Road House (1948 film)
For the 1989 film, see Road House (1989 film).
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jean Negulesco|
|Produced by||Edward Chodorov|
|Music by||Cyril J. Mockridge|
|Editing by||James B. Clark|
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
|Release date(s)||September 22, 1948
|Running time||95 minutes|
Road House (1948) is a film noir drama directed by Jean Negulesco, with cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. The picture features Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Celeste Holm, Richard Widmark, among others.
The drama tells the story of Lily Stevens (Lupino) who takes a job as a singer at a roadhouse—complete with bowling alley. When Lily dumps the owner Jefty (Widmark) for his boyhood friend Pete Morgan (Wilde), problems begin. They only get worse when Jefty is rejected after proposing to Lily, causing Jefty to go on a murderous rage.
Lupino sings the classic Johnny Mercer song "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" in the film. The song "Again", written by Dorcas Cochran (words) and Lionel Newman (music), debuted in this film, and was also sung by her.
Pete Morgan manages Jefty's Road House for his longtime friend, Jefty Robbins, who inherited the place from his father. Jefty is attracted to Lily Stevens, his new singer, but Pete thinks she is just another in a long string of girls he will eventually have to send on her way. Jefty, however, is convinced that Lily is different, even though she is playing hard-to-get.
Although Pete tries to pay Lily off and put her on a train, she is not about to leave and makes a successful debut at the club, accompanying herself on piano. Jefty asks Pete to teach Lily how to bowl in the roadhouse's alley but she shows little interest in the sport and quite a bit more in Pete.
Susie Smith, the club's cashier who is fond of Pete, becomes jealous of Lily. Before Jefty leaves on a hunting trip, he tells Lily that she is not like any other girl he has ever met. Lily tries to join Pete for a boat ride on a lake, but he refuses as she is Jefty's girl. Lily contradicts that notion, so Pete arranges to pick her up later. Susie also goes along, although the women's friendship is decidedly frosty. Later, Pete comes to Lily's rescue when a drunk causes a scene at the club.
Lily tells Pete share a passionate kiss. Pete loves her, and it is obvious she feels the same way. Their idyll is interrupted when Jefty returns and shows Pete a marriage licence he has obtained in his and Lily's names. When Jefty is told Pete and Lily are planning to be married, Jefty throws him out. Pete leaves a note stating that he and Lily are leaving and that he has taken $600 owed to him.
At the railroad station, two policemen are waiting. Jefty claims that the entire week's receipts have been taken from the roadhouse's safe, but Pete insists he took only $600. After Susie states that the receipts totaled $2,600, Pete is held for trial and Lily accuses Jefty of framing him.
Pete is tried and found guilty of grand larceny. Before sentencing, Jefty talks to the judge in private and persuades him to parole Pete into his custody. The judge announces that Pete will be on probation for two years, but will have his job back and will be obligated to repay Jefty from his paycheck. Pete and Lily realize that Jefty has them trapped.
Jefty plans a trip to his hunting cabin. Pete wants to cross the Canadian border, which is only fifteen miles from the cabin, but Lily refuses to go along. At his cabin, Jefty taunts Pete and Lily while fooling around with a rifle. Lily accuses Jefty of taking the missing money, so Jefty hits her. Pete retaliates by knocking him out. Lily decides that she will go with Pete to Canada, and they set off on foot through the woods. Susie, meanwhile, discovers a deposit envelope for the receipts in Jefty's coat pocket. She gives the envelope to Pete, but is shot in the arm by a pursuing Jefty.
In the fog-enshrouded lakeside, Pete cranks up the motor on a boat and sends it off empty. After Jefty wastes bullets shooting at the boat, Pete tries to grab his gun. Lily gets possession of it and shoots Jefty when he threatens to hit her with a rock. As Jefty dies, he reminds Pete that he once told him that Lily was different. Dawn breaks as Pete, Lily and Susie head out of the woods and back to civilization.
- Ida Lupino as Lily Stevens
- Cornel Wilde as Pete Morgan
- Celeste Holm as Susie Smith
- Richard Widmark as Jefty Robbins
- O.Z. Whitehead as Arthur
- Robert Karnes as Mike
- George Beranger as Lefty
- Ian MacDonald as Police captain
- Grandon Rhodes as Judge
In September 1947, the studio purchased the rights to an original story and screenplay entitled Dark Love from Lupino, who had commissioned them from writers Margaret Gruen and Oscar Saul. Included in the $130,000 purchase price were the acting services of Lupino. In an early draft of the script "Jefty" was depicted as an older man. Studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck proposed Charles Bickford for the role and Widmark for "Pete". Victor Mature and Lee J. Cobb were also considered for the roles of Pete and Jefty, respectively.
Critical reception 
Writer Spencer Selby calls the film an "interesting melodrama that has a crisp forties look and slowly builds to a noirish climax."
Film critic Blake Lucas says the film "impresses first of all with its sharp dialogue exchanges between the characters and the bizarre look of the interiors" referring to the at once modern and rustic road house.
See also 
- Road House at the Internet Movie Database.
- Selby, Spencer (1984). Dark City: The Film Noir. McFarland Classic. ISBN 0-7864-0478-7.
- Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, film noir analysis by Blake Lucas, page 244, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
- Road House at the Internet Movie Database
- Road House at the TCM Movie Database
- Road House at Film Noir Alley
- Road House film clip at TMC Media Room (Ida Lupino sings)