James Dean says this "play is the story of a young man named Jeffery Latham, who opened the door of a very ordinary, innocent-looking roadside diner, and he saw his whole life change " Mr. Dean (as Latham) plays a restless young man from Wisconsin, who has just ended his stint in Korea. With little luck hitchhiking after dark, Dean enters the diner, and orders coffee and a sandwich. Dean goes behind the counter to fix proprietor Murvyn Vye (as Mike Deegan)' s broken coffee pot, revealing he's worked in diners. Mr. Vye needs help in the coffee shop, and offers Dean a job, and a room. With no place to go, Dean happily accepts.
While tending tables, Dean meets pretty Pat Hardy (as Ann Burnett), who becomes his girlfriend (Hardy was a real-life friend of Dean). Dean feels his restless drifting may have ended, with a stable job, and relationship. After a date with Ms. Hardy, Dean overhears a conversation revealing his trusted benefactor is involved with local crime lord Edgar Stehli (as Matt Schreiber). Though disillusioned, Dean stays in town, intending to avoid criminal activity. Mr. Stehli and Vye , however, have other plans. Vye tricks Dean into transporting some stolen goods; and, while driving on an "unlighted road", Dean's car draws gunfire. Dean's speedy attempt to get away causes the other car to swerve out of control, and crash. Racing back to the diner, Dean learns the other driver, a state trooper, has died. Now a "cop killer", Dean must choose to work for gangster Stehli, or turn himself over to the police...
Appearing after the premiere of "East of Eden", this short drama was no great shakes, relatively speaking. Still, "The Unlighted Road" is a neat little play. Writer Walter C. Brown, Dean, and the cast perform admirably. With Brown's script, Dean is able create a sympathetic character. And, it's nice to see Dean, newly a big screen "movie star", still appearing in an occasional small screen drama.
****** The Unlighted Road (5/6/55) Justus Addiss ~ James Dean, Murvyn Vye, Pat Hardy, Edgar Stehli
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