Deadline at Dawn (1946) starring Susan Hayward, Paul Lukas, Bill Williams, Joseph Calleia, Osa Massen, Lola Lane directed by Harold Clurman Movie Review

Deadline at Dawn (1946)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Susan Hayward in Deadline at Dawn (1946)

Dawn Calling

Naval engineer Alex Winkley (Bill Williams) has had an eventful night; he went drinking, played cards and even went up to the room of Edna Bartelli (Lola Lane) to repair her radio. But eventful becomes weird when after having coffee with a friendly newspaper stand holder Alex discovers he has $1,400 on him which he didn't have the night before. Having headed to a dance club where he meets June (Susan Hayward) and they go for a bit to eat Alex decides the money must be Edna's and he should return it except when they go to Edna's they find her dead. With just a few hours left before his leave is up Alex with June's help tries to get to the bottom of who murdered Edna in case it was him and he can't remember.

I've said it before but I will say it again, movies which get labelled as film-noir don't do it for me in the same way they seem to work for others. Whilst some get blown away by the stylish dialogue I just find it unnatural whilst the visual styling can be impressive again it is a case of feeling forced and unnatural. All of which brings me to "Deadline at Dawn" a thriller form 1946 which comes under the generic term of film-noir, technically a competently put together thriller but for all the reasons that some people love these sorts of movies only ends up disappointing me.

Bill Williams in Deadline at Dawn (1946)

Now the concept is both simple and good, a drunk sailor and a dancer he picked up end up playing detective when they come across a murder and the sailor thinks he might have done it. With the sailor having the ticking clock of having to be on the bus back by 06:00 hours it gives it some sense of urgency. And it is generally interesting enough to draw you in and want to know who did it which you won't be able to guess right away as it holds details back.

But as I said it is the stuff which people love about film-noir which perversely puts me off which is the case in "Deadline at Dawn". It all starts with the dialogue which is extremely heavy handed with the forced dialogue which you expect from gangsters and molls rather than a dancer and a wet behind the ears sailor. People just don't say the sorts of things which are said in this movie and it just makes it extremely fake. It is the same with the look as whilst nicely detailed the use of shadows do not reflect real life with whopping great dark corners in people's rooms or lights in door ways which are so bright create a halo effect.

It is because of the unnaturalness of it all I find myself saying that both Bill Williams and Susan Hayward try their best but end up coming across as unnatural due to the false dialogue. Yes they do create very distinct characters but ones whose way of speaking and mannerisms are over the top.

What this all boils down to is that "Deadline at Dawn" is a solid crime drama from the mid 1940s and I am sure that if you are a fan of film-noir it is great. But for me it suffers from an unnatural feel be it the characters and their dialogue to the look which brings it right back down.