Cry Danger (1951)

Film Review


Release Date: 3 February, 1951

Studio: RKO

Director: Robert Parrish

Starring: Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, William Conrad

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2012

This film was shown in The Noir Style category at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival. It was introduced by film historian and film noir expert Eddie Muller and actress Rhonda Fleming.


Dick Powell, newly cleared of a robbery after spending five years in jail, gets off the train at Union Station in Los Angeles. He is greeted by the man who cleared him and a cop who is searching for the stolen money. He moves into a trailer park overlooking the city. Also living in the trailer park is the beautiful wife of his still-jailed friend and co-defendant in the robbery case. Powell is determined to clear his friend and find the stolen money. As his investigations among old associates and acquaintances lead toward the identity of the robbers, attempts are made to kill him. Powell's final encounter with the shady nightclub owner involved in the robbery reveals the identities of all the robbers and the location of the stolen money.


The film features location footage of Los Angeles, including Union Station and City Hall in the opening sequences. The trailer park with the view over the city is on Bunker Hill. The old associates and acquaintances inhabit Bunker Hill's slightly seedy streets. The Bunker Hill area has in recent decades been flattened and redeveloped.

Eddie Muller introduced the film. Only one print existed at the time of its restoration by Muller's Noir Foundation. Dick Powell was an independent producer on the film. He wanted a project that could be shot quickly, and he wanted a script with plenty of humor. William Bowers, the screenwriter (whose script for Gregory Peck's The Gunfighter, 1950, was nominated for an Oscar), had a gift for snappy dialogue.

Guest Rhonda Fleming discussed her career after the screening. A highlight was her humorous story about being cast in Spellbound (1945), one of her first roles. After a screen test for the movie, she went to lunch with executives and her agent. The executives said they would sign her for the part of the nymphomaniac. She went home and asked her mother about the part, and they had to look up the word in the dictionary to find out what it meant! Her mother was not happy with the role, but she did the film. Fleming also revealed that in The Spiral Staircase (1945), in which she is strangled by an unseen murderer, the hands choking her are those of the film's director, Robert Siodmak.

Fleming also suffered an attack of appendicitis during filming of Cry Danger, which occured in the middle of shooting an intense dialog scene with Dick Powell, and temporarily halted production.

Fleming also discussed her famously eye-catching red hair, which went unseen in her first black-and-white films. Her first color film was A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court (1949), which was shot using the eye-popping Technicolor process. Making a color film meant that the technicians were always fussing with the makeup and hair to get the color correct. As a result, Fleming preferred making black-and-white films because they were less trouble!