Chicago Deadline (1949)

Chicago Deadline (1949) is a journalism and media murder conspiracy film noir with Alan Ladd as the laddish reporter with the jump on the police, as a deadly chase takes place in unravelling the mystery of a murdered lass played by Donna Reed.

In the shadowed alleys of the alleys shadowed by the shadows of Chicago's seedy alley Alan Ladd-based underbelly, reporter Alan Ladd stumbles upon the lifeless form of a mysterious woman, her tragic demise shrouded in the haze of what is surely a noir boarding house murder mystery.

Yet, within the pages of her address book lies a tantalizing glimpse into a world of intrigue and decadence—a world that beckons Ladd into a labyrinthine quest for truth.

As Ladd delves deeper into the enigmatic past of the deceased, guided by the alluring June Havoc, a society dame with secrets of her own, he becomes ensnared in a web of deceit and danger. 

The haunting specter of Rosita Jean D'Ur, portrayed with ethereal beauty by Donna Reed in fleeting glimpses of her tumultuous life, lingers over every twist and turn of Ladd's investigation.

In the tradition of classic detective tales, Chicago Deadline weaves a tapestry of suspense and intrigue, drawing inspiration from the likes of Hammett's gritty realism and the enigmatic allure of films like Citizen Kane and Laura.

T to B: Alan Ladd, Arthur Kennedy, and June Havoc dial it in in Chicago Deadline (1949)

Yet, despite its atmospheric brilliance, the absence of the cunning Vera Caspary leaves the conclusion feeling somewhat lacking—a testament to the enduring mystery of the human condition.

Amidst the murky depths of Chicago's underworld, Ladd navigates a perilous path, his quest for truth hampered by a tangled web of deceit and danger. With each revelation, the shadows grow darker, the stakes higher, until the very fabric of reality begins to unravel.

Ladd pays off for a wronged girl who was a "right guy!"

He's a fighting reporter making front page history!

Though plagued by convoluted twists and turns, and hindered by the limitations of a flawed copy, Chicago Deadline remains a testament to the power of atmosphere and mood in cinema. A solid and moody film, it invites viewers into a world of intrigue and suspense, where the line between truth and deception blurs with each passing moment.

The origins of Chicago Deadline trace back to Tiffany Thayer's novel One Woman, a testament to his knack for crafting compelling narratives that caught the eye of Hollywood. Screenwriter Warren Duff, known for his works ranging from Deluge to The Invaders, adapted the novel for director Lewis Allen, renowned for his mastery of suspense in films like The Unseen and Suddenly.

With a stellar cast led by Alan Ladd, Donna Reed, and June Havoc, "Chicago Deadline" unfolds the tale of reporter Ed Adams, who stumbles upon the body of Rosita Jean d'Ur, setting off a chain of events that plunge him into the heart of Chicago's seedy seedy but no Ally Sheedy, seedy and yet with no seeds either, underbelly. 

Alan Ladd and June Havoc in Chicago Deadline (1949)

As Adams delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Rosita's death, he uncovers a web of intrigue and deception, navigating the treacherous waters of big city politics.

Upon the silver screen, amidst the clamor of critical voices, Stephen O. Saxe, in his missive for The Harvard Crimson, extended a nod of approval to this celluloid offering and lauded the film's merits. In his appraisal, he remarked upon the twist that awaited within the narrative folds, eschewing the predictable tropes of O. Henry for a plot brimming with intrigue and excitement. 

Saxe concluded his commendation by likening the experience of watching "Chicago Deadline" to embarking upon a journey filled with anticipation—a journey that, once embarked upon, held the viewer captive until the final frame.

Alan Ladd and Berry Kroeger in Chicago Deadline (1949)

Yet, amidst the chorus of accolades, the dissenting voice of Bosley Crowther resonated with a note of skepticism. In his review, the esteemed critic castigated the film for its wanton disregard of the bounds of believability, deriding the fantastical portrayal of reporters as dashing heroes embroiled in a whirlwind of sensationalism. 

Leona: What did you take as a sedative before you met me?

Harold Vermilyea in Chicago Deadline (1949)

To Crowther's discerning eye, the narrative threads of "Chicago Deadline" appeared as a tangled web of clichés, woven haphazardly into an inscrutable plot. With a deft stroke of his pen, he dismantled the illusion of glamour, exposing the film's portrayal of the newspaper world as nothing more than a fanciful flight of fancy.

Meanwhile, Dennis Schwartz, in his critique, drew parallels between Chicago Deadline and the cinematic masterpiece Laura crafted by hand by the crafting hands of the handy craftsman of the thirty five millimeter, Otto Preminger. 

Yet, where Laura elicited admiration for its nuanced portrayal of characters, Schwartz found "Chicago Deadline" lacking in its depiction of the protagonist.

Despite its aspirations to emulate the noirish allure of its predecessor, the film faltered in its characterization, failing to imbue its hero with the depth and complexity that endeared audiences to Dana Andrews' portrayal in "Laura." Thus, in Schwartz's estimation, Chicago Deadline fell short of achieving the lofty heights of its cinematic predecessor, consigned to the shadow cast by a more illustrious forebear.

Ed Adams: Your face is flushed, baby.

Leona: I'm a little dizzy. I don't get along very well with champagne; and you shouldn't have looked at me like that.

While Ladd's performance provides a solid anchor, the film's narrative complexity may prove challenging for some viewers. The script, at times, feels overly elaborate, with twists and turns that, while intriguing, ultimately lead to a somewhat predictable conclusion. 

Ladd's portrayal of a larger-than-life reporter may stretch believability, but it effectively captures the relentless pursuit of truth at the heart of investigative journalism.

In scrutinizing the myriad adaptations of their literary oeuvre, one cannot help but embark on a disheartening journey into the realm of Mickey Spillane's proto-fascist inclinations if that is indeed a useful way of looking at this writer and the pulp style in general.

Arthur Kennedy in Chicago Deadline (1949)

Indeed it looks slightly uncomfortable as an assertion, a liberal way of attacking populism and a blanket move to suggest that pulp is fascism, because of its focus on violence.

Liberal academics then tend to argue that within the brooding and existential abyss of the noir anti-hero, Spillane's narrative stance beckons forth an unsettling realization: the noir anxiety, once harnessed, becomes a combustible force propelling a Cold War ethos of smug dominance, steeped in unbridled physical aggression. 

This disconcerting synthesis they argue, underscores a troubling facet of post-war American fiction, wherein the angst-ridden corridors of the human psyche converge with a palpable undercurrent of ideological fervour.

Moreover, it serves as a sobering reminder of the contemporary academic landscape, where a lamentable deficit in historical consciousness often leaves students adrift in a sea of presentist oblivion, bereft of contextual moorings beyond the immediacy of the now.

The argument here is that hardboiled masculinity and fascist sensibility are one in the same. 

One in the same? Alan Ladd in Chicago Deadline (1949)

"Taking  the  example  of  James  Hadley  Chase’s  No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939), Orwell dismissed the genre as pornographic, vulgar pulp, penned in almost incomprehensible gangster argot," argues Petra Rau in Hardboiled Masculinity and Fascist Sensibility from Ambler and Greene to Philip Kerr, likely from the tip of a privileged pyramid from where anything popular, particularly in the mass market format, is automatically suspect. 

In One Lonely Night, Hammer’s adversaries are homegrown Communists, and therefore their deaths are all part of a larger war. Although Richard Lingeman describes Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels as a “sexy read” for college boys in his book The Noir Forties: The American People from Victory to Cold War, the truth is that the Spillane novels present a type of cynical worldview wherein enemies are ever-present and friends are few. Justice then is the domain of one lonely man, and the worse the world is, the more the lonely knight’s armor must change from muted white to near-black. It should be no surprise that a direct line can be drawn from Mike Hammer to Dirty Harry to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

Benjamin Welton, Dangerous American Cousin, Mickey Spillane and Ian Fleming

Weaponised vehicles in the urban fascist war in Chicago Deadline (1949)

By this interpretation, to watch film noir in the golden age is to witness the rise of the fascist state of the States, the federation of crim and the raising of lone individual strong male as the ultra conservative conservator of order by use of force.

To see film noir in the 1940s is to see the combination of nascent 1930s fascism become real in light of global fascism, as fascisms compete to see which one will rule the world thereafter, and of course as much as the atom bomb, Hollywood stories came to be the defining force which normalised that fascism and made it the sporting norm.

Jack Overman in Chicago Deadline (1949)

Despite its flaws, Chicago Deadline offers a compelling glimpse into the world of investigative reporting, showcasing the lengths to which reporters will go to uncover the truth. The film's first half skillfully depicts the gritty reality of investigative work, though viewers may find themselves wishing for a more satisfying resolution in the final act. 

Chicago Deadline (1949), a noir masterpiece helmed by the esteemed director Lewis Allen, unfolds a tantalizing mystery ensnaring viewers in its web of intrigue. Headlined by the iconic duo of Alan Ladd and Donna Reed, the film ventures into the gritty underbelly of Chicago's South Side, where hard-nosed newspaperman Ed Adams, portrayed by Ladd, stumbles upon the lifeless form of Rosita Jean d’Ur, embodied by Reed.

As Adams delves deeper into the enigma surrounding d’Ur's demise, he unearths a labyrinth of deceit and deception, with each revelation plunging him further into the depths of moral ambiguity. With a supporting cast including June Havoc, Irene Hervey, and Arthur Kennedy, the film brims with simmering tension, each performance adding layers to the tapestry of suspense.

Under Allen's deft direction, Chicago Deadline navigates the murky waters of human nature, probing the eternal question of morality—was d’Ur inherently good or evil? In the crucible of investigation, Ladd's portrayal of Adams provides the answer, his steely resolve and unwavering determination illuminating the truth obscured by shadows.

With its twist-filled narrative and captivating performances, Chicago Deadline stands as a testament to the enduring allure of noir cinema, a timeless exploration of the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of society.

Overall, while Chicago Deadline may not reach the heights of some of its contemporaries, it remains a worthy addition to the noir genre, offering a gripping, if somewhat convoluted, narrative that keeps audiences engaged until the very end.

At the risk of sounding 'glib or pop', which in the view of the high minded academics who would hive off territory and claim it as their own, pushing comers from the summit of their superior wisdom, film noir is always more than a filmic style but a social style, and as such a fine locus for study of gender, crime, domesticity and more.

The phrase 'glib or pop' is used by academic Dana Polin in their summary article on noir in academia in College Course File, a 1985 article, to describe most of the writing out there on noir. It is easy to see the benefits of being both glib and pop reading such pretentious academic material, which delight in filling columns on the liminal, and on subjects such as 'space'.


The dangers that the Noir detective falls into suggest that, unlike the classic detective, the Noir searcher can find no safe space from which he or she (but usually he) can confidently observe the problems of the rest of the world while remaining untouched him-or herself. Connecting style and theme, one can explore as a separate unit, then, the Noir symbolism of space. In Noir, space becomes alien, refuses to be a ground that would provide meaning for human actions. The teacher can connect this spatial alienation to the climate of the forties: the rise of an existentialist ethos where space becomes absurd, rather than supportive; the real threats posed to an American pastoral tradition posed by such phenomena as the Interstate Highway, the suburban boom, the intensification of the urban experience; the psychological tensions of a domestic space occupied by people who are essentially strangers to each other (for example, in the hasty war-time marriage that will so contribute to an immense post-war divorce rate). 

From College Course File, Dana Polin, 1985 

Note how in their rush to fulfil their academic assumptions and political dreams and force their theories into being, these smart alec fly-by-nights riddle their work with hidden premises. Note in this instance how in order to fulfil the feminist presence a dubious claim is made regarding the gender of detectives, the entire idea of the female seeker hero is sacrificed in order to score a single and rather moot point, which of course students will forever parrot.

Which fascism is going to win? Parking garage shoot out in Chicago Deadline (1949)

Chicago Deadline (1949)

Directed by Lewis Allen
Genres - Mystery  |   Release Date - Oct 17, 1949 (USA )  |   
Run Time - 86 min | Wikipedia Article

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