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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pitfall (1948)

An insurance executive (Dick Powell) would seem to be living the American dream. Nice job, pretty wife (Jane Wyatt) and a son (Jimmy Hunt), nice suburban home. But he's dissatisfied with the banality of his daily existence. But investigating a case of insurance fraud, he meets a beautiful model (Lizabeth Scott). That meeting will turn into a complicated web of jealousy, lies and murder. Based on the novel by Jay Dratler (LAURA) and directed by Andre De Toth, this is a film noir that goes off the beaten path. Powell's insurance investigator is an ordinary husband and father, not a gumshoe or a criminal, who finds himself through circumstances and incredibly bad decisions caught in a web of deceit that upends his whole life. Scott's femme fatale is more sympathetic than the usual noir heroine. Scott's normally stiff acting is put aside and she's very good here in what probably is her best performance. She's real here, not a pouting vixen luring men to their doom (at least not intentionally). But it's two supporting performances that stand out. Raymond Burr's creepy psychopathic ex-cop makes your skin crawl, his big burly imposing physique indicating the dangerous animal he is. Then there's Jane Wyatt who's the true heroine of the film. Unlike her FATHER KNOWS BEST role, she's not the bubbly housewife but a strong, sensible no-nonsense woman whose outrage at her husband's indiscretions is justifiable and palpable. Her strength is a nice contrast to Scott's helpless babe. With Ann Doran, John Litel and Byron Barr.

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