Wednesday, August 08, 2007

cinema obscura: Dick Powell's "You Can't Run Away from It" (1956)

Turner Classics unearths the long-lost Dick Powell-June Allyson film, "You Can't Run Away from It," a pseudo-musical remake of "It Happened One Night," early Tuesday, August 14th at midnight (9 p.m. on Monday, pst).

By all accounts, this curiosity started out as a major production for Columbia Pictures, with Powell – Allyson’s husband, of course – directing a Claude Binyon script that is impressively faithful to the Robert Riskin original and with Jack Lemmon, fresh off his Oscar win for “Mister Roberts,” cast in the Clark Gable role.
Allyson, of course, essayed the original Claudette Colbert part.

The songs, written by Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul – at least, what’s left of them – are literate and witty. The clever wordplay, for example, between Allyson and Lemmon during the Walls of Jericho number, titled “Temporarily,” has the kind of articulate sophistication that anticipated what Meredith Willson would accomplish, with much more acclaim, in “The Music Man,” a few years later.

But something went wrong, my hunch being that Columbia lost faith in the film – the first clue being the unattractive title that was ultimately attached to the movie. Somewhere along the way, a musical turned into a quasi-musical, with last-minute editing haste evident in the release version.

This is no more apparent than in the “Thumbing a Ride” duet, which is complete on the Decca soundtrack album but truncated on film, with just about all of Lemmon’s savvy lyrics deleted for some bizarre reason. Given that the film’s principals – Allyson, Lemmon and Powell – are all deceased now, one can only speculate what happened. And it’s unlikely that any of the missing musical footage is sitting on some shelf at Columbia.

Alas, the widescreen film is not being presented letterboxed on Turner (a true rarity) which leads me to believe that "You Can't Run Away from It" has yet to be restored by the people at Sony.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Early studio publicity shot of June Allyson in glorious color)


jbryant said...

Funny, I haven't seen this thing in probably close to 20 years, but every time I see that title, the melody that goes with the title lyrics pops into my mind.

I'm always amazed when TCM drops the ball on letterboxing. Thank God it's an extremely rare occurence. Offhand, I can only think of a couple other instances - Visconti's "Rocco and His Brothers" and Quine's "Strangers When We Meet" (a particular favorite I'd been looking forward to recording; the DVD, happily, is letterboxed).

chris schneidefr said...

It's been ages since I've seen the film, and the few memories that remain are far from positive. Still, though, I did participate in a discussion of it recently in a 'net group I belong to.

One guy had good things to say about the Gene DePaul/Johnny Mercer title tune, praising George Duning's arrangement. Of the two leads, he said "Not the greatest chemistry, but both appealing singers."

Another voice had special praise for the "Walls of Jericho" number, a DePaul/Mercer song with the title "Temporarily." The adjective used to descibe it was "delightful."

Anonymous said...

It's frustrating that a movie with such important names associated with it still can't be seen in its intended form. Good, bad, or somewhere in between, I'd like to have a chance to see what these folks meant us to see.