Raw Deal (1948)

Raw Deal (1948)

“What do you know about anything? You probably had your bread buttered on both sides since the day you were born.”

With help from his lovestruck moll (Claire Trevor), a convict (Dennis O’Keefe) escapes from prison and kidnaps a soft-hearted social worker (Marsha Hunt) while fleeing from both the police and his deceitful crime boss (Raymond Burr).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anthony Mann Films
  • Claire Trevor Films
  • Escape
  • Ex-Convicts
  • John Ireland Films
  • Kidnapping
  • Love Triangle
  • Raymond Burr Films

Anthony Mann and DP John Alton collaborated on several Peary-listed titles, including T-Men (1947), Reign of Terror (1949), Devil’s Doorway (1950), and this gritty escape drama about a convict caught between his growing love for a “good” woman (Hunt) and loyalty for his girlfriend (Trevor). The three key characters in the film are indeed given a “raw deal”: O’Keefe took the rap on behalf of his corrupt boss (Burr), who not-so-secretly hopes O’Keefe will be killed during his escape; Trevor is desperately in love with O’Keefe, but recognizes Hunt as a legitimate threat to her status; and do-gooder Hunt simply wants to help O’Keefe, but ends up kidnapped and endangered as a result. The performances (including supporting roles by Burr, John Ireland, and others) are all excellent, and the storyline is reliably tense — but it’s Mann and Alton’s visual work that really ties this piece together as a stylistic gem of the genre (see stills below).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dennis O’Keefe as Joe Sullivan
  • Claire Trevor as Pat
  • John Alton’s highly atmospheric cinematography

  • Anthony Mann’s consistently inventive direction

Must See?
Yes, as a nifty little noir flick.



One thought on “Raw Deal (1948)

  1. A must-see – and one that probably satisfies on repeat viewings.

    Copying from my post in facebook’s ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’:

    “All my life, it seems, I’ve been waiting for Joe.”

    ‘Raw Deal’ (1948) [streaming on Filmstruck]: How in the Sam Hill did I miss *this* one before now?! Clearly among the best in noir, directed by Anthony Mann and shot by DP John Alton, this is a Master Class in visual style. It just doesn’t quit. And the script is no slouch either. Replete with juicy dialogue (“You’re something from under a rock!”), this is a tense tale of a fall guy (Dennis O’Keefe) who successfully breaks out of prison…only to fall deeper…and deeper. He goes on the run with two women (Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt), embarking on a rather tangled love triangle indeed. In the complex mix are perennial stooge John Ireland and supremely creepy Raymond Burr. Clocking in at just under 80 minutes, this is a non-stop winner…with a (practically literally) holy hell of a finish!

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