Blood Alley (1955)

115 mins | Drama, Romance | 1 October 1955

Director:

William A. Wellman

Cinematographer:

William H. Clothier

Production Designer:

Alfred Ybarra

Production Company:

Batjac Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The title card, which reads: “William A. Wellman’s Blood Alley ,” appears twice in the opening credits, once in Chinese characters and once in English. The final title card at the end contains an acknowledgment of the United States Department of Defense and United States Coast Guard for their cooperation and assistance. “Blood Alley” is a nickname for the Formosa Strait. Throughout the film, the character “Tom Wilder” talks to a non-existent character that he imagines hovers above him. No dialogue is heard during the storm sequence.
       According to several Jan 1955 news items, Robert Mitchum was originally cast in the role of Wilder, but was fired by director Wellman shortly after location shooting began in San Francisco. HR and DV news items, both dated 13 Jan 1955, reported that Mitchum pushed the company transportation boss, George Coleman, into the San Francisco Bay. However, an 18 Jan 1955 LAMirror article refuted that Mitchum dunked a co-worker, stating he was fired for excessive late-night carousing and trying to use company buses for after-hour partying in San Francisco.
       A 17 Jan 1955 DV news item reported that although John Wayne’s business partner, co-producer Robert Fellows, had announced that Wayne would not take over the part, Jack L. Warner negotiated with Wayne after unsuccessful attempts to interest Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart in the role. According to a 26 Jan 1955 LAT news item, Wayne also temporarily took over directing while Wellman suffered from influenza.
       Although Fred MacDowell is listed as the film editor in the opening credits, all HR production charts name Ralph Dawson in that ... More Less

The title card, which reads: “William A. Wellman’s Blood Alley ,” appears twice in the opening credits, once in Chinese characters and once in English. The final title card at the end contains an acknowledgment of the United States Department of Defense and United States Coast Guard for their cooperation and assistance. “Blood Alley” is a nickname for the Formosa Strait. Throughout the film, the character “Tom Wilder” talks to a non-existent character that he imagines hovers above him. No dialogue is heard during the storm sequence.
       According to several Jan 1955 news items, Robert Mitchum was originally cast in the role of Wilder, but was fired by director Wellman shortly after location shooting began in San Francisco. HR and DV news items, both dated 13 Jan 1955, reported that Mitchum pushed the company transportation boss, George Coleman, into the San Francisco Bay. However, an 18 Jan 1955 LAMirror article refuted that Mitchum dunked a co-worker, stating he was fired for excessive late-night carousing and trying to use company buses for after-hour partying in San Francisco.
       A 17 Jan 1955 DV news item reported that although John Wayne’s business partner, co-producer Robert Fellows, had announced that Wayne would not take over the part, Jack L. Warner negotiated with Wayne after unsuccessful attempts to interest Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart in the role. According to a 26 Jan 1955 LAT news item, Wayne also temporarily took over directing while Wellman suffered from influenza.
       Although Fred MacDowell is listed as the film editor in the opening credits, all HR production charts name Ralph Dawson in that capacity. According to Sam O'Steen's autobiography, Dawson, who was near retirement, was in charge and supervised MacDowell, who did the actual cutting. O'Steen stated that he served as an apprentice to the film editors. According to reviews and HR production charts and news items, portions of the film were shot on location in California in Stockton, San Rafael, Sausalito, on the San Francisco Bay, along the Sacramento River and the northern California coast. A Feb 1955 HR news item reported that Charley Leone, who wrote for Voice of America, played an extra in the film as research for a series of stories he was writing about the two hundred Chinese-Americans hired for the film. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, HR news items also added the following actors to the cast: James B. Leong, Chester Gan, and as the knife thrower, Weaver Levy.
       Blood Alley was the first released film of Wayne's Batjac Productions, Inc., which was incorporated on 9 Jun 1954. Batjac produced most of Wayne's films until his death in 1979, as well as producing a few films starring other actors. According to a Sep 1955 DV article, Wellman asked composer Roy Webb and technical advisor W. F. Hsueh to write the song in the Chinese language that actress Joy Kim sings during the film. The article went on to state that, following the success of The High and the Mighty theme song (See Entry), Wellman met with Warner Bros. music department head Ray Heindorf to discuss hiring a lyricist to write English words for the song. No additional information about an English-language version of the song has been found. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Sep 1955.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1955.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1955.
---
Daily Variety
15 Sep 1955.
---
Daily Variety
21 Sep 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Sep 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1955
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1955
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1955
p. 17, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1955
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
29 Sep 1955.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
18 Jan 1955.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
27 Sep 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Jan 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Sep 55
p. 601.
New York Times
6 Oct 55
p. 25.
Variety
21 Sep 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Batjac Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus
Orch
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup supv
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Unit pub
Tech adv
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Blood Alley by Albert Sidney Fleischman (New York, 1955).
MUSIC
Chinese language song, music by Roy Webb, lyrics by W. F. Hsueh.
COMPOSERS
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 October 1955
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 28 September 1955
Production Date:
7 January--mid March 1955 at Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 October 1955
Copyright Number:
LP7777
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
WarnerColor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
115
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17459
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a Communist Chinese prison cell, Merchant Marine Tom Wilder has remained sane for two years by talking to an imaginary woman he calls “Baby.” When strangers offer him a means of escape, he accepts and a native, Big Han, takes him by sampan to the small village of Chiku Shan, and given a place to stay in the home of an American, Cathy Grainger. The Communists, in need of Western medical knowledge, have detained her father, a physician who came to the country several years earlier. Tom meets with the village elders, led by Mr. Tso, who explains that the people have spent a year planning an escape to Hong Kong. The 180 villagers, Tom learns, financed the bribe that got him released because they need an experienced sea pilot to navigate a boat through three-hundred-mile Formosa Strait, known as "Blood Alley." For the trip, the villagers plan to steal an antiquated stern-wheeler, which is being used as a ferryboat. They will first have to evade a patrol boat, then sail at night through the fog in order to elude Chinese gunboats in the strait. Although the villagers have carefully worked out all details of the escape, there are other problems: A village family headed by the ardent Communist supporter Old Feng are not privy to the plans, but would be blamed and executed for the disappearance of the rest of the villagers, so they will be abducted and taken along against their will. At first, Tom considers the villagers’ scheme impossible, but later, mulling it over with Baby, becomes intrigued by the challenge of freeing the villagers from Communism. When soldiers come looking for Tom, Mr. ... +


In a Communist Chinese prison cell, Merchant Marine Tom Wilder has remained sane for two years by talking to an imaginary woman he calls “Baby.” When strangers offer him a means of escape, he accepts and a native, Big Han, takes him by sampan to the small village of Chiku Shan, and given a place to stay in the home of an American, Cathy Grainger. The Communists, in need of Western medical knowledge, have detained her father, a physician who came to the country several years earlier. Tom meets with the village elders, led by Mr. Tso, who explains that the people have spent a year planning an escape to Hong Kong. The 180 villagers, Tom learns, financed the bribe that got him released because they need an experienced sea pilot to navigate a boat through three-hundred-mile Formosa Strait, known as "Blood Alley." For the trip, the villagers plan to steal an antiquated stern-wheeler, which is being used as a ferryboat. They will first have to evade a patrol boat, then sail at night through the fog in order to elude Chinese gunboats in the strait. Although the villagers have carefully worked out all details of the escape, there are other problems: A village family headed by the ardent Communist supporter Old Feng are not privy to the plans, but would be blamed and executed for the disappearance of the rest of the villagers, so they will be abducted and taken along against their will. At first, Tom considers the villagers’ scheme impossible, but later, mulling it over with Baby, becomes intrigued by the challenge of freeing the villagers from Communism. When soldiers come looking for Tom, Mr. Tso hides him in a coffin. Tom has left a map he has drawn from memory at Cathy's house and, fearing that it might alert the soldiers to the escape plan, he sneaks back to the house and kills an officer who is trying to rape her. The other soldiers leave before they realize their comrade is missing, and with mixed emotions, Cathy thanks Tom, and admits that she could have feelings for him. Although Tom is physically attracted to Cathy, he gruffly tells her not to “kid herself.” Later, without Cathy’s knowledge, her maid Susu suggests to Tom that her employer would make a good wife. Tom scares the maid away by pretending to love her instead, thus curtailing further attempts at matchmaking. As part of the escape plan, Mr. Tso’s American-educated nephew Tack, the ferry’s chief engineer, intentionally ruins the boat’s antiquated boiler so that the authorities will install a new one. The night before they plan to steal the steamboat, Mr. Tso reports that Dr. Grainger, who was ordered to tend an ailing commissar, was put to death after his patient died. He asks Tom to tell Cathy, but Tom procrastinates. The next day, Tom, Tack and Big Han use smoke bombs and a replica of the steamboat’s smoke stack to create the illusion that the boat has been destroyed in a fire. Tom then pilots the boat to the village, where it is loaded and boarded. When Cathy insists on staying behind with her father, Tom slaps her and brusquely tells her about the doctor’s murder. After everyone is on board, they lure the patrol boat into a trap and sail away. Shortly after entering the strait, they encounter several Chinese navy gunboats, but the sailors laugh at the antiquated steamboat and let it pass. Although Tom is beginning to find Cathy hard to resist, he argues with her when she tells him her plans to go ashore at Honghn Bay to confirm her father’s death. After villagers discover that members of the Feng family poisoned their food supply, the tainted food is discarded and Tom orders stringent rationing. In addition, fresh water and wood for the boiler is running low. During a storm, one of the Fengs attacks Tom in the pilothouse. In the ensuing fight, Tom knocks out his assailant, but suffers many bruises and wounds. Cathy nurses his injuries, and the next morning declares that she loves him. Tom replies tactlessly that he will not want her around in Hong Kong. At Honghn Bay, the travelers gather wood from the ruins of wrecked ships, along with fresh water and fish. When they are ready to leave, Tom puts the Fengs ashore to save food, but then offers them a choice between continuing on the journey or remaining with Old Feng, who has instigated the troublemaking. The family unanimously decides to abandon their elder, who is killed when gunboats unexpectedly shoot at them. After rescuing Cathy, who confirmed her father's death, Tom escapes the gunboats by hiding the steamboat in shallow, foliage-filled water and turning off the engine. The villagers then get out and pull the boat out of danger. The next evening, after navigating the steamboat into the Hong Kong port, Tom says good-bye to "Baby" and tells Cathy he wants her to stay with him. +

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

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