Deadline at Dawn wants to be a crackling good mystery, but it unfortunately keeps coming down with a case of artsiness. The basic set-up, from a Cornell Woolrich story, has some great elements, and as the film goes about laying out its story, one can see that with Howard Hawks at the helm and with a screenwriter well-versed in the wisecrack and snappy rejoinder, Deadline could have been a nifty little noir-ish escapade. Unfortunately, with Harold Clurman in the director's seat and with Clifford Odets supplying the dialogue, what one gets is a soppy, muddy and pretentious treatment that doesn't sit well with the basic material. Odets being Odets, there is certainly a flavor to the dialogue, and at times it's beautiful and poetic. More often, however, it's annoyingly artificial, and eventually one wants the characters to stop trying to impress with their vocabulary and their ideas and simply talk in a normal manner that gets the story moving. The cast is good, which helps a great deal, with all the players deserving kudos. But first among equals is Susan Hayward, always to be counted on to deliver a powerful performance and shining even when the dialogue she's given should induce winces.
by Craig Butler review