John Garfield’s Last Film: He Ran All the Way

Just as I rekindled my interest in film noir, I discovered TCM’s Noir Alley, where they feature a film noir every Sunday morning at 10 am Eastern/9 am Central. “He Ran All the Way” starring John Garfield and Shelley Winters, was the pick of the week on June 18th and since it was Father’s Day, Garfield’s daughter, Julie, was on hand to help host Eddie Muller (the “Czar of Noir”) introduce the film and to talk about it afterwards. Julie Garfield is an actress whom you may have seen playing Robert De Niro’s wife in “Goodfellas” (1990). Muller asked her if she had been named after her father, who was born Jacob Julius Garfinkle and went by the nickname, Julie, with his close friends even after he became an actor. Julie said in the Jewish religion, you are not supposed to name children after living people. Still, she has a sneaking suspicion that they wanted to name her after her Dad.

“He Ran All the Way” (1951) was based upon a novel by the same name written by Sam Ross. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo and Hugo Butler. They were uncredited, along with director, John Berry, due to the Hollywood blacklist. John Garfield himself was blacklisted after the film and died a year after its release at the age of 39.

Garfield played Nick Robey, a small-time criminal, whose only friend, Al Molin, takes him along on a payroll heist, in spite of Robey’s apprehensions that his luck is running bad. Molin says he has enough luck for both of them. Well, he doesn’t. Molin gets shot and Robey shoots a police officer but gets away with the $10,000 payroll.

Part of the movie was filmed at Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach. This is the setting of the swimming pool where Robey goes to hide out, stashing the loot in a locker. While swimming in the pool, he meets Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters). She confides in him that she just can’t get the hang of swimming. Nick seizes on the opportunity to look like he is with this girl and gives her some tips on relaxing. He tries to help her float on the water but she’s too skittish. When she goes to leave, Nick grabs her roughly, scaring her. Boy, that was a huge red flag! But she allows him to take her home in a cab. Peg left her bag in the cab, giving Nick an excuse to go up after her and walk her all the way to her door. She invites him in and he meets her parents and her little brother, Tommy. The rest of the family goes out to a movie. When they return, Nick thinks the neighbors they are talking to are cops and he takes them hostage.

John Garfield is just remarkable in this role. One second he’s vulnerable and scared. A split second later, he’s a brutal and paranoid menace. Shelley Winters is terrific as the same type of trusting and naive soul she played in “A Place in the Sun,” although in this film, it’s hard to figure out how much of her behavior is because she really cares for Nick or because she feels responsible for subjecting her family to this horrific nightmare.

There are great scenes with all the supporting characters. Wallace Ford as Peg’s father, initially feels powerless to help his family until he realizes he will lose his daughter if he doesn’t man up. Selena Royle as Peg’s mother is left alone with Robey at one point. She gets her sewing machine needle stuck in her hand and faints. Bobby Hyatt played Peg’s little brother, Tommy, who initially sees Nick as bold and powerful until he thinks Nick hurt his mom. Gladys George has a small part as Nick’s awful mother, who certainly bears some responsibility for Nick’s bad character.

“He Ran All the Way” is available on TCM on Demand until June 25th. You can watch it online if you sign in with your cable provider.

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5 Responses

  1. rhonda says:

    I finally watched the movie last night, VJ, I borrowed the DVD from the library. You’re right, I just loved it and never would have known about it if you hadn’t posted about it. What a great movie! The acting was superb and I was riveted.

    • VJ says:

      That’s great, Rhonda, glad you enjoyed it and happy to hear the library had the DVD. Garfield was great in “Postman” but he was incredible in this film. That dinner scene with the turkey.! OMG!!

  2. rhonda says:

    Thanks so much for telling us about this movie, and the other info, too, VJ. I must watch it! I had no idea that John Garfield was only 39 when he died.

    • VJ says:

      You’re welcome, Rhonda. I’m sure you will love this film. I’ve always been a big fan of Shelley Winters and she was great in it too. After the movie was over, Julie Garfield said that Shelley drove everyone crazy on the set. lol (Something she must have heard about in acting circles when she was older, since she was only about 5 when this film was made)