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B Noir: Pushover and Woman on the Run

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B Noir: <em>Pushover</em> and <em>Woman on the Run</em>

Pushover (Richard Quine, 1954) and Woman on the Run (Norman Foster, 1950). Kim Novak stars as a femme fatale with the emotional range of a mannequin in Richard Quine’s Pushover, a corkscrew noir with an intensely circumscribed physical and psychological lay. Fred MacMurray is a cop hired to hunt down her squeeze, a man who robbed a bank and killed a security guard. Almost the entire duration of the film pans out inside the winding fourth floor of Novak and Dorothy Malone’s apartment building, where MacMurray and his partners are on a stakeout. (The shot of the women’s side-by-side apartments from across the way recalls Rear Window from the same year, but Hitchcock wouldn’t stoop—at least repeatedly—to defining the goodness of his female characters by the music that plays on the soundtrack.) Quine neatly rips on the old Keystone Cops gag of people coming in and out of doors, which visually dramatizes MacMurray’s quicksand crisis. The film needs this show because MacMurray doesn’t exactly work to make the audience feel his ethical conundrum emotionally. Not so with Ann Sheridan, who is remarkable in Norman Foster’s excellent Woman on the Run, a film with a crisp noir crust and a gummy melodramatic center. When Sheridan’s estranged husband witnesses a murder near their San Francisco home, he goes into hiding to avoid being murdered himself; all the while, she and Dennis O’Keefe’s newshound are tailed by an inspector played by Robert Keith, who believes they will lead them to their witness. The film’s up-and-down trajectories are impeccably intertwined (the closer the film’s killer moves in on Ross Elliott the closer husband and wife become) and visually associated with the blow-out rollercoaster sequence that closes the film.

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.