I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

Film noir tropes, jokes, styles, flavours and fashions aplenty are the reward for watching I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes, a 1948 noir with a heart. 

It's got humour too, and a fairly silly story, but it's delightful how much could be shoe-horned into 71 minutes of silver screen entertainment, at the height of the film noir era.

Two of the best tropes include the wifelet seeker hero, a staple of the early genre; and the falsely accused heel. He's hapless too, and actually quite hatless for noir.

Although the hero of this noir - Tom J Quinn, played by the relatively obscure Don Castle - works with his feet. So hapless and hatless he rides to his fate, a film noir heel nonetheless, with the solid backing of a good woman.

He's a dancer and this is a film noir of shoes, a graspable premise, summed up as: Vaudeville dancer Tom Quinn (Castle) is convicted for murder after his shoe prints are found at the scene of the crime. His wife Ann (Knox) follows the trail of clues to the real killer.

If film noir ever did anything, it furnished us with surprises; small turns we weren't expecting, both in the stories, but more importantly in the photography and other mis en scene. Certainly the heavily darkened lamp-lit fun of film noir is present.

In fact the fun is kind of typified by the title card which features a paid of dancing shoes, hanging from a noose. Once inside the world brought on by this artistic apparition, we don't leave, but twist through the darkness too.

Interrogation in film noir, 1940s style
I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

Twist through the corn, also maybe, as Tom Quinn flings his shoes at a bawling cat, his back yard taking on the momentary magic of Rear Window. Twists through the mania as the real killer is subtly revealed.

The love of a smart gal in film noir, 1940s style
I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

Be teased through the dancing school, which doubles as pick-up joint and wonder at the tall and squint couple of cops who do their duty well; cause we know that the real killer will be found.

Hollywood still makes the movies with the who was the real killer? hook; but it doesn't do the wifelet-seeker hero.

This being film noir, the action lands and concludes behind bars. The behind bars scenes of I Wouldn't be in Your Shoes are among the best.

What's great about the prison scenes is the artistry, and are so good that I wouldn't be in Your Shoes could earn a classification as a prison movie. Of course the movie is in flashback, making I wouldn't Be In Your Shoes noir squared, because it is not only framed by prison, but also set within flashback.


Elyse Knox holding the show together in
I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

Certainly I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes is also a Death Row Movie. I Wouldn't be in Your Shoes lives on the mile, and we meet the characters of the mile. One of the Death Row inmates has a gramophone in his cell; that might not be so strange but what is strange is that it is the only thing in his sell. He doesn't even have any records; just the one disc on his turntable.


Death Row vignettes in I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

The wifelet seeker hero so beloved of the early style is a women who takes up the reins of the investigation into her man, who is falsely accused. She is called wifelet perhaps unfairly; it signifies that she is still relegated however, even when and if she is the hero.

These are still great roles and multi-dimensional, and among the best roles of the 1940s. Compared to a Western, musical, comedy or drama, even in the seeker hero, film noir had the best roles for women in Hollywood.

In the seeker hero role, this female will usually at a late stage come face to face with the peril; in I Wouldn't be in Your Shoes, Elyse Knox who plays Ann, is largely seen acting with her husband, as in the flashback (within prison). So, given this plays in a delightfully tight 71 minutes, we do see her both on her own, and in flashback with Tom.

The fun 40s in film noir
I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes (1948)

The villain is neatly concealed in plain view, although the best reveal is what a piece of shit he really is! 

Elyse Knox is indeed brought to that place of peril, and plays an ambiguous character, adding so much to this movie, certainly being the focus of the screen at all moments she is on it. She does play the seeker, and is of course sadly a wifelet at heart, or had to be, because this is the 1940s. But crucially, and most delightfully of all, she is not seen in that common domestic role, even though a lot of the action is set in their happy home.

It's happy in a different way, and it a lot to do with the warmth of both herself, and Don Castle.

We don't see much of Don Castle in the movies, and he is good at his thing, and I think if William Nigh had wanted to add another minute on to I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes, it might have been worth seeing Don Castle dance; even if he couldn't dance.

According to an article on Castle by Laura Wagner for the popular movie magazine Films of the Golden Age, Winter Issue 2012/2013, Don's second wife Zetta, made it clear that he was not involved in a 1966 traffic accident shortly before his death. 

While Don Castle did die of a drug/medication overdose at age 48, his death was not as a result of an earlier traffic accident.

I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes.jpg

The fun is important insofar it is something more peculiar to the film noir productions of the 1940s. There is something about that era that lends itself to a more carefree and fantastic method of film production, and I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes is complete film noir fantasy, with virtually nothing real about it at all.

Things change perhaps as film noir moved into the 1950s. Then, there were graver issues, and some of the fun of the 40s is translated into real hard-hitting and artfully created productions, of which there are many; fun would not be a word for any of them, whether it be lesser known movies like The Burglar or better known ones like The Killing.

Spoilers Ahoy!
Plot retelling of I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes:

Recalling the events that led to his imprisonment, tap dancer Tom J. Quinn thinks back to the hot July night when he and his wife Ann, a dance instructor, were unable to fall asleep: Irritated by the sound of screeching cats, Tom tries to scare the cats away by throwing his only pair of tap dancing shoes out the window. 

When Tom goes downstairs to retrieve his shoes, he is unable to find them. The following morning, Ann finds the shoes in the apartment hallway, just outside their door, and wonders how they got there. Later that day, police discover the murdered body of wealthy recluse Otis Wantner in a shed near Tom's building. Footprints found on the dead body lead the police to conclude that the killer was a tall dancer, and a team of detectives, led by Inspector Clint Judd, begin a full investigation. 

Tom later finds a billfold containing $2,000, and when he tells Ann that he intends to turn it over to the police, she urges him to keep the money for a week to see if the loss is reported in the newspapers. The police investigators eventually come to suspect Tom when they match the footprint found on the murdered man with one at the shop where Tom bought his shoes. Instead of arresting Tom right away, Judd waits, hoping that Tom will lead them to the $2,000 that was stolen from Wantner. 

The detectives finally arrest Tom and Ann when they witness Tom purchase an expensive gift for his wife. During the police interrogation, Tom professes his innocence and refuses to divulge the location of the hidden money. 

In the hopes that Ann will lead them to the money, the police release her and assign a detective to follow her. Tom is eventually charged with murder and robbery, and faces execution. On the basis of the shoeprint evidence, Tom is convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair. A week before Tom's scheduled execution, Judd, who is romantically obsessed with Ann, offers to help her win the release of her husband. Judd reopens the case and charges John L. Kosloff, a former boarder at Ann and Tom's rooming house, with the murder. Kosloff, however, is released after providing the police with an airtight alibi. 

As he recalls his last meeting with Ann, Tom comes out of his reverie and prepares for his execution. Ann, meanwhile, begins to suspect that Judd is the killer when he professes his love for her and tells her that he has bought an expensive apartment for her. 

Moments before Tom's scheduled execution, Judd tells Ann about his long-standing obsession with her, and she tricks him into confessing that he framed Tom in order to be with her. The police investigators, to whom Ann had earlier reported her suspicions, arrive in time to overhear Judd's confession. Judd reaches for his gun when the police try to arrest him and is shot. Tom is exonerated and, after winning his release from prison, is reunited with Ann.

Be In Those Shoes! (Wikipedia)


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