He Walked by Night (1948)

79 mins | Drama | December 1948

Director:

Alfred Werker

Producer:

Robert T. Kane

Cinematographer:

John Alton

Production Designer:

Edward Ilou

Production Company:

Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film's working titles were 29 Clues and The L.A. Investigator. Credits on the viewed print were missing; the above credits were taken from a cutting continuity deposited in copyright records. A written foreword on the viewed print states that this film was based on a case history taken from the detective files of the Los Angeles Police Department, with whose cooperation the film was made. HR further stated that the film, which had a "semi-documentary" style, was based on the murder of a highway patrolman by Erwin Walker, who had worked as a civilian for the Glendale Police Department. DV reports that Los Angeles police aided in research for the film, and that Sergeant Marty Wynn, credited on the screen as technical advisor, was a member of the force.
       A narrator introduces the audience to Los Angeles through a photographic montage in the film's opening, and uses the word “dragnet“ several times in the course of the film. Actor Jack Webb, who played a forensics expert in the film, developed a friendship with Los Angeles Police Detective Mary Wynn, who was the film's technical advisor. Winn, who was familiar with Webb because of his radio work, suggested that the actor start a new program using LAPD files and sticking close to real police procedures, much like the writers of He Walked by Night had done. Out of his experience on the film, Webb developed his own radio show, Dragnet, based on case files of the Los Angeles police, and became known for his characterization of Los Angeles police detective "Sgt. Joe Friday." Dragnet ... More Less

The film's working titles were 29 Clues and The L.A. Investigator. Credits on the viewed print were missing; the above credits were taken from a cutting continuity deposited in copyright records. A written foreword on the viewed print states that this film was based on a case history taken from the detective files of the Los Angeles Police Department, with whose cooperation the film was made. HR further stated that the film, which had a "semi-documentary" style, was based on the murder of a highway patrolman by Erwin Walker, who had worked as a civilian for the Glendale Police Department. DV reports that Los Angeles police aided in research for the film, and that Sergeant Marty Wynn, credited on the screen as technical advisor, was a member of the force.
       A narrator introduces the audience to Los Angeles through a photographic montage in the film's opening, and uses the word “dragnet“ several times in the course of the film. Actor Jack Webb, who played a forensics expert in the film, developed a friendship with Los Angeles Police Detective Mary Wynn, who was the film's technical advisor. Winn, who was familiar with Webb because of his radio work, suggested that the actor start a new program using LAPD files and sticking close to real police procedures, much like the writers of He Walked by Night had done. Out of his experience on the film, Webb developed his own radio show, Dragnet, based on case files of the Los Angeles police, and became known for his characterization of Los Angeles police detective "Sgt. Joe Friday." Dragnet eventually became a popular NBC television series that ran intermittently from 3 Jan 1952 through Sep 1959 and was revived in a second series, which aired from Jan 1967 to 10 Sep 1970.
       As noted in modern sources, Anthony Mann, who directed Eagle-Lion's early 1948 semi-documentary release T-Men (see entry), completed the directing assignment on He Walked By Night for Alfred Werker. Several reviews lauded the film's final chase scene, shot in what NYT called "700 miles of hidden highways" that make up the giant underground tunnels of Los Angeles' storm drain system. He Walked by Night predated by more than a year The Third Man, a 1950 film (see entry) starring Orson Welles that also ended with a dramatic chase through the sewer system of a city (Vienna, Austria). The Los Angeles storm drains were used again in Them! (1954, see entry).
       Although the eponymous character, “Davis Morgan,“ is fatally shot at the end of He Walked by Night, his real-life inspiration, Erwin Walker, was captured by the LAPD. He spent time on death row, was institutionalized for many years in a state hospital, and finally won his freedom several years before his death in the 1980s. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Nov 1948.
---
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1948
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Nov 1948
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1948
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1949
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
24 Apr 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Nov 1948
p. 4375.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Nov 1948
p. 4381.
New York Times
7 Feb 1949
p. 15.
Variety
10 Nov 1948
p. 15.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Bryan Foy Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Orig story
Addl dial
Substantial contr to scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog eff
Special art eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Scr supv
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The L.A. Investigator
29 Clues
Release Date:
December 1948
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 24 November 1948
New York opening: 5 February 1949
Production Date:
late April--late May 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Pathé Industries, inc.
Copyright Date:
13 November 1948
Copyright Number:
LP2291
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
79
Length(in feet):
7,092
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
13365
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At one o'clock on a June night in Los Angeles, Officer Robert Rollins of the Hollywood Police Division is shot by a young man who was attempting to rob a radio shop. Before he lapses into a coma, Robert crashes his car into the killer's car, and when the police arrive on the scene, they discover an arsenal of war surplus navy equipment in the trunk. After Robert dies, his friends, Sergeants Marty Brennan and Chuck Jones, take on the case under police captain Breen. Meanwhile, the killer, Davis Morgan, has been selling or leasing stolen electronics equipment that he has rebuilt to an honest electronics store owner named Paul Reeves. One day following the murder, Morgan gives Reeves a television projector to rent, and a customer named Dunning recognizes it as a projector he built and calls the police. Later, when Morgan returns to the store, Chuck and Marty are waiting to arrest him. Morgan is armed, however, and shoots Chuck, paralyzing him, then is himself wounded as he escapes. At his courtyard apartment in Hollywood, Morgan meticulously removes the bullet. Later, wearing various disguises, Morgan perpetrates a string of liquor store robberies, in which he escapes using the city's 700 miles of storm drains. Lee Whitey, a Hollywood Division forensics officer, reports to Breen that the bullet casings from the liquor store heists match those of the Rollins and Jones shootings. Breen then meets with the robbery victims and builds a composite of the thief's face, which Reeves confirms is Davis Morgan. A nationwide circulation of Morgan's picture proves that he is virtually unknown in the crime world. After Morgan visits Reeves at his home to ... +


At one o'clock on a June night in Los Angeles, Officer Robert Rollins of the Hollywood Police Division is shot by a young man who was attempting to rob a radio shop. Before he lapses into a coma, Robert crashes his car into the killer's car, and when the police arrive on the scene, they discover an arsenal of war surplus navy equipment in the trunk. After Robert dies, his friends, Sergeants Marty Brennan and Chuck Jones, take on the case under police captain Breen. Meanwhile, the killer, Davis Morgan, has been selling or leasing stolen electronics equipment that he has rebuilt to an honest electronics store owner named Paul Reeves. One day following the murder, Morgan gives Reeves a television projector to rent, and a customer named Dunning recognizes it as a projector he built and calls the police. Later, when Morgan returns to the store, Chuck and Marty are waiting to arrest him. Morgan is armed, however, and shoots Chuck, paralyzing him, then is himself wounded as he escapes. At his courtyard apartment in Hollywood, Morgan meticulously removes the bullet. Later, wearing various disguises, Morgan perpetrates a string of liquor store robberies, in which he escapes using the city's 700 miles of storm drains. Lee Whitey, a Hollywood Division forensics officer, reports to Breen that the bullet casings from the liquor store heists match those of the Rollins and Jones shootings. Breen then meets with the robbery victims and builds a composite of the thief's face, which Reeves confirms is Davis Morgan. A nationwide circulation of Morgan's picture proves that he is virtually unknown in the crime world. After Morgan visits Reeves at his home to get money, the police are convinced that Morgan is still in Los Angeles. Frustrated by the case, Marty takes two weeks off, during which time he visits Chuck, who tells him his theory that Morgan is a policeman. A search of area police stations reveals that several years earlier, Morgan worked as a radio technician for a Los Angeles area police department until he was drafted. After a Hollywood postal worker recognizes Morgan from his route at the Bellevue courtyard apartments at Fuller Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, Breen and Marty catch him at home. Morgan escapes through the attic onto the rooftops and into the storm drains, where he is eventually hunted down and shot. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Crime


Subject

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

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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.