Saturday Night Cinema: Pitfall (1948)


For tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema selection I return to my favorite genre, film noir, but this one is not set in the familiar setting of shadows and mean city streets. This one takes place in the suburbs. And it’s one of the really great films about infidelity (back when America was a moral nation). Pitfall stars Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott, whose sultry looks and smoky voice led many a man to his downfall. Scott is the “femme fatale in the hard-boiled, film noir world of crime, tough talk and dark secrets.” Powell is in the second phase of his movie career. He more than reinvented himself in such bleak noirs. “He transformed his image, erasing his wholesome persona in favor of a tougher, grittier one.”

“A grimy, superior film noir by Andre de Toth (1948). Dick Powell is a foursquare family man who enjoys a harmless dalliance with model Lizabeth Scott, unaware that he’s risking the wrath of a psychotically jealous private eye, Raymond Burr. An iconographical plus is Father Knows Best’s Jane Wyatt as Powell’s patiently beleaguered wife.” (Dave Gehr) Perry Mason would be mortified by this maniac.

pitfall poster

The darker side of the American dream is explored in the fascinating film noir Pitfall. Dick Powell stars as John Forbes, a successful insurance man with a trophy wife named Sue (Jane Wyatt) and a model child named Tommy (Jimmy Hunt). Despite all that he’s achieved in life, Forbes feels somehow unfulfilled. During an attempt to recollect illegally purchased goods by a convicted bank robber, Forbes falls for his glamorous client Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott). When she “comes on” to him, it sparks an affair between them. Forbes suffers the pangs of guilt, a fact immediately capitalized upon by the seedy private eye MacDonald (Raymond Burr), who is upset because Mona has rejected him. If adultery has been committed, can murder be far behind? Many individual scenes in Pitfall are standouts….

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