they did. That straight-on attack to become what she wanted to be seems to me a strong indicator of the kind of make-up she has as a person." Co-star Barry Sullivan was also grateful for Stanwyck's participation, stating "of the films I did with Miss Stanwyck only Jeopardy sticks in my mind as having any merit, but all three occasions (the others were The Maverick Queen and Forty Guns) cling to my memory as fun experiences." Director: John Sturges Producer: Sol Baer Fielding Screenplay: Mel Dinelli Cinematography: Victor Milner Editor: Newell P. Kimlin Art Direction: William Ferrari, Cedric Gibbons Music: Dimitri Tiomkin Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Helen Stilwin), Barry Sullivan (Doug Stilwin), Ralph Meeker (The Fugitive), Lee Aaker (Bobby Stilwin). BW-70m. Closed captioning. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Riptide. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, portions of the film were shot on location in Dana Point, CA. Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan repeated their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on March 15, 1954, which also featured Tony Barrett as "Lawson" and Harry Shearer as "Bobby."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 1953

Released in United States Winter February 1953