7.3/10
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49 user 28 critic

Road House (1948)

Passed | | Action, Drama, Film-Noir | 4 November 1948 (USA)
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.

Director:

Jean Negulesco

Writers:

Edward Chodorov (screen play), Margaret Gruen (story) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Ida Lupino ... Lily Stevens
Cornel Wilde ... Pete Morgan
Celeste Holm ... Susie Smith
Richard Widmark ... Jefferson T. 'Jefty' Robbins
O.Z. Whitehead ... Arthur
Robert Karnes ... Mike
George Beranger ... Lefty
Ian MacDonald ... Police Captain
Grandon Rhodes ... Judge
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Storyline

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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 November 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dark Love See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,467
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Road House was director Jean Negulesco's first film for Twentieth Century-Fox. See more »

Goofs

Jefty is seen leaving the cabin with a rifle in his left hand and a can of tomato juice in his right hand. In the next shot when he actually exits the cabin he has the rifle in his right hand and the tomato juice in his left hand. See more »

Quotes

Lily: Well, I'm Lil Stevens, the new entertainer from Chicago. Right now I'd like to sleep.
Pete: Oh. The new equipment.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955) See more »

Soundtracks

Elsa's Dream (Einsam in trüben Tagen)
(uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Music and Lyrics by Richard Wagner
Played in the background while Ida and Cornel are together
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Behind a white piano gouged with cigarette burns, Lupino proves her mettle
7 September 2004 | by bmacvSee 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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