Cast & Crew
Cynical veteran Danny Haley, who is part owner of a bookie joint, narrowly avoids arrest when his place is raided by police for the second time in three months. As police captain Garvey has no solid evidence against them, Danny and his partners, Barney and Augie, are released. That night at Sammy's Café, where Danny's girl friend, Fran Garlan, sings, Danny meets fellow Air Corps veteran Arthur Winant, who is in town buying athletic equipment for his health club. After Danny spies a $5,000 equipment check in Arthur's wallet, he casually mentions a poker game to the good-natured stranger, and Arthur takes the bait. Although Arthur is cautious, he soon falls into an easy rapport with Danny's pals, including another veteran named Soldier, and regales them with stories of his overprotective brother Sidney. Fran watches the game, and soon realizes that the gamblers are letting Arthur win. Believing that he is on a winning streak, Arthur readily agrees to another game the next night, and leaves to meet Sidney, who is flying in from Canada. When he runs out of cash during the second game, Arthur starts to leave but, convinced that he will get lucky again, accepts a loan from Danny. However, this time, the gamblers ensure that Arthur loses by cheating, and he reluctantly signs over his company's $5,000 check. The next day, news of Arthur's suicide is published in the newspapers. Afraid that his death will be traced to them, Danny, Barney, Augie and Soldier hold off cashing the check. That night, Danny discounts Barney's fears that he has been followed, but when Barney is murdered, the gamblers are called in for questioning by Garvey. Garvey reveals that Arthur's brother Sidney has vowed revenge against the gamblers who "murdered" his brother, and has confirmed his homicidal intentions in a letter to the police. Danny still refuses to admit any involvement in Arthur's death, but when Soldier disappears, Danny and Augie decide to find Sidney before he finds them. Unwilling to make a commitment to Fran, Danny leaves without a word of farewell. In Los Angeles, Danny poses as an insurance agent and visits Arthur's wife Victoria on the pretext that Sidney had an insurance policy on Arthur's life. Although neither Danny nor Augie is able to find a photograph of Sidney or get any information about him, Danny falls in love with Victoria, and becomes fond of her son Billy. Victoria finally reveals that Sidney is a psychopath, and that in an effort to protect Billy, she burned all photographs of him. When Danny reveals his true identity, Victoria throws him out, and Danny is then arrested for Augie's murder. Garvey, believing in Danny's innocence, agrees to his release on condition that he leave Los Angeles, and the police then reject Danny's suggestion that he be used as a decoy for the real killer. Danny tracks down Soldier at Swede's, a small nightclub and casino in Las Vegas, and Soldier gets him a job as a croupier. When Fran shows up at the casino, she and Danny reunite, and Swede hires her to perform. On the night of Fran's debut, Danny gambles with his earnings. Fran takes a call from Victoria, who warns her that Sidney has tracked Danny to Las Vegas. As Fran brings the message to Danny, he doubles his winnings, and asks her to send a cashier's check for the amount to Victoria the next day. Believing that Danny is in love with Victoria, Fran plans to return to Chicago. Danny, meanwhile, is attacked in his hotel room by Sidney. After a struggle, Sidney starts to strangle Danny, but Garvey and the police burst into the room. Garvey shoots Sidney, who then escapes through a window, after which Garvey reveals that he took Danny's suggestion and used him as a decoy. The next day, Danny reunites with Fran before she boards her flight to Chicago.
William J. Cartledge
Franz F. Roehn
Mike P. Donovan
James R. Scott
R. L. Johnston
John Meredyth Lucas
Dark City - Charlton Heston in the 1950 Film Noir, DARK CITY
With an assist from Ketti Frings, novice screenwriters John Meredyth Lucas and Larry Marcus' original story begins with three gamblers suddenly put out of business when their bookie parlor is raided. Danny Haley (Heston) and associates Augie and Barney (Jack Webb & Ed Begley) sucker ex-flyer Arthur Winant (Don DeFore) into betting and losing a great deal of money not his own. Danny learns only later that Augie used a marked deck; when Winant unexpectedly commits suicide the gamblers can't agree on whether or not to spend their shady earnings. The money becomes a lesser issue when Winant's violent brother Sidney, an unseen presence, proceeds with a campaign of revenge murders. Nobody knows what this Sidney looks like. To learn more about the man who wants to kill him, Danny goes to Los Angeles and gets close to Arthur Winant's widow Victoria (Viveca Lindfors), pretending to be an insurance investigator. But not even Victoria has a photo of her brother-in-law. His deception unmasked, the troubled Danny relocates to Las Vegas and avails himself of aid from "Soldier" (Harry Morgan), an old buddy who wanted no part of the swindle back East. Singer Fran Garland (Lizabeth Scott) follows, too much in love with Danny to hide her feelings for him.
Dark City certainly displays a wide streak of bleak noir moodiness. Its characters move in drab surroundings and drift through dark night streets as if looking for a non-existent exit to a better life. Larry Marcus orchestrates a selection of ex-G.I. losers and users lacking a higher purpose. Only the slow-witted Soldier expresses doubts about taking the guileless Arthur Winant to the cleaners. Disillusioned by a wartime tragedy involving his wife and his best friend, Danny Haley's only interest is making money. He helps fleece Arthur Winant with the same non-committal attitude by which he strings along the shamelessly loyal Fran.
Although Charlton Heston contributes an impressively mature performace, the character he plays is essentially an amoral jerk. Haley sets up his mark Winant, even allowing the man to think he has a romantic chance with Fran. Although he stands up for the passive Soldier, Danny shows little remorse for his actions and has no sense of duty to the law, here represented by a rather anemic policeman on the case, Captain Garvey (Dean Jagger). The main motivator for Danny is fear of being strangled -- the phantom stalker Sidney Winant's murders are frighteningly efficient. Danny also sees nothing wrong with dating the emotionally distressed Victoria Winant and attaching himself to her small son. Dark City accepts Danny's actions as just another necessary chess move in the effort to evade the law and save his own neck.
What's more, by transferring the onus of guilt onto the maniacal Sidney Winant, the film never requires Danny Haley to fully face his culpability, beyond mailing some money to Victoria. He instead softens his outlook and accepts Fran as a real partner in a new honest life. Charlton Heston's personal debut is a standout, but Dark City is a not a strong star vehicle.
Producer Wallis put a lot of production oomph into Dark City, which was just one of six feature films he produced in 1950. Cinematographer Victor Milner provides the noir mood lighting and Franz Waxman's dynamic score makes a positive impact as well. Sensitive director William Dieterle elicits a moving performance from Don DeFore and skilfully handles the supporting personalities. Viewers will appreciate the contributions of Jack Webb (caustic & selfish), Ed Begley (nervous, ailing) and Harry Morgan (feeble but loyal). Making a late, brief appearance in an action scene is the immediately recognizable Mike Mazurki, a memorable noir fixture from Murder, My Sweet and Night and the City. After suffering through a weak part in Warners' Backfire, Viveca Lindfors seems equally out of place as a widowed war bride housewife. Ms. Lindfors' brief Hollywood career was plagued by parts unsuited to her talents.
In a bland "girlfriend" role, Hal Wallis' earlier discovery Lizabeth Scott doesn't fare much better. Fran Garland repeatedly throws herself at Danny's feet, no matter how poorly he treats her, and follows him across country like a faithful puppy. She has little function in the story except to be there when Danny finally decides that he needs her. Ms. Scott sings several nightclub standards, but the dubbing by singer Trudy Stevens is distracting, and the musical interludes stop the story cold. Dark City walks and talks like a hardboiled noir, but it plays as a compromise.
Charlton Heston's career certainly got off to an enviable start, but real success wouldn't arrive until Cecil B. DeMille gave him a lead in his overblown circus epic The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952. The quality of his films improved through the 'fifties until DeMille tapped him again for The Ten Commandments. Heston so distinguished himself as the perfect actor for larger-than-life historical & Biblical characters, that he won the lead in 1959's Ben-Hur almost by default. No other Hollywood actor has had a career even remotely resembling Heston's.
Olive FIlms' DVD of Dark City is from good but not perfect Paramount source materials. The image can be a bit contrasty. Light shrinkage mars a middle section for a few minutes, but not enough to become overly distracting. No extras or special features appear, and there are no subtitles or closed captions.
For more information about Dark City, visit Olive Films. To order Dark City, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Dark City - Charlton Heston in the 1950 Film Noir, DARK CITY
Why didn't you answer the phone?- Fran Garland
There was nobody I wanted to talk to.- Danny Haley
The working title of this film was No Escape. Pre-production news items reported that Paramount was considering Burt Lancaster to star in this film. Other news items and information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that some scenes were shot at the following Los Angeles area locations: Griffith Park Observatory, Union Station, North Hollywood, an amusement pier in Ocean Park, the Wilshire Plaza Hotel and the Valley Vista Motel on Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley, CA. In addition, background shots were filmed in Las Vegas, NV and Chicago, IL. This film marked Charlton Heston's theatrical film debut. Hester made his motion picture debut in the 1941 film Peer Gynt (see below), but that was a student production with a limited release. About Heston's performance in Dark City, the Variety review noted that "his film debut is impressive."