Cast & Crew
As New York beautician Clara Calhoun, whose shop is a front for a bookmaking operation, closes up for the night, she gives a silent signal to two masked gunmen lurking outside. The gunmen then burst into the shop and start to rob Clara and her unsuspecting assistant, Marie Westin, of their betting money. When a policeman happens by and interrupts the robbery, one of the robbers, Duke Martin, shoots him in cold blood. Before dying, the officer shoots and wounds the other robber, "Cowie" Kowalski. After fleeing in a laundry truck, Duke leaves Cowie at a doctor's house, reminding him of their plan to implicate Steve Ryan in the crime. Later, when Clara and Marie are questioned by detectives Mickey Ferguson and Jim Chubb, Marie describes both robbers as black-haired, while Clara insists that the "shooter" had sandy hair. Clara's version is believed, and soon the sandy-haired Steve Ryan, who routinely drives the laundry truck and whose Navy scarf was found at the shop, is brought in for questioning. After a round of tough questioning by Mickey and Chubb, Steve is then taken to a hospital, where Cowie identifies him as the killer. Although Steve protests that Cowie is framing him because he beat him up for making a pass at his sister Rosie, the detectives are unsympathetic. Then, after Clara corroborates Cowie's identification, Steve is arrested. Sure of her brother's innocence, Rosie pleads his case to Mickey, but Mickey persists in his rigorous investigation of Steve. Meanwhile, Clara, who has plotted with Duke, her boyfriend, to steal the money from Jacklin Ainsworth, her gambling boss and owner of the Club Bombay, begins to drink, angering Duke. Later, after Cowie dies of his wounds, Rosie goes to Clara's apartment and confronts her about her identification, and the two women brawl. Having secretly witnessed the fight, Duke then announces that he is going to "straighten out" Marie before Rosie talks with her and orders Clara to go into hiding until Steve's trial. Unable to find Marie at her new beauty shop, Rosie accepts a ride home from Mickey, who is also looking for Marie, and on the way, Mickey confesses his doubts about Steve's guilt. At home, Rosie receives a message from Duke, telling her to come to the Club Bombay, where he works as manager. While Rosie meets Duke at the club, Mickey inspects Clara's now-deserted apartment and finds a photograph of Duke. Having arrested Duke previously, Mickey recognizes the photo and goes to the club to question him about Clara. As the police-hating Duke has suggested that he knows who is framing Steve, Rosie denounces Mickey in front of the killer. Later, a concerned Mickey warns Rosie to stay away from Duke, but Rosie insists that she will do anything to free Steve. Mickey then waits outside Clara's hideout apartment and reveals his presence to Duke as he is about to go into the building. After Duke accuses Clara of double-crossing him and leaves, Mickey goes up to speak with her. Mickey informs Clara that Marie was found dead in the river and advises her to call him later at Rosie's house. Duke, meanwhile, has convinced an alcoholic named Wino to confess to the robbery and assures Rosie that Wino's statements will free Steve. While Rosie goes home to get money for Wino, Duke returns to Clara's apartment. Duke eventually finds a frightened Clara calling Mickey at a drugstore. Clara arranges to meet Mickey at her apartment, but before the detective arrives, Duke shoots her. Duke then goes to the Club Bombay and shoots and robs Ainsworth. Aware that Clara had called Rosie's phone number, Duke waits for Rosie at the club and accuses her of betraying him. As Duke is about to shoot Rosie, Mickey, who had ordered a raid on the club, arrives with the police. Duke fires a round at Rosie, wounding her, but is then killed in a shootout with Mickey. Later, after Steve is released from jail, Mickey and Rosie enjoy a kiss.
Charles D. Brown
Robert P. Fox
John C. Higgins
Charles F. Riesner
Louis H. Sackin
George J. Teague
Railroaded (1947) marks an important step in the career of Anthony Mann when he was still honing his craft but already developing a personal style which would reach its zenith in his psychological Westerns, several of which starred James Stewart (The Naked Spur (1953), The Man from Laramie, 1955). His previous film, Desperate (also 1947), proved his ability to rise above the B-movie format and create a compelling crime drama that cleverly exploited all the elements that made the film noir genre so distinctive - deep shadows, unusual camera angles, doom-laden compositions and cynical, disillusioned characters in an amoral universe. Railroaded was a further refinement of this formula with Mann using his camera to visualize the inner conflicts of his main characters while simultaneously exploring connections between sex and violence and other noir tenets.
When you consider Mann's later work and his endlessly fascinating rogue's gallery of villains (Stephen McNally in Winchester '73 (1950), Robert Ryan in The Naked Spur, Lee J. Cobb in Man of the West (1958), etc.), it comes as no surprise that the gun-obsessed killer, Duke Martin, is the most compelling character in the film. As played by John Ireland, Duke is an unpredictable and dangerous screen presence who brings real menace and a nervous intensity to all his scenes. In comparison, the real hero of the piece, detective Ferguson is dull and plodding but what would you expect from Hugh Beaumont? (He played Beaver Cleaver's know-it-all father on the TV series Leave It to Beaver.) Even the underworld fringe characters are more colorful here such as Duke's venomous alcoholic mistress (Jane Randolph) and the effete nightclub owner of The Bombay Club who sprouts Oscar Wilde quotes like "women should be struck regularly like gongs!" and "you are not permitted to kill a woman who has injured you but nothing forbids you to reflect that she is growing older every minute."
The stylized cinematography by Guy Roe adds another layer of ominous foreboding to the proceedings and the opening robbery unfolds as a brilliantly designed storyboard. As the two masked gunmen enter the rear entrance of the beauty salon, one of the shopgirls retreats into the darkened work area where she is stalked by one of the robbers. We see the assailant's double-barreled gun move into the frame, growing larger, as he approaches the terrified girl (and the viewer) until her panic-stricken face, in extreme close-up, breaks into a piercing scream. We then see the silhouette of a passing policeman on the shop window. He draws his gun but is shot and crashes through the glass, creating further chaos in the darkness. It's visual storytelling that packs a punch with no dialogue and a minimum of exposition. Pure cinema.
Railroaded was the last film Mann would make for the poverty-row outfit, PRC, before it merged with J. Arthur Rank and became Eagle-Lion. His first film for that distributor would be T-Men (1947), which is generally considered Mann's first real commercial and critical success, and paved the way for bigger budgeted noirs with top stars such as Border Incident (1949) starring Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy and Side Street (1950) with Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, the doomed couple from Nicholas Ray's They Live by Night (1948).
Treated as no more than a highly effective B-movie by reviewers of its day, Railroaded is now recognized as one of the best low-budget noirs ever produced. As Jeanine Basinger wrote in her book, Anthony Mann, "Railroaded is an exercise in demonstrating what can be done with nothing. It is masterfully directed, and...held together by its overall lighting pattern, which is consistent and atmospheric even in scenes which do not call for visual pyrotechnics...In fact, Railroaded is something of a stylistic tour-de-force, with a beginning and ending that lifts it above the ordinary."
by Jeff Stafford
Oh, look what you are doing, ruining my cake. It isn't for you anyway.- Mrs. Ryan
Sometimes people put guns in cakes.- Prison Guard
How stupid! Who could eat a cake with a gun in it!- Mrs. Ryan
The working title of this film was Tomorrow You Die. Although a modern source states that both Railroaded! and the 1948 Twentieth Century-Fox film Call Northside 777 were based on a series of articles by James P. McGuire, no contemporary source confirms McGuire's connection to Railroaded! McGuire's articles chronicle an actual case involving a Chicago speakeasy proprietress who wrongfully implicated two men in the murder of a policeman. In the Fox film, a convicted man is cleared of the crime because of evidence gathered by a reporter. Hollywood Reporter news items add Mike Homa, Kenneth Farrell and Mira McKinney to the cast of Railroaded!, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.