Cast & Crew
O. Z. Whitehead
Pete Morgan manages Jefty's Road House for his longtime friend, Jefty Robbins, who inherited the place from his father. Jefty is attracted to Lily Stevens, his new singer, but Pete thinks she is just another in a long string of girls he will eventually have to send on her way. Jefty, however, is convinced that Lily is different, even though she is playing hard-to-get with him. Although Pete tries to pay Lily off and put her on a train, she is not about to leave and makes a successful debut at the club, accompanying herself on piano. Jefty asks Pete to teach Lily how to bowl in the roadhouse's alley but she shows little interest in the sport and quite a bit more in Pete. Susie Smith, the club's cashier who is fond of Pete, soon becomes jealous of Lily. Before Jefty leaves on a hunting trip with some friends, he tells Lily that she is not like any other girl he has ever met. Lily then tries to join Pete for a boat ride on a lake, but he refuses to take her as she is Jefty's girl. When Lily contradicts that notion, Pete arranges to pick her up later. Susie also goes along, although the women's friendship is decidedly frosty. Later, Pete comes to Lily's rescue when a drunk causes a scene at the club. Afterward, Lily tells Pete about her childhood and they are soon engaged in a passionate kiss. Pete confesses that he loves her, and it is obvious she feels the same way about him. Their idyll is interrupted when Jefty returns from his hunting trip and shows Pete a marriage licence he has obtained in his and Lily's names. When Jefty phones Lily to tell her they are going to be married, she balks at his presumptuousness. Pete and Lily then discuss how they are going to tell Jefty about their romance, and Pete finally volunteers to speak with Jefty. When Pete tells Jefty that he and Lily are planning to be married, Jefty throws him out. Pete leaves Jefty a note stating that he and Lily are leaving that night and that he has taken $600 owed to him. As the couple waits at the railroad station, two policemen arrive and take them to be interviewed by their captain. Jefty claims that the entire week's receipts have been taken from the roadhouse's safe, but Pete insists he took only $600. After Susie states that the receipts totaled $2,600, Pete is held for trial and Lily accuses Jefty of framing him. Later, Pete is tried and found guilty of grand larceny. Before sentencing, Jefty talks to the judge in private and persuades him to parole Pete into his custody. The judge announces that Pete will be on probation for two years, but will have his job back and will be obligated to repay Jefty from his paycheck. Pete and Lily realize that Jefty has them trapped. Later, Jefty informs them that he, Pete, Lily and Susie are going to spend a few days at his hunting cabin. Pete tells Lily he wants to cross the Canadian border, which is only fifteen miles from the cabin, with her. Lily refuses to go, however, as she feels that violating the terms of his parole will only land Pete in more trouble. Once at his cabin, Jefty taunts Pete and Lily with the possibility of their escaping to Canada, and that night, when they are all outside, Jefty starts fooling around with his rifle. After Lily accuses Jefty of taking the missing money and setting Pete up, Jefty hits her. Pete retaliates by fighting Jefty and knocking him out. Lily then decides that she will go with Pete to Canada, and they set off on foot through the woods. Susie, meanwhile, discovers a deposit envelope for the receipts in Jefty's coat pocket and runs after Pete. When Susie gives the envelope to Pete, she is shot in the arm by a pursuing Jefty. In the fog-enshrouded lakeside, Pete then cranks up the motor on a boat and sends it off empty. After Jefty wastes bullets shooting at the boat, Pete tries to grab his gun, and a fight ensues. Lily gets possession of the gun and shoots Jefty when he threatens to hit her with a rock. As Jefty dies, he reminds Pete that he once told him that Lily was different. Dawn breaks as Pete, Lily and Susie head out of the woods and back to civilization.
O. Z. Whitehead
Jack G. Lee
Jack Edwards Jr.
James B. Clark
Harry M. Leonard
J. M. Tegner
Darryl F. Zanuck
Road House (1948)
Road House may sound tawdry, with a title that evokes a rowdy juke joint (the design suggests a rural nightclub bar with an aggressively rustic design), a romantic triangle that turns pathological and a performance from Widmark that evolves from immature hothead to dangerously erratic sadist. But for all its urban toughness in a back country town setting, it's a handsomely made film with adult banter and a tough cookie with a tender center in British-born but thoroughly Americanized and streetwise Ida Lupino. It was her first film since leaving Warner Bros., where she had been under contract for years, fighting her way out of ingénue roles for tougher, stronger parts. She wanted more control over her roles and her films and made it happen with her first project as an independent agent. She discovered the original unpublished story (then called The Dark Love), bought and developed the property, and sold it to Darryl Zanuck at 20th Century Fox as a package with herself attached as star.
Lupino stage manages her introduction beautifully, found sitting presumptively behind the desk of club manager Pete, her long legs stretched out with a casual sense of arrogance and disdain that instantly antagonizes him. Being the newest "discovery" from Jefty, who has a history of being a pushover for good looks and no ear for talent, no one expects much from Lily, especially when she debuts in a sleek, off-the-shoulder gown that looks designed to stand out from the rural casual attire of the patrons and distract from her talent. Sitting at the piano, she places her ever-present cigarette on the instrument (where it inevitably burns a groove into the wood) and starts performing for the crowd. Lupino didn't just take up the challenge of doing her own singing in her own untrained, husky voice, she staked her debut performance on an iconic saloon song of lost love and late night regret: "One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)." As Susie (Celeste Holm), the cashier, observes with amazement and appreciation, "She does more without a voice than anyone I ever heard." Lupinio's voice is indeed weak and not particularly musical, but her smoky delivery is evocative, filled with understanding and regret as if she's lived the Johnny Mercer's lyrics of wounded hearts and bruised romanticism. Lupino sings four songs in all, including "Again," a tune penned especially for the film which went on to top the Hit Parade.
While Lupino holds the center, Richard Widmark steals the rest of the film as Jefty, the impulsive owner of the road house. It was only Widmark's third film (he's fourth billed in the credits) but he had made a striking debut in Kiss of Death (1947) as giggling psychopath Tommy Udo, a sadistic killer who (in the film's most memorable scene) pushes an old lady in a wheelchair down a staircase. The part of Jefty was originally developed for an older man (Lee J. Cobb was considered), but Widmark's volatility and edgy menace in Kiss of Death and The Street with No Name (1948) inspired Lupino and Zanuck to rework the part. Making Jefty the same age as Pete had the added bonus of giving the romantic rivalry a more competitive edge and personal grounding. Zanuck described Widmark's presence in the role as "like sitting on a volcano." The threat not just of violence but mad menace is always under the surface. Jefty is a more shaded character than Tommy Udo, an emotionally immature man whose attraction to Lily increases the more aloof she becomes, and Widmark fills him out with a convincing balance of swagger and anger and a terrifying drive of self-righteous revenge in the face of betrayal.
Like Ida Lupino, director Jean Negulesco had just left a long career at Warner Bros., where he had made such handsome crime thrillers as The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) and Nobody Lives Forever (1946) as well as the elegant melodramas Humoresque (1946) and Johnny Belinda (1948, for which he received his only Oscar® nomination as Best Director). He sculpts the world of Road House almost entirely in the studio, from the self-consciously countrified road house itself (with its mounted deer heads adorning the walls) to the slices of Jefty's cabin in the woods, the picnic at the lake and the escape into the forest. Shrouded in fog and mist, there's nothing realistic about them, more primordial symbol than naturalistic location, but they have the same oppressive, claustrophobic feel of the shadowy city sets of conventional noir and they set the atmosphere of the film off nicely.
Producer: Edward Chodorov
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: Edward Chodorov, story by Margaret Gruen & Oscar Saul
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Art Direction: Maurice Ransford, Lyle R. Wheeler
Music: Cyril J. Mockridge
Film Editing: James B. Clark
Cast: Ida Lupino (Lily Stevens), Cornel Wilde (Pete Morgan), Celeste Holm (Susie Smith), Richard Widmark (Jefty Robbins), O.Z. Whitehead (Arthur), Robert Karnes (Mike).
by Sean Axmaker
Road House (1948)
Road House (1948) - Cornel Wilde, Ida Lupino & Richard Widmark Star in the 1948 Melodrama ROAD HOUSE on DVD
Road House, beautifully directed by Jean Negulesco, is certainly one of the more underrated movies of the 1940s. A melodrama in the film noir style, it stars, in addition to Lupino, the dynamic Richard Widmark in only his third film, the solid and usually underappreciated Cornel Wilde, and Celeste Holm in a thankless role she handles with ease. The story is essentially a love triangle (or quadrangle if you count Holm) which develops after road house owner Widmark hires Lupino to sing and play piano for his customers. He also falls hard for her, but Lupino is clearly out of his league as far as maturity levels go. Instead, she and road house manager Wilde gradually fall in love after a rocky start. When Widmark finds out, he exacts revenge in a deliciously psychopathic manner.
Widmark's performance, in fact, eventually turns into a revisiting of his famous debut as Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947); even Udo's giggle comes back. By the final section of Road House, where Widmark is basically keeping the other characters hostage in a cabin, he is simply terrifying. One feels as if Widmark could explode at any moment, and that's really where much of the picture's noir feeling comes from. Even though Widmark was still new to movie audiences, his persona had already been so strongly established with Tommy Udo that Widmark's mere presence brought a sense of menace and doom. That said, Widmark still shades his character with underpinnings of loneliness; one feels for the guy when he learns that Lupino truly doesn't love him back, and that makes him a lot more interesting than he otherwise might have been. (On the DVD's commentary track, Eddie Muller intriguingly suggests that Widmark's character may even be a virgin.)
All four main players have a field day with the razor-sharp dialogue by screenwriter Edward Chodorov (who also produced); Road House is positively brimming with sarcastic, witty one-liners. And while Widmark is memorable, it's really Ida Lupino's movie. Not only does she get a meaty role, she clearly revels in wearing one stunning '40s outfit after another; at one point, she even fashions a sexy, makeshift bikini out of two scarves and proceeds to dive into a lake. Lupino also enjoyed the chance to sing on screen. While she had played singers before, notably in The Man I Love (1947), her voice had always been dubbed - but not here. Lupino's renditions of "One For My Baby" and "Again" proved very popular at the time and are still quite evocative. Helping Lupino out are excellent musical arrangements and orchestrations by Earle Hagen. As if all that isn't enough, Road House even offers up an outstandingly well-staged bar fight, with another satisfying fistfight at movie's end.
Fox Home Entertainment's DVD of Road House shows off cinematographer Joseph LaShelle's crisp visuals and hard angles extremely well, and his silky night photography looks especially fine. Fox has included nice extras on this disc. A 19-minute documentary, "Killer Instincts: Richard Widmark and Ida Lupino at Twentieth Century Fox," features good clips and talking-head comments by film historians who are familiar from other Fox Film Noir releases. There's also a commentary track from Eddie Muller and Kim Morgan, an interactive pressbook and a superb selection of still photos.
Fox has done away with the packaging design of its previous noir releases. Gone are the printed inserts and the spine numbering system, which is too bad for collectors. On the other hand, the design still uses original artwork and taglines, which are much appreciated.
Also receiving a new Fox Film Noir release are Moontide (1942), starring Ida Lupino and Jean Gabin, and Elia Kazan's first-rate, much-delayed Boomerang! (1947), starring Dana Andrews as a D.A. who switches sides mid-case to defend the man he had been prosecuting.
For more information about Road House, visit Fox Home Entertainment.To order Road House, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
Road House (1948) - Cornel Wilde, Ida Lupino & Richard Widmark Star in the 1948 Melodrama ROAD HOUSE on DVD
Well, I'm Lil Stevens, the new entertainer from Chicago. Right now I'd like to sleep.- Lily
Oh. The new equipment.- Pete
Hey, Susie! What do you think of this one? She's somethin', isn't she?- Sam
If you like the sound of gravel.- Susie
She does more without a voice than anybody I've ever heard!- Susie
Although all Hollywood Reporter production charts list Norbert Brodine as the film's directory of photography, only Joseph LaShelle is credited onscreen. According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, this production was initiated by actress Ida Lupino. In September 1947, the studio purchased the rights to an original story and screenplay entitled Dark Love from Lupino, who had commissioned them from writers Margaret Gruen and Oscar Saul. Included in the $130,000 purchase price were the acting services of Lupino, which cost $100,000. When, in an early draft of the script "Jefty" was depicted as an older man, studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck proposed Charles Bickford for the role, and Widmark for "Pete." Victor Mature and Lee J. Cobb were also considered for the roles of Pete and Jefty, respectively.
Road House was director Jean Negulesco's first film for Twentieth Century-Fox after a long career at Warner Bros. Negulesco went on to have a long, successful career at Twentieth Century-Fox making such films as Three Came Home (1950), Titanic (1953) Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) and The Best of Everything (1959). According to studio records, the scenes in the roadhouse's bowling alley were shot at a real alley located near the studio. A contemporary source claims that Louis Bacigalupi played the role of the drunk who interrupts "Lily's" act, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A radio adaptation of the story was broadcast on the Screen Guild Players program on June 2, 1949 and starred Lupino, Lloyd Nolan and Richard Widmark.