19 user 11 critic

Riffraff (1947)

Approved | | Adventure, Comedy, Drama | 15 September 1947 (USA)
A plane takes off from Peru (in a long no-dialogue scene) in a storm with two passengers; it lands in Panama with one. The missing man had valuable oil-location maps; everyone who is after ... See full summary »


Ted Tetzlaff


Martin Rackin (original screen play)


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Complete credited cast:
Pat O'Brien ... Dan Hammer
Walter Slezak ... Eric Molinar
Anne Jeffreys ... Maxine Manning
Percy Kilbride ... Pop
Jerome Cowan ... Walter F. Gredson
George Givot ... Police Lt. Rues
Jason Robards Sr. ... Domingues (as Jason Robards)
Marc Krah ... Charles Hasso


A plane takes off from Peru (in a long no-dialogue scene) in a storm with two passengers; it lands in Panama with one. The missing man had valuable oil-location maps; everyone who is after them must deal with Dan Hammer, combination private eye, agent, and con man, who can "fix" anything for a fee. Nightclub singer Maxine is on Dan's side... or is she? The rest is lighthearted, white-suited tropical intrigue. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »





English | Spanish

Release Date:

15 September 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Riff-Raff See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film's earliest documented telecast took place in Philadelphia Saturday 23 June 1956 on WFIL (Channel 6); it immediately became a popular local favorite as it first aired in Altoona Sunday 15 July 1956 on WFBG (Channel 10), in San Francisco Sunday 22 July 1956 on KPIX (Channel 5), in Cleveland Saturday 25 August 1956 on KYW (Channel 3), in New Haven Sunday 21 October 1956 on WNHC (Channel 8), in Dayton Saturday 10 November 1956 on WLW-D (Channel 2), in Pittsburgh Tuesday 13 November 1956 on KDKA (Channel 2), in Chicago Tuesday 4 December 1956 on WBKB (Channel 7), and in Columbus Sunday 9 December 1956 on WLW-C (Channel 4). See more »


[Hammer, annoyed with a bar hustler, sends him crashing into a table]
Bar proprietor: You shouldn't do that, Mr. Hammer. It gives the place a bad reputation.
Dan Hammer: You mean a worse reputation.
See more »


Referenced in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) See more »


Written by Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney
Performed by Anne Jeffreys and backups
See more »

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User Reviews

Tetzlaff directs O'Brien in overlooked, and smashing-looking, "movie movie"
8 July 2002 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

One of the many felicities of Ted Tetzlaff's top-notch Riffraff, the cinematography of George Diskant can be best seen, unencumbered by dialogue, in the first few dazzling minutes. Torrential storms darken an airfield in Peru, where in the dead of night a cargo plane bearing two passengers departs for Panama; only one of them arrives. The opening previews Tetzlaff's pure-cinema approach; he lets the story unfold through images (and occasionally sounds) with a casual adroitness that remains striking more than half a century later.

At the center of the story is Pat O'Brien, a Canal Zone operative-for-hire. The surviving passenger engages him for protection, but doesn't survive for long. Then an oil company hires him to find a map, supposedly with the vanished man, of unclaimed oil fields in Peru. Walter Slezak wants it, too, but through strong-arm tactics. O'Brien, with the help of his driver Percy Kilbride and nightclub singer Anne Jeffreys, sets out in pursuit of the elusive document (which we know from almost the get-go hangs pinned to a screen in his room).

In retrospectives of film noir, Riffraff usually gets overlooked. While its genre is international intrigue and its touch on the light side, its conventions and, especially, its look, bring it to the fringes of the noir cycle. (And it's a better movie than two noirs released the same year which mine similar veins: Calcutta and Singapore.)

Bigger stars like Humphrey Bogart and Alan Ladd monopolized this tough-guy-in-ports-of-call genre, but O'Brien acquits himself honorably. Unfortunately, he was nearing 50 at the time, and his early-middle-age looks probably weren't what post-war audiences were looking for (Bogart, however, was exactly the same age). No matter: the real heroes of Riffraff are Tetzlaff and Diskant, who collaborated to make what Judith Crist used to call a `movie movie.'

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