Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ann Sheridan a ‘Woman on the Run’ 1950


Ann Sheridan in 1950's "Woman on the Run," her first post-WB film.

Upon its release, Woman on the Run was likely considered a B+ vehicle for veteran glamour girl Ann Sheridan. Facing the ‘50s as an independent star, Sheridan was only 35, but she had been in the movies since the early ‘30s. 

Notable was that Sheridan was a producer (uncredited) on this film, in an attempt to find better roles than she had of late at WB. In that sense, Ann’s instincts were good. Woman on the Run was an adult, gritty, little film noir with Sheridan playing a realistic role. At the time, Woman felt like a step down, even though she was actively involved with getting it made. Woman on the Run is now considered a rediscovered film noir gem.

The title's a misnomer, as it's Sheridan's hubby who is on the run, and she is running after him, trying to track him down. (The original short story was called Man on the Run.) The couple has drifted apart, though they live together still, out of financial need. He witnesses a murder and flees, with the bad guy, cops, and Sheridan’s wife after him. 

Actually, it's the husband who's on the lam in 1950's "Woman on the Run,"
played by Ross Elliot.

Sheridan's character, Eleanor Johnson, is bitter about her husband Frank (Ross Elliot), and offers brittle wisecracks in response to the cops’ questions about him. With a reporter she can't shake—Dennis O’Keefe as Dan Legget, the wife seeks out her hubby at his various haunts. Along the way she finds out aspects to his character that she didn't know and begins to see their marriage in a different light. On top of this, the cops and wife have learned that the husband has a heart condition and needs his medication.

Ann Sheridan's wife sardonically shows off hubby's art work to Robert Keith's
 detective in 1950's "Woman on the Run."

The story is set in San Francisco and extensive location shooting was done there, adding authenticity to the moody atmosphere as well as a look at 1950 San Fran. The setting feels realistically working class:  the couple's apartment is sparse, Sheridan’s clothes are simple, and you get a real feel for a struggling couple in post-war USA.

The cast of veteran actors are great, with zingy dialogue, but it’s all about Ann Sheridan, who plays the ultimate tough cookie that may still be a little soft in the center—circa her heart. Sadly, like many golden era stars, Ann suddenly started to look a bit worse for the wear after leaving the big studios. Only 35, yet she looks older—though care is given in her close-ups. Sheridan was famous for chain smoking, which she does throughout Woman on the Run. Sadly, lung cancer cost Annie her life, just a month before her 52nd birthday in 1967.

With her post-war short 'do, Ann Sheridan reminds me a dour version of another redhead, Lucille Ball in her "I Love Lucy" era! From 1950's "Woman on the Run."

Sheridan's performance is tough, funny, melancholy, and natural. Ann’s wisecracking expertise was right up there with Eve Arden; she was also looking a bit like that soon to be #1 redhead, Lucille Ball. In all fairness, the post-war short-curled coiffures did no film diva any favors! Ann Sheridan gets soft close-ups but is otherwise photographed realistically, not swathed in deep noir shadows, or finding any excuse to change costumes, like other veteran divas who swanned their way through ‘50s vehicles.

Ann Sheridan was one of Hollywood's super-smokers. Sadly, she died of lung cancer
at just shy of 52 years in 1967. A key scene from 1950's "Woman on the Run."

***Spoiler alert ahead, though revealed half way through the film***

Dennis O’Keefe is fine as the fast-talking reporter, Legget. He totally holds his own with rapid-fire repartee with Sheridan and it’s a shame that he’s revealed as the villain, given their chemistry. Robert Keith also makes a fine foil as detective to Sheridan’s sarcastic wife, both exchanging barbs constantly. I was surprised that this familiar film face was actor Brian Keith’s father! Ross Elliot as Frank Johnson appears in the film’s opening and closing scenes, but the character is talked about throughout. Elliot was a popular movie and TV “everyman” type for decades. One memorable career moment was when Elliot played the director of Lucy Ricardo’s classic Vitameatavegamin commercial.

Dennis O'Keefe as the reporter who's looking for more than a scoop, in 1950's "Woman on the Run."

Ross Elliot as Sheridan's hubby, Frank Johnson, in 1950's "Woman on the Run."

Director Norman Foster had quite a life and career, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out. Handsome Foster first started in Hollywood as an actor and was first husband to film icon Claudette Colbert. In the mid-30s Foster segued into directing and screenwriting. When Foster’s film directing career faded, he moved into television. Along the way, Foster remarried, to Loretta Young’s sister, Sally Blane.

Director Norman Foster was once a handsome actor.

Hal Mohr’s cinematography in Woman on the Run is a classic in film noir visuals. Striking angles, shadows, and a beautifully shot amusement park finale give this film much dramatic punch. Mohr won two Oscars for cinematography. The first was in a write-in campaign for 1935’s B&W A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The second was for Best Color Cinematography for 1943’s The Phantom of the Opera. Off-camera, Mohr was married to actress Evelyn Venable 40 years until he died in 1974.

The rollercoaster scene with Ann Sheridan in 1950's "Woman on the Run" is intense!

Alan Campbell, husband of great wit Dorothy Parker, wrote the screenplay for Woman on the Run. And star Sheridan’s pal, future super-producer Ross Hunter, wrote additional dialogue.

It’s notable that film noir expert Eddie Muller mounted a campaign to get Woman on the Run restored, as it had been considered lost. It took time and money, but restoration was done, and the film received to belated acclaim. Now, the film is a favorite on TCM!

While Woman on the Run has some typical film noir twists, they’re enjoyable. But what makes this movie stand out is the realistic writing and performances, which keeps viewers totally engaged.

Here’s my look at Ann Sheridan’s 1947 WB vehicle, Nora Prentiss: https://ricksrealreel.blogspot.com/2019/02/ann-sheridans-glamour-brightens-gloomy.html


Ann Sheridan & Dennis O'Keefe make a fine film duo in 1950's "Woman on the Run."



  1. I'm glad you covered this, Rick -- I've been meaning to check it out, but I've just bumped it up on my watchlist. I'm a big Ann Sheridan fan, not to mention Norman Foster. (And thanks for the heads-up about the spoiler!)

    -- Karen

    1. Karen, TCM airs this often, plus there are several excellent copies on YouTube! I adore Sheridan too and it's her birthday Feb. 21. Cheers, Rick

  2. I just watched this on your recommendation last night on YOUTUBE, great, thanks!!!

    1. You're welcome, it's really a clever, realistic little thriller! Cheers, Rick

  3. It is do sad that this film did little for Ann Sheridan. By the mid 1950's, she was reduced to supporting roles in film like Opposite Sex. Thanks to Eddy, it was re-discovered. I have seen this on TCM. Great film. It is Ann Sheridan's performance that made the film great.

    1. I know. In my review for "Nora Prentiss," I wrote how she had several successful films when in the late '40s, but when she left WB around 1950, Sheridan's leading lady career was basically over. Very sad, for such a versatile and likable actress. Cheers, Rick