26 user 14 critic

Backfire (1950)

While recuperating from wartime back injuries at a hospital, veteran Bob Corey is visited on Christmas Eve by a beautiful stranger with an even stranger message.


Vincent Sherman


Lawrence B. Marcus (screenplay) (as Larry Marcus), Ivan Goff (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
Viveca Lindfors ... Lysa Radoff
Dane Clark ... Ben Arno / Lou Walsh
Virginia Mayo ... Nurse Julie Benson
Edmond O'Brien ... Steve Connelly
Gordon MacRae ... Bob Corey
Ed Begley ... Police Capt. Garcia
Frances Robinson ... Mrs. Blayne
Richard Rober ... Solly Blayne
Sheila MacRae ... Bonnie Willis (as Sheila Stephens)
David Hoffman David Hoffman ... Burns


Bob Corey, recovering from a series of operations in a Veterans' hospital, learns that his friend, Steve Connelly, with whom he intended to buy a ranch, has disappeared under circumstance that indicate he may have been involved in a murder. Accompanied by his nurse, Julie Benson, with whom he has fallen in love, Bob follows a series of clues and incidents, including three more murders, that leads to a gambler, masquerading as an undertaker to avoid taxes on his illegal income, has a whole lot to do with his friend's predicament. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


That "White Heat" girl turns it on again!..


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

11 February 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Into the Night See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. 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?


Features two future Best Supporting Actor Oscar winners: Edmond O'Brien and Ed Begley. See more »


Bob Corey (Gordon MacRae) and Julie Benson (Virginia Mayo) are eating dinner and discussing Steve Connelly's (Edmond O'Brien) disappearance they are drinking wine and eating and there is a bottle of wine in the middle of the table next to a burning candle. Just after a close up of MacRae when it goes to a wide shot the plates are gone as is the wine bottle and the glasses. They have been replaced by coffee cups and the waiter asking if they would like more coffee. See more »


Police Captain Garcia: [to Sgt. Pluther, who's firing a fleeing suspect] Hold it. You're liable to hit a taxpayer.
See more »


Referenced in Major Crimes: Poster Boy (2013) See more »


It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Lyrics by Edmund Hamilton Sears
Music by Richard Storrs Willis
Heard at hospital christmas party.
See more »

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User Reviews

Complex, exciting, and visually rich, but straining slightly under its own weight
25 June 2011 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

Backfire (1950)

A complicated, interesting and sometimes forced story about two ex-G.I.s with dreams of a ranch. But the realities of post-War America set in, with shades of old gangsterism (this is a Warner Bros. film, remember) and with siren calls from lonely women and a murder unexplained. The story is made more complicated (and interesting) by layering a number of flashbacks into the flow, and you have to really pay attention to keep the chronology straight. But this is a plus, in the end, because it's a richly dense movie you could easily watch a second time. Just the range of scenes is ambitious, from gorgeous pouring rain at night to a boxing arena to a sunny army rehab swimming pool to, of course, a detective's office. The photography (under Carl Guthrie) layers up many scenes, some are visually sensational (he also shot the great "Caged" a few months later).

Viveca Lindfors makes some stunning appearances here as Lysa, and you can see why Hollywood thought she might make a new Swedish import like Ingrid Bergman. And she can act, too, with an emotional intensity and range that makes you wonder why her career didn't, in fact, take off. Almost to set her off as the mysterious brooding beauty, the lead woman is the cute, cheerful, all American Virginia Mayo, who plays nurse and friend Julie perfectly. In a way you see in just these two how well cast, and typecast, two women can be, and how the director, Vincent Sherman, works so well with their differences, though we all wish for more of Lindfors.

Likewise for the two leading men. The main star is a pretty boy, and a decent actor, Gordon MacRae as Bob, but MacRae lacks presence and magnetism, and maybe true ability. At first we accept this because Bob is just lying in a hospital bed, with Julie cheerfully attending. But then up he gets, pain all gone, and the real movie starts. His best friend is the underrated noir staple Edmond O'Brien, who isn't pretty at all, but trying, I think, to be something of a Bogart, a regular guy named Steve, with guts and depth and reserve.

With Lindfors, he's still the best performer here, and they have a few scenes together that are the best acted, if not the best written, parts of the movie. If we take the Bergman/Bogart comparison out of "Casablanca" to an extreme here with Lindfors/O'Brien in "Backfire," we can see their scene by the piano as a kind of wartime flashback, shoehorned into the movie for no good reason except to say they must be fated to meet and fall in love. But this isn't easy when someone else already loves the girl, and that someone has a gun, and a warped mind.

Why exactly this doesn't all come together is one of the mysteries of the movies, where there are so many pieces to a puzzle that contribute successively, and concurrently, and getting them perfect is really really hard. Ultimately it's the director we look to for the big decisions (as well as the day to day control), and Sherman had shown once before his mastery of a complex story in "Mr. Skeffington." In a way, this one is just so fractured, following the film noir penchant for flashbacks and femme fatales and confusing plots, it would take a miracle, or a Michael Curtiz, to pull it off (I'm thinking "Mildred Pierce" more than "Casablanca" here).

Still, it's a great film to get lost in, and to pull out the subtleties where they really work well.

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