On Dangerous Ground (1952)

82 mins | Film noir | January 1952

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Producer:

John Houseman

Cinematographer:

George Diskant

Editor:

Roland Gross

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Ralph Berger

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Mad with Much Heart and Dark Highway . According to an Oct 1949 HR news item, RKO purchased Gerald Butler's novel as a vehicle for Robert Ryan. Prior to filming, producer John Houseman, director Nicholas Ray and writer A. I. Bezzerides discussed the project with Los Angeles and Boston police departments, according to an Apr 1950 NYT item. The police reportedly were pleased that the subject of police violence was to be treated openly and gave their approval to the production. According to modern sources, as part of their research, Ray and Bezzerides went on ride-alongs with detectives in Boston's South End, as well as with patrol officers in Los Angeles. In a modern interview, Ray stated that Ryan's character, "Jim Wilson," was modeled on a Boston detective, "a bachelor who began being a police officer in order to put his brother through college" and was almost kicked off the force due to excessive violence.
       Modern sources note that, in addition to Ward Bond, the following actors were considered for the role of "Brent": Lee J. Cobb, Howard Da Silva, Albert Dekker, Rhys Williams and James Bell. Bond was also considered for the part of "Pop Daly," as were Wallace Ford, Ray Collins and Jay C. Flippen. In addition to Ida Lupino, Jane Wyman, Susan Hayward, Olivia de Havilland, Deborah Kerr, Janet Leigh, Wanda Hendrix, Lauren Bacall, Teresa Wright, Margaret Sullavan, Faith Domergue and Margaret Phillips, a Broadway newcomer, were suggested for the role of "Mary." Sumner Williams, who plays the killer "Danny," was Ray's nephew. Location ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Mad with Much Heart and Dark Highway . According to an Oct 1949 HR news item, RKO purchased Gerald Butler's novel as a vehicle for Robert Ryan. Prior to filming, producer John Houseman, director Nicholas Ray and writer A. I. Bezzerides discussed the project with Los Angeles and Boston police departments, according to an Apr 1950 NYT item. The police reportedly were pleased that the subject of police violence was to be treated openly and gave their approval to the production. According to modern sources, as part of their research, Ray and Bezzerides went on ride-alongs with detectives in Boston's South End, as well as with patrol officers in Los Angeles. In a modern interview, Ray stated that Ryan's character, "Jim Wilson," was modeled on a Boston detective, "a bachelor who began being a police officer in order to put his brother through college" and was almost kicked off the force due to excessive violence.
       Modern sources note that, in addition to Ward Bond, the following actors were considered for the role of "Brent": Lee J. Cobb, Howard Da Silva, Albert Dekker, Rhys Williams and James Bell. Bond was also considered for the part of "Pop Daly," as were Wallace Ford, Ray Collins and Jay C. Flippen. In addition to Ida Lupino, Jane Wyman, Susan Hayward, Olivia de Havilland, Deborah Kerr, Janet Leigh, Wanda Hendrix, Lauren Bacall, Teresa Wright, Margaret Sullavan, Faith Domergue and Margaret Phillips, a Broadway newcomer, were suggested for the role of "Mary." Sumner Williams, who plays the killer "Danny," was Ray's nephew. Location shooting took place in Granby, CO, according to RKO production files contained at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library. According to modern sources, Ryan and Lupino persuaded Ray to change the scripted ending, in which "Jim" leaves a crying "Mary" with no reconciliation, to the more upbeat conclusion seen in the finished film. Modern sources note that the picture lost $425,000 at the box office. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Dec 1951.
---
Daily Variety
28 Nov 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Nov 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1949.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 50
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 50
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 51
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Dec 51
p. 1125.
New York Times
23 Apr 1950.
---
New York Times
13 Feb 52
p. 35.
Newsweek
18 Feb 1952.
---
Variety
5 Dec 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on an adpt by
Based on an adpt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
Props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Viola d'amour played by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit mgr
Loc mgr
Casting
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Sketch artist
Best boy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mad with Much Heart by Gerald Butler (London and New York, 1945).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Dark Highway
Mad with Much Heart
Release Date:
January 1952
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 26 January 1952
Production Date:
29 March--10 May 1950
addl scenes 7 August 1950
9 August 1951
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 December 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1435
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
82
Length(in feet):
7,364
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14508
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While hunting down the killer of a fellow policeman, veteran detective Jim Wilson grows increasingly morose and violent, causing his more even-tempered partners, Bill "Pop" Daly and Pete Santos, concern. Acting on a tip from a news vendor, Jim goes to see Myrna Bowers, whose boyfriend, Bernie Tucker, is rumored to be a cohort of the suspected murderers. Jim convinces the battered Myrna to reveal Bernie's whereabouts, and after he tracks Bernie down, beats him into betraying his partners. Although Jim's actions lead to the arrest of the killers, his superior, Capt. Brawley, informs him that Bernie's lawyer is threatening a brutality lawsuit and cautions him to take it easy. Later, however, while on patrol, the detectives hear a woman scream and discover Myrna being beaten by two thugs. Jim grabs one of the men and, without thinking, starts to rough him up. After interceding, Pop, a father of seven, angrily advises Jim to stop wallowing in the job. The next day, Brawley yells at Jim that he is becoming a liability to the department and assigns him to assist in the investigation of a young woman's murder in the rural north. Jim drives to the snowy mountain town of Westham, where Sheriff Carrey fills him in on the case. Carrey and Jim then go to the victim's home and talk briefly with her sister, Julie Brent, who witnessed the crime. Just then, the victim's brother rushes in to announce that the killer, a stranger, has been spotted running across a nearby field. Along with Julie's revenge-hungry father Walter, Carrey and Jim chase after the fugitive, but he hijacks a car before they catch ... +


While hunting down the killer of a fellow policeman, veteran detective Jim Wilson grows increasingly morose and violent, causing his more even-tempered partners, Bill "Pop" Daly and Pete Santos, concern. Acting on a tip from a news vendor, Jim goes to see Myrna Bowers, whose boyfriend, Bernie Tucker, is rumored to be a cohort of the suspected murderers. Jim convinces the battered Myrna to reveal Bernie's whereabouts, and after he tracks Bernie down, beats him into betraying his partners. Although Jim's actions lead to the arrest of the killers, his superior, Capt. Brawley, informs him that Bernie's lawyer is threatening a brutality lawsuit and cautions him to take it easy. Later, however, while on patrol, the detectives hear a woman scream and discover Myrna being beaten by two thugs. Jim grabs one of the men and, without thinking, starts to rough him up. After interceding, Pop, a father of seven, angrily advises Jim to stop wallowing in the job. The next day, Brawley yells at Jim that he is becoming a liability to the department and assigns him to assist in the investigation of a young woman's murder in the rural north. Jim drives to the snowy mountain town of Westham, where Sheriff Carrey fills him in on the case. Carrey and Jim then go to the victim's home and talk briefly with her sister, Julie Brent, who witnessed the crime. Just then, the victim's brother rushes in to announce that the killer, a stranger, has been spotted running across a nearby field. Along with Julie's revenge-hungry father Walter, Carrey and Jim chase after the fugitive, but he hijacks a car before they catch up to him. Walter and Jim pursue in another car, but blinded by drifting snowfall, end up crashing into the killer's abandoned vehicle. The murderer's snowy footprints lead Jim and Walter to a farmhouse, where soft-spoken Mary Malden invites them in. Although Mary insists that she lives alone and has not seen anyone that night, Walter searches the house for clues. When Walter reports finding men's clothing in an upstairs room, Mary admits that her brother sometimes stays with her, but has been gone for a few days. The rifle-toting Walter demands to know where her brother is, but Jim, who has deduced that Mary is blind, suggests that they continue their search outside. Jim soon comes back inside, and he and Mary talk about loneliness and trust. Mary thanks Jim for not pitying her and, after insisting that he and Walter stay the night, confesses that her disturbed brother, Danny, is, in fact, hiding on the farm. Promising to protect Danny, Jim persuades Mary to talk to her brother about surrendering. At dawn, Mary slips out of the house and brings Danny, who is hiding in the storm cellar, some food. Although Mary convinces the confused teenager to "go away" with Jim, Danny runs off when Jim discovers them. Jim chases Danny to a shack, and there, while holding Jim at bay with a knife, Danny alludes to the fact that Mary passed up a sight-saving operation to stay with him after their mother died. Just as the unarmed Jim is about to grab the knife, Walter bursts in and fires a shot at Danny. Jim wrestles with Walter, knocking the rifle to the floor, and Danny takes off with the weapon. Jim and Walter pursue Danny to a rocky cliff and, while struggling to reach the top, Danny slips and falls to his death. Upon seeing Danny close up, Walter cries out that he is "just a kid" and carries his body to a nearby house. Later, a grief-stricken Mary says a tearful prayer over Danny's body, then stumbles back to her own home, followed by Jim. When Jim asks her about the eye operation, Mary admits she is afraid to try it, because its failure would mean the end of all hope. Crying, Mary begs Jim to leave her alone and, defeated, Jim heads for the city. As he nears his home, however, Jim reflects on what others have said about loneliness and need. Unable to return to his old life, he drives back to Mary, who embraces him with love. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.