director Norman Foster
The Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City earlier this year at the Castro Theater in San Francisco ran a restoration of the 1950 B-movie Woman on the Run, describing it as “the best cinematic depiction ever of mid-20th century San Francisco.” Unfortunately, I missed the showing but as luck would have it, the film is in the public domain and is available on Amazon Prime as well as through the Internet Archive. While the print is watchable, it surely makes you yearn to see a restored version of it.
There is a ton of old San Francisco on display in the film, indeed far more than any one other film I can think of. It’s a rich glimpse into the real streets and vistas of the city from a time now 65 years past, many generations gone. And watching the muddy-ish old unrestored version, I just kept wishing to see it in more pristine form. Hopefully, a DVD of the restored version will be released.
The film itself is a good yarn, if not exactly the most believable or straightforward a story. A man out walking his dog witnesses a murder of a murder witness, gets shot at and then lams out. The police and a reporter chase after his mostly estranged wife (Ann Sheridan as the titular “woman on the run,” although it’s her husband who’s on the run, not her) hoping to track the man down. Spoiler alert! The gunman is the reporter. I’m not really sure how this twist makes sense. Seems like the police would know that he was the guy they were after.
As a San Franciscan of 25 years, the setting makes the picture, moreso than other noirs set in The City like Dark Passage (1947), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), or D.O.A. (1950). Shots from Telegraph Hill, the Embarcadero, and Chinatown, as well as other more average streets and then finally in part at Playland at the Beach (though apparently some of the finale was actually shot at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica.)
I will totally watch the remastered version of this film the first chance I get.