“Pitfall” (1948) starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt, & Raymond Burr

Sue Forbes: Oh, your breakfast is on the table, darling.

John Forbes: Where else would it be?

John Forbes (Dick Powell) is a middle-aged man bored w/ his predictable life and job as an insurance adjuster. His lovely wife, Sue (Jane Wyatt- later Spock’s mom), and adoring son, Tommy, make up his family. Forbes meets a young/blonde aspiring model, Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott), whose fiance embezzled from a store insured by Forbes’ company. He finds Mona through J.B. MacDonald (Raymond Burr- later the iconic Perry Mason), a private detective freelancing for the insurance company. Forbes goes to collect the stolen gifts and soon falls for Mona (who says she rarely meets nice men like him). MacDonald (w/ an obsessive personality and violent temper) also has his eyes on Mona, though she wants nothing to do w/ him!

MacDonald: She probably doesn’t appeal to you but for me, she’s just what I told the doctor to order.

This film (see video below) is a combination of domestic drama and film noir set in L.A. and its surrounding suburbs. Powell took this role after reconciling w/ his wife (June Allyson) after he had an affair, TCM’s Eddie Muller noted. To get past the Hayes Code office, that would normally not allow a good guy to be an adulterer (and suffer no consequences), director Andre De Toth (an immigrant from Hungary) met w/ two prominent officials. De Toth let these (married) men know that he knew of their mistresses; the production didn’t have any problems after that meeting- LOL! Muller also explained that though the director was married to Veronica Lake, he had a reputation as a philanderer.

[1] Powell, Wyatt, Scott and Raymond Burr are effective and believable — and the film is paced, photographed, and scripted with intelligence — so that the viewer easily goes along for the ride.

[2] Jay Dratler’s script (from his own novel) shows a progressive streak in dealing with the short and unpredictable fuses of controlling, potentially violent males- stalkers.

Powell gets to tap deeply into his key emotion, snappish discontent… Scott… an actress with limits, finds a comfortable part as a bewildered and vulnerable victim of the men who come into her life, bidden and unbidden. Burr …lets a bit of yearning, of desperation, show under all his intimidating bulk…

De Toth… made, in Pitfall, one of the more distinctive titles of the noir cycle. …it has the effrontery to situate deceit and duplicity and betrayal where it surely ought not to belong- not in road houses or tenement flats- but right at the heart of a storybook American family (it’s one of the more subversive films of the era).

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

2 thoughts on ““Pitfall” (1948) starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt, & Raymond Burr

  1. With Hollywood it was / is hard not to think that the pressure to hide everything from the glance of a supposedly very morally judgmental American public meant / means that the underbelly is particularly corrupt, hypocritical and seamy.

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