Road House (1948 film)

Infobox Film
name = Road House

caption = Theatrical poster
director = Jean Negulesco
producer = Edward Chodorov
writer = Screenplay: Edward Chodorov Story: Margaret Gruen
Oscar Saul
starring = Ida Lupino
Cornel Wilde Celeste Holm Richard Widmark O.Z. Whitehead
music = Cyril J. Mockridge
cinematography = Joseph LaShelle
editing = James B. Clark
distributor = Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
released = September 22 1948 (U.S.A.)
runtime = 95 minutes
country = United States
language = English
budget =
amg_id = 1:41560
imdb_id = 0040740|

"Road House" (1948) is a "film noir" drama directed by Jean Negulesco, with cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. The picture features Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Celeste Holm, Richard Widmark, among others. [imdb title| id=0040740|title=Road House.]

The drama tells the story of Lily Stevens (Lupino) who takes a job as a singer at a roadhouse - complete with bowling alley. When Lily dumps the owner Jefty (Widmark) for his boyhood friend Pete Morgan (Wilde), problems begin. They only get worse when Jefty is rejected after proposing to Lily, causing Jefty to go on a murderous rage.

Lupino sings the classic Johnny Mercer song "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" in the film and the song written by Dorcas Cochran (words) and Lionel Newman (music), "Again" debuted in this film, and was also sung by her.


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.


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. 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.


* Ida Lupino as Lily Stevens
* Cornel Wilde as Pete Morgan
* Celeste Holm as Susie Smith
* Richard Widmark as Jefty Robbins
* O.Z. Whitehead as Arthur
* Robert Karnes as Mike
* George Beranger as Lefty
* Ian MacDonald as Police captain
* Grandon Rhodes as Judge

Critical reception

Writer Spencer Selby calls the film an "interesting melodrama that has a crisp forties look and slowly builds to a noirish climax." [cite book|author=Selby, Spencer |title=Dark City: The Film Noir |publisher=McFarland Classic|year=1984|id= ISBN 0-7864-0478-7]

Film critic Blake Lucas says the film "impresses first of all with its sharp dialogue exchanges between the characters and the bizarre look of the interiors" referring to the at once modern and rustic road house. [Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. "Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style," film noir analysis by Blake Lucas, page 244, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.]



External links

* [ Film Noir of the Week]
* [ "Road House"] at Senses of Cinema
* [ "Road House"] at Film Noir Alley

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