Until earlier this month, I’d neither seen nor heard of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s powerful noir-meets-social issue film No Way Out (1950). Mankiewicz was a prolific writer, director, and producer, helming such stunners as All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer, and Sleuth (as well as somewhat lighter fare, from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir to Guys and Dolls).
With No Way Out — the film he directed just before All About Eve — he brings together the dangers of criminal violence and racism in a strong cast, featuring Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark, and Linda Darnell.
We see Hollywood racism clearly in the posters and ads for the film, punctuating the importance of such a film. Note Poitier’s name isn’t listed even though he’s the main character, and the images mislead by suggesting a psychological thriller:
Despite this, we see the politics and impact of racial and class divides, women’s issues, and the ideology of racial uplift discussed in the film, even as Widmark plays his racist crook with heightened fury but the similar psychotic noir glee as his first, less politicized role, Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947).
By no means subtle, No Way Out is an important film, and one that placed in the National Board of Review’s “Ten Best Films” of 1950 as well as being nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay and for the Writers Guild of America’s Meltzer Award for “Screenplay Dealing Most Ably with Problems of the American Scene.”
I hope the live tweeting gang at #bnoirdetour finds No Way Out as engaging as I do.