Deadline at Dawn

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Deadline at Dawn
Deadline at Dawn movie poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Harold Clurman
Produced by Adrian Scott
Screenplay by Clifford Odets
Based on the novella 
by Cornell Woolrich
Starring Susan Hayward
Paul Lukas
Bill Williams
Music by Hanns Eisler
Cinematography Nicholas Musuraca
Edited by Roland Gross
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release dates
  • March 18, 1946 (1946-03-18) (Sweden)
  • April 3, 1946 (1946-04-03) (United States)
Running time
83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Deadline at Dawn is a 1946 film noir, the only film directed by stage director Harold Clurman. It was written by Clifford Odets and based on a novella by Cornell Woolrich (as William Irish). The RKO Pictures film release was the only cinematic collaboration between Clurman and his former Group Theatre associate, screenwriter Odets. The director of photography was RKO regular Nicholas Musuraca. The musical score was by German refugee composer Hanns Eisler.[1]


Alex Winkley (Bill Williams), a young Navy sailor, wakes up from a night of drinking in New York City and finds he has a wad of cash. His memory is hazy, but he knows he got it from a woman he had visited earlier in the evening, Edna Bartelli (Lola Lane).

With the help of a dance hall girl, June Goth (Susan Hayward), he attempts to return the money, only to find out that the woman from whom he got the cash is now dead. The sailor isn't sure if he's the killer or not. Alex and June, along with a philosophical cabbie (Lukas), stay up all night attempting to solve the murder mystery before the sailor has to catch a bus to the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia in the morning. Their deadline is at dawn.

During the film, there are many false leads and red herrings, involving a blind piano player named Sleepy Parsons (Miller), and a young couple. Bartelli had been in the business of blackmailing men with whom she had had affairs, so there are many possible suspects. The woman's brother Val (Calleia), adds a touch of menace to the plot. The surprise ending resolves all issues, including the relationship between Alex and June.



The dialogue contains Odets' trademark New York wisecracks. For example, while dancing at club early in the movie, the Hayward character likens the dance hall to a post office, filled with second class matter. Edna Bartelli greets her ex-husband by saying, "Aren't you dead yet?"

There are many "slice of life" characterizations of big city people in small roles, such as a tired banana salesman, an angry building superintendent, a refugee with a skin condition who has a crush on June, and a wisecracking sidewalk pitchman.

Odets' Group Theatre colleague Roman Bohnen appears in a bit part, as a grief-stricken man with a dying cat.


Critical response[edit]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz somewhat liked the film, writing, "Broadway's Harold Clurman takes his only stab at film directing, after the breakup of his Group Theatre, in this odd psychological thriller noted for its flowery dialogue and muddled story line ... It's penned by playwright Clifford Odets from a story by Cornell Woolrich. Though enjoyable by virtue of its distorted mise-en-scène, affection for NYC characters and its misplaced chatter, this is not art but run-of-the-mill film noir. Set in Manhattan, yet Deadline used no location shots but was filmed entirely in the studio's back lots. Cinematographer Nick Musuraca does a fine job creating an atmospheric scene of NYC's downtrodden and unhappy souls roaming the dark streets."[2]

DVD release[edit]

Warner Bros. released the film on DVD on July 13, 2010, in its Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5.[3]


  1. ^ Deadline at Dawn at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, November 11, 2004. Accessed: July 11, 2013.
  3. ^ Abrams, Simon. "Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume 5." July 20, 2010. Accessed 2011-11-19.

External links[edit]