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Road House (1948)

Passed  |   |  Action, Drama, Film-Noir  |  22 September 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,396 users  
Reviews: 36 user | 20 critic

A night club owner becomes infatuated with a torch singer and frames his best friend/manager for embezzlement when the chanteuse falls in love with him.



(screen play), (story), 4 more credits »
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Title: Road House (1948)

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Complete credited cast:
Susie Smith
Jefferson T. 'Jefty' Robbins
Robert Karnes ...
George Beranger ...
Ian MacDonald ...
Police Captain
Grandon Rhodes ...


Jefty, owner of a roadhouse in a backwoods town, hires sultry, tough-talking torch singer Lily Stevens against the advice of his manager Pete Morgan. Jefty is smitten with Lily, who in turn exerts her charms on the more resistant Pete. When Pete finally falls for her and she turns down Jefty's marriage proposal, they must face Jefty's murderous jealousy and his twisted plots to "punish" the two. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


There's nothing like a woman to come between men ! See more »


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 September 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dark Love  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In a 1969 interview, director Jean Negulesco recalled that when Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck gave him the assignment to direct 'Road House', Zanuck told him, "This is a bad script. Three directors have refused it. They don't know what they're doing, because basically it's quite good. Remember those pictures we used to make at Warner Bros., with Pat O'Brien and Jimmy Cagney, in which every time the action flagged we staged a fight and every time a man passed a girl she'd adjust her stocking or something, trying to be sexy? That's the kind of picture we have to have with 'Road House.'" See more »


Susie: She does more without a voice than anybody I've ever heard!
See more »


Referenced in This Means War (2012) See more »


One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Ida Lupino
See more »

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User Reviews

Behind a white piano gouged with cigarette burns, Lupino proves her mettle
7 September 2004 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

'...and then by bus to a throaty restless obsessed temptress 'thrush' slouched in mortal danger atop a white piano, singing the blues and chain-smoking, somewhere in the long, dark, wet and winding night between Chicago and 'the coast.' – James McCourt, "Mawrdew Czgowchwz"

Jean Negulesco's Road House must have inspired that sentence (or rather fragment). With her voice shredded by Scotch and Luckies, Ida Lupino is the thrush, the canary, whose smoldering cigarettes leave a bar-code of burns scarring the smart paint of her white piano. She's been brought up from Chicago by Richard Widmark to lure paying customers into the cocktail lounge of his establishment – Jefty's Road House – up in the piney woods a few miles from the Canadian border. (On one side, it's a bowling alley – that kind of joint; the only game in town).

In the past, Widmark has been known to engage no-talents who strike his romantic fancy. So when Lupino arrives, Widmark's boyhood pal and now Man Friday Cornel Wilde, cruel to be kind, tries to send her packing. He fails ('Silly boy,' she scolds him after slapping his face). But Wilde was wrong; Lupino brings down the house at her debut, with a gravelly, sprechstimme rendition of the Mercer/Arlen 'It's A Quarter To Three.' ('She does more without a voice than anybody I've ever heard,' marvels Celeste Holm, another worker toiling under Widmark's thumb.)

Maybe it would have been better had she packed. Widmark assumes that Lupino's as mad about him as he about her and runs off to get a marriage license. But after starting off on the wrong foot, Wilde and Lupino find a grudging romance kindling between them, to Holm's chagrin – she assumed she was Wilde's girl. (The whole plot's based on unfounded assumptions.)

When Widmark stumbles upon the truth, he frames Wilde for stealing the week's take. And that's only the start of Widmark's delusional plot to redress the wrong he thinks been done him, to an extent that Lupino turns on him: 'And you know what else? Your mind's gone. You're crazy, Jefty. Crazy!' Since, in film noir, that's about the worse thing you can say to someone with a mad little glint in his eye (and demented giggles to match it), Widmark goes totally unhitched....

Like the following year's Beyond The Forest, Road House is an overheated melodrama set in the cool climate of hunting lodges and icy lakes where loons (not only the avian kind) call through the dusk. It's a pastoral backwater where routine passions build up to explosive force, without the many vents cities offer for release. (We see it in a drunken bear of a backwoodsman who comes violently onto Lupino, thinking her torch songs were sung not for a paycheck but expressly for him.)

Negulesco was working at the top of his game in Road House, as was Widmark (though we had seen his gleeful psycho before). With his constitutionally dour manner (maybe it's just his face), Wilde was not one to set celluloid aflame, but the part of victim fits him; Holm, alas, has to grapple with a thankless, ill-thought-out character (it's an Eve-Ardenish part that needs another splash of vinegar).

But Lupino gets one of her best roles, and runs with it. Scion of a British theatrical family whose roots go back to Renaissance Italy, she never received the star treatment or the prestige productions her talents deserved (she did, however, help to shatter the directorial glass ceiling). As Lily Stevens, world-weary chanteuse of a certain age, she stays the headliner in a dark, accomplished and entertaining movie. It's a late-show treasure that makes a television an appliance worth having.

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Is it just me or are there sparks between Pete and Jefty? deuchler
Ida Lupino Dhmdowntown-1
What a great film noir. richsass
Twin Peaks?? lostwillyum
Hey TCM or Fox Channel: How about showing Road House? Noir Fest, Hello.. goodvibe61
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