Saturday, June 11, 2016

PITFALL (1948)


Opening in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Dick Powell is an insurance agent who is weary of his predictable life template. He and his wife, Jane Wyatt, trade humorous quips and verbal jabs in the early going as many couples might do. A son completes the family album. When he begins investigating an embezzlement case this typical family man soon changes into a life of secrets and danger. As the film progresses all humor is gradually abandoned. The actors elevate this potential B-movie and it suggests that any average family could face pitfalls quite unintentionally.

Powell is to recover some expensive gifts given to Lizabeth Scott by her boyfriend embezzler who's serving time in prison. With no particular place to go, they end up spending the day on her speedboat gift which becomes the catalyst for a romance. What is it about boats in water? Scott, with her pronounced “esses” is even more annoying when whispering. Nothing attractive or sultry about this. Not sure it was a speech impediment or she was born with bad dental development, her lip snarls on her right side and out flow the consonants resembling someone with an overbite. Scott falls into the Lauren Bacall category of actresses who are not classic beauties but have niche appeal.

Raymond Burr is cast this time as a private detective working for Powell and the insurance company. An occupation that seems legit but we soon learn he is once again a bit  psychotic and overly obsessed with Scott and wants her all to himself. In probably the largest suit in show business outside Orson Welles, he trails Powell and pummels him good. Wanting to help and knowing Powell’s address, she drives there. From curbside she tells Wyatt that she must have the wrong address. Awkward!

As the day of her jailbird lover's release from prison approaches, Scott fears for her safety. Powell is beginning to see the errors of his ways and longs for the days before he got involved with her. He has had enough of Burr as well and gives him a bit of his own medicine. Burr tells the jealous jailbird about him and he attempts to kill Powell in his darkened study. However, Powell permanently removes all worry from the jailbird’s mind of ever serving prison time again. Confident all competition has been eliminated, Burr expects Scott to go away with him. Instead, she puts him in the hospital.

Powell gives a full confession to the police department but a tougher confession is forthcoming for Wyatt. She reluctantly gives him a second chance but is not sure their relationship will ever be the same. No definitive outcomes are revealed and those are left to the viewer’s imagination. At any rate, a shaky happy ending.

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