Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Walk A Crooked Mile (1948) is a red scare domestic espionage thriller paranoia film noir which presents in an exciting and effective manner, the values and festivities pertaining to the rise of anti-Communist sentiment in post-war America.

This iteration of the hunt for the devil's doctrine itself and was presented around the first time that the widespread corrupting influences of socialism and its violent social counterparts became a public concern via the medium of public discussion.

Depending on where you are in noir the communists can be anything at all, from plain criminal mooks to dark bearded Victorian villains, or even the person next to you on the bus, the most innocent looking citizens of all. There are also the corporate types, the communists of ideology and those who have infiltrated our organisations and even our government. All of it is here, and made up for the screen.

Walk A Crooked Mile was a noir released in 1948, directed by Gordon Douglas. The film is a crime thriller with elements of espionage and political intrigue.

The story revolves around an international espionage plot involving atomic secrets. An atomic scientist from a foreign country defects to the United States, bringing with him vital information about atomic weapons. However, the scientist is murdered by enemy agents, and the secrets are stolen.

Raymond Burr as a Communist spy in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

To track down the spies and recover the stolen secrets, the FBI assigns two agents, Philip Grayson (Dennis O'Keefe) and Charles Hanford (Louis Hayward). In an unusual twist, Grayson is tasked with impersonating the murdered scientist to infiltrate the spy ring. The agents soon discover that the espionage network is more extensive and dangerous than they initially thought.

As Grayson delves deeper into the world of international espionage, he faces various challenges, including navigating a web of deceit, avoiding detection by the enemy agents, and dealing with unexpected twists and turns in the investigation. The plot unfolds with a combination of suspense, tension, and intrigue as the agents work to thwart the enemy's plans and protect national security.

The San Francisco bus in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Walk a Crooked Mile explores themes of espionage, Cold War tensions, and the race for atomic secrets. The film reflects the post-World War II era's concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the potential threats posed by espionage activities.

While Walk a Crooked Mile is considered a crime thriller with film noir elements, it also aligns with the espionage genre. The film addresses political and geopolitical themes that were prevalent during the late 1940s, including the early years of the Cold War.

The year 1948 was a time of heightened anti-communist sentiment in the United States. The post-World War II period saw the emergence of the Cold War, a geopolitical and ideological conflict between the United States and its Western allies and the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc. During this time, anti-communist sentiment became deeply ingrained in American society and government, driven by several factors:

The Film Noir Look — Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

The end of World War II marked the beginning of the Cold War, characterized by ideological tensions, political rivalry, and military build-up between the United States and the Soviet Union. The perceived threat of communism and the spread of Soviet influence fueled anti-communist sentiments.

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman announced the Truman Doctrine, outlining a policy of providing economic and military aid to countries resisting communism. This set the stage for increased anti-communist rhetoric and actions as the U.S. committed to containing the spread of communism worldwide.

Philip Van Zandt in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Also in 1947, the United States initiated the Marshall Plan, a massive economic aid program aimed at rebuilding war-torn Western European countries. The plan was seen as a way to prevent the economic instability that might lead to the rise of communism.

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a congressional committee, played a prominent role in investigating alleged communist influence and infiltration in American society. HUAC hearings targeted individuals in various fields, including the entertainment industry, academics, and government.

One dead spy — Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

In 1947, President Truman issued Executive Order 9835, establishing a loyalty program for federal employees. This order aimed to identify and dismiss employees deemed disloyal or sympathetic to communism.

The Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949, in response to the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, heightened tensions and solidified anti-communist sentiments as the United States and its allies confronted Soviet actions.

San Francisco espionage noir  — Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

The presidential election of 1948 played out against this backdrop of anti-communist sentiment. Candidates, including Truman, faced pressure to take strong anti-communist stances.

In 1954, the U.S. Congress passed the Communist Control Act, which declared the Communist Party of the United States a "Communist-action" organization and sought to restrict its activities.

Overall, anti-communist sentiment in 1948 was a pervasive and influential force, shaping domestic and foreign policy, fueling investigations and hearings, and contributing to a broader climate of suspicion and ideological confrontation during the early years of the Cold War.

Stakeout cops in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

While similarly titled Walk A Crooked Mile (1948) is not related to the Mickey Rooney motor car noir Drive A Crooked Mile (195&) but something of a noir groove can be generated by the playful use of titles — something most particular to film noir.

Streets of San Francisco — Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

There are certain trends and characteristics were commonly observed. Film noir titles often reflected the genre's dark, atmospheric, and mysterious themes. Here are some features and techniques associated with the names of film noir productions during this period:

Film noir titles tended to be evocative and ambiguous, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue. They often hinted at the film's themes, mood, or central conflict without giving away too much.

Louis Hayward and Dennis O'Keefe in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Titles frequently incorporated dark or shadowy imagery, reflecting the visual style of film noir. Words and phrases associated with darkness, shadows, and mystery were common.

Many film noir titles featured double meanings or wordplay, adding layers of complexity. This linguistic technique contributed to the genre's penchant for ambiguity and moral ambiguity.

 — Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Titles often included words or phrases associated with classic noir tropes, such as crime, deception, danger, and the underworld. Examples include terms like "danger," "crime," "shadow," and "trap."

Alliteration, the repetition of initial consonant sounds, was sometimes used in film noir titles, creating a rhythmic and memorable quality. Repetition of certain sounds or words added a stylistic and poetic touch.

In an increasing number of film noirs and espionage thrillers, Russian agents were needed and although Russian actors were few in Hollywood, there were plenty of Germans such as Carl Esmond who could pass as evil foreign spies.

Carl Esmond spies on America in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Titles occasionally employed hardboiled language reminiscent of the tough and cynical dialogue found in noir literature. This contributed to the gritty and realistic tone of the genre.

Some film noir titles incorporated foreign phrases or terms, often reflecting the exotic or mysterious elements present in the narratives. French phrases, in particular, were occasionally used.

Cops in pyjamas — you don't see it so much no more —  Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Film noir often explored the dark and gritty aspects of urban environments. Titles sometimes included references to cities, streets, or locations, emphasizing the urban setting.

Titles occasionally focused on central characters, especially if they were morally ambiguous or had complex personalities. The names of protagonists, antagonists, or archetypal noir characters were integrated into titles.

Louis Hayward in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Some titles explicitly referenced the film genre by including words like "crime," or "mystery" in their names. This helped audiences identify the films as belonging to the film noir category.

The naming of film noir productions was influenced by a combination of marketing considerations, thematic relevance, and creative choices made by filmmakers and studios. The result was a diverse range of titles that collectively contributed to the distinctive atmosphere of the film noir genre.

Dennis O'Keefe in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Dennis O'Keefe, a versatile actor, appeared in several film noir productions during the classic era of the genre. Here are some notable film noir films in which Dennis O'Keefe had significant roles:

T-Men (1947): Directed by Anthony Mann, "T-Men" is a classic film noir that follows two Treasury agents who go undercover to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring. Dennis O'Keefe plays the lead role of Dennis O'Brien, one of the undercover agents. The film is known for its gritty atmosphere and documentary-style cinematography.

Raymond Burr in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Raw Deal (1948): Directed by Anthony Mann, "Raw Deal" is another collaboration between Mann and O'Keefe. In this film noir, O'Keefe plays Joe Sullivan, a convict who escapes from prison with the help of his girlfriend. The story involves love, betrayal, and a pursuit by the law.

Louis Hayward in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Walk a Crooked Mile (1948): The film in question today. Directed by Gordon Douglas, this film combines elements of film noir with espionage. Dennis O'Keefe plays FBI agent Philip Grayson, who goes undercover to impersonate a murdered scientist and uncover an international spy ring.

The Bigamist (1953): While not a traditional film noir, this drama directed by Ida Lupino explores complex moral and ethical themes. Dennis O'Keefe plays Harry Graham, a man leading a double life with two wives. Lupino also stars in the film.

Film Noir Beating in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Silly and not as rabidly anti-Communist as might have been acceptable and enjoyable for the era, Walk A Crooked Mile doesn't give much of a cluck in the name of ideology, although the Communists are seen in their cell at one stage and world revolution is mentioned, as a stated aim.

Dennis O'Keefe administers a sudden late night beating to Raymond Burr, who looks incredible, bearded up to look like an evil Communist in a great change if tone for the great actor, underused here it would appear.

Carl Esmond is the cell leader and Onslaw Stevens plays a deadly communist who says things like:

Igor Braun: We, who are dedicated to the ideal of world revolution, understand that the individual counts for nothing!

Carl Esmond in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

The voiceover is applied but as a stylistic tool is spent and makes for tone only, questioning why the voiceover was only ever used for crime and noir, and why it might get in the way for say adventure or fantasy, both of which are important stylistic elements to 1940s noir.

The voiceover however for Walk A Crooked Mile (1948) is oddly interrupting, each time it is used it seems as if we have been doing fine without it, yet it colours up the Federal aspect, and that is that.

Automotive action in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

The gravity of Communism and the importance of nuclear secrets are strangely absent, and regarded head-noddingly with patriotism also attempted, voiced but never shown with much passion.

The boys use tech gadgets, they are beaten up, they beat people up, the get shot at and get in car smashes, they carry out raids.

Louise Allbritton plays a woman AND a scientist in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

The biggest absence of all in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948) has to be women however, as characters, actors, anything. There is Lousie Allbritton who plays Dr Toni Neva. The name 'Toni' is supposed to be misleading because of course all doctors are men and this is feminism for 1948.

Tamara Shayne in Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Tamara Shayne as landlady whose family were questioned to death, different types of German coming to America. Flippant to flashing red light serious. Uncredited. Mrs Ecko gives a patriotic speech but what lies beneath it? What is she really saying? What kind of Germans are coming to America, and is there any mileage here to eke out an early comment on the possibilities of Operation Paperclip?

Tamara Shayne appeared in European films before migrating to the United States in 1927 with her future husband, the actor Akim Tamiroff and the couple married in February 1933.

Her first role (uncredited) in an American film was in The Captain Hates the Sea (1934). She also appeared uncredited in Ninotchka (1939) as Anna, the cellist roommate of the titular character portrayed by Greta Garbo. Shayne appeared in nearly two dozen films from 1934-61, and is possibly best remembered as Moma Yoelson in The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Sings Again (1949).

Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

Alternate Title: FBI Meets Scotland Yard

Release Date: September 1948

Premiere Information: World premiere in San Francisco: 16 Sep 1948

Production Date: 11 May--12 Jun 1948

Claimant Date Copyright Number: Columbia Pictures Corp.15 September 1948 LP1934

Sound: Western Electric Recording

Duration (in mins): 90-91

Country: United States

PCA No:13345

Wikipedia: Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)

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