“He Ran All The Way”
Directed by John Berry. Screenplay by Hugo Butler and Guy Endore, based on the novel by Sam Ross. Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Starring John Garfield, Shelley Winters, Wallace Ford, Selena Royle, Gladys George, Norman Lloyd, Bobby Hyatt. Released to theaters on June 19, 1951. Released to DVD and Blu Ray by Kino-Lorber’s classics division in August of 2015.
In his final performance before his untimely death in 1952 at the age of 39, John Garfield excels as a sweating, fidgety paranoid who meets a girl, is invited to her apartment, and holds her family hostage after committing a robbery. Garfield culminates a comparatively short 13-year film career with one of his finest performances.
Garfield plays small time crook Nick Robey who flees a botched robbery with $10,000 in cash, leaving his partner (Norman Lloyd) for dead after a gun battle where an officer is killed. While on the run he becomes friendly with a woman, offers to take her home, and holds her family hostage. When Nick sees his picture on the front page of the newspaper as a wanted man he descends further into jittery paranoia.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Garfield’s performance is his conveying Nick’s paranoid mistrust of all around him, and how it conflicts with his desire to settle into the family circle despite the hostage situation he’s created. In one particularly powerful scene, Nick sends the young boy of the family to the store with money and prepares an elaborate turkey dinner for the family his is holding hostage. They sit at the table with him, but refuse to eat his food, instead having a separate meal of stew that the mother has prepared. A desperate Nick forces them at gunpoint to eat his dinner. Nick’s own home life is depicted in the opening scenes, as we are shown Nick’s dark home life, with a drunken mother (Gladys George) who slaps and berates him. Thus, when he holds a happy, supportive family unit hostage, he is conflicted by his desire to fit in.
While Garfield’s career-defining performance anchors the narrative, a cast of talented veterans supports him. Wallace Ford is especially outstanding as the frustrated family patriarch who is allowed to go to work and about his business with the understanding that he will not talk about the fact that fugitive Nick is hiding out in his apartment, lest his family be killed. Shelley Winters shines as the long-suffering woman, whose loneliness causes her to bring the demonstratively hotheaded Nick to her home, thus igniting the situation. Ford would play Winters’ father again in “A Patch of Blue” (1965), which would be Ford’s final film.
Director Berry and screenwriters Butler and Endore were blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, as was Garfield, who testified but refused to name names. Already plagued with long standing heart trouble, the stress of this situation compounded his tension and he died less than a year after this movie was released, following a successful stint on Broadway in a revival of Clifford Odets’ “Golden Boy.”
The Kino Lorber blu ray, which was screened for this review, is a beautiful restoration, the sharpness of its picture really helping James Wong Howe’s wonderful cinematography to stand out. Director Berry beautifully frames each shot, and uses edits and bursts of orchestration to show how the central character’s emotions continue to grow and flash.
“He Ran All The Way” is a consistently brilliant film on several levels, and the newly restored blu ray, also available on DVD, is most highly recommended for all film collections and libraries.