Film Title: For You I Die
Studio: Arpi Productions
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
Genre: Film Noir
- Paul Langton
- Cathy Downs
- Jane Weeks
- Don C. Harvey
As much as I love Film Noir top to bottom, the “B Noir” has always fascinated me a bit more than the more commercial films. There is something about regular, ordinary faces that creates a better sense of realism. Don’t get me wrong – heavy hitters like Bogart and Mitchum are great, but their celebrity makes them more identifiable as themselves rather than as their characters. So when we come across relative “nobodies” (not in terms of importance, but as compared to classic Hollywood superstars), the dark world into which they are forced seems all the more unsettling. It becomes something that could happen to any one of us. 1947’s For You I Die screams noir, not because of its underworld title (as great as it may be), but because it’s busting at the seams with people we might pass on the street without a second glance.
Johnny Coulter (Paul Langton) and Matt Gruber (Don Harvey) are two convicts breaking out of prison. Gruber is the more vile of the two; Johnny is an unwilling accomplice, having only a year to go on his sentence and not wanting to subject himself to more trouble. Nevertheless, Gruber forces Johnny into the caper and the two men head for the hills. While holding up in a small cave, Gruber tells Johnny that splitting apart would be a better plan of action. Gruber intends to hide out for a few days until the heat dies down; Johnny is instructed to find his way to a bed and breakfast, where Gruber’s ex-girlfriend Hope (Cathy Downs) will assumedly conceal him until Gruber arrives later in the week.
Johnny eventually stumbles across the place, a small eatery tucked away on the side of the road and run by Maggie Dillon (Marian Kerby). Upon arriving, Johnny meets a blonde spitfire named Georgie (Jane Weeks), whom he believes is Hope. Subsequently, he spills the details of the prison break and his plans. Georgie is excited about the prospect of hiding out with a bad boy; Hope, by comparison, is far more conservative and honest. When Johnny learns that Georgie is not Hope, and that Hope wants no part of the criminal lifestyle, he panics and looks for ways to get out of town before Gruber arrives. Further complicating matters are the frequent visits by a couple of local cops who randomly stop in for a slice of Maggie’s pie, and a budding relationship between Hope and Johnny.
It would be easy to throw this film onto a pile of forgotten noir examples and walk away nonplussed. Realistically speaking, it probably isn’t earth-shattering. In fact, there are a couple of odd sequences in the film that seem out of context. One such sequence is an outdoor, impromptu concert by Alec Shaw (Mischa Auer), another one of Maggie’s guests who is a perpetual optimist and sometimes slightly irritating. In terms of plot, For You I Die is your basic criminal-tries-to-go-straight arrangement, though as we’re all aware, Film Noir is a very unforgiving world and does not make that easy to do.
For what it’s worth, Paul Langton does an excellent job and the audience is on his character’s side from the beginning. Granted, his partner in crime Gruber is such a bastard that we want Johnny to get away from him and leave those old, dishonorable ways behind.
To my knowledge, For You I Die is only available on DVD through Alpha Home Entertainment, known extensively for releasing public domain films as-is with no restoration effort whatsoever. That said, the film can be watched/downloaded for free from Archive.org, which might be the better option unless you want the DVD for collection purposes. Quality-wise, this film could stand a bit of attention. There are some scenes that are very dark and certain dialogue is hard to distinguish. But again, the likelihood of any restoration is slim at best.
For You I Die is one of only two films made by Arpi Productions, the other being 1948’s Sofia. Because it was low-budget (it was made for $300,000), and having no real long-term value aside from interest from noir enthusiasts, this film will probably recede further into history until it fades away. Still, it’s unfortunate that any film would be thought so unimportant. I would, by no means, call this a bad film. I find it to be a product of its time, and therefore, worth watching.
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