by guest writer
Jean Negulesco’s Road House is not your typical film noir: the usual male drifter is changed with a female drifter out of luck, looking for a better place, Lily Stevens, played by Ida Lupino. The male characters seem so domesticated, especially Pete Morgan (Cornel Wilde). Another character that seems sort of related with a female one is Jefty Robbins (Richard Widmark). You don’t really know what’s happening behind his stiff look, he is weak and unstable. The movie has a great opening shot, with a very sharp dialogue, when Pete walks into a room and Lily has her leg up on the desk, half uncovered. The tension is felt right from the beginning, in particular when Jefty is asking Pete to teach Lily bowling.
Ida Lupino came upon the script “The Dark Love” which eventually became “Road House” and Darryl F. Zanuck bought the story especially for Ida. The hardness is her voice and face made her perfect for this kind of noir. She performs the songs in the movie with her own voice, without being dubbed and there is a harsh remark at one point made by Susie (Celeste Holm): “She does more without a voice than everybody I ever heard”. Her showing off her lack of talent is viewed more as a quality and proof of her strong character. Cinematography is key in a film noir and Joseph LaShelle does a great job, using every trick, from high focused close-ups to fluent long shots and chiaroscuro angles to contribute to creating tension and gives it a certain attitude and ambiance that makes it worth watching.
photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox