The film opens with Dan (William Powell) having a special drink made for him at the bar. The bartender keep harping on about how great the drink will be, while Dan is clearly desperate to ingest just about anything alcoholic at the time; when he finally gets this legendary drink, his glass is immediately broken by a strange woman, Joan (Kay Francis).
|Intrigued or about to fight? You decide.|
|"Every condemned crook deserves a little hanky panky"|
I love me some William Powell, so it's not surprising that I found him the single most attractive part of One Way Passage. Seeing him as a criminal was interesting, but he was a gentlemanly crook, so it wasn't like he was playing against type. One thing that this film impressed upon me, once again, was just how well Powell plays a man who truly appreciates fine alcohol. Most movie drunks appear to be happy with anything, but Powell gives the impression of a man with particular tastes (most of the time).
|"Mmm...smells like morning regrets...!"|
|Direct quote: "Haw-haw!"|
|Above: not motherly|
One Way Passage was directed by Tay Garnett. This was one of his earlier talkies and I suppose it was handled well for the time period. I would love to blame him for the odd blend of slapstick comedy and romantic tragedy in this movie, but that seems to have been the style at the time. Garnett did not do anything too spectacular in this film, but he told it well enough.
So what is the big deal about One Way Passage that makes it the stuff of legend among pre-Hays Code Hollywood films? Good question. In many ways, this film is pretty typical of its time period. The basic plot of two lovers destined for death, unbeknownst to each other, is pretty hammy; if you throw in a long-lost twin, this could be a soap opera plot. The comic relief stands in stark contrast to the main story and the romance is good, but not epic. Here's what makes One Way Passage unique, though: you care more about the crooks than the lawman. It would be decades before audiences would again sympathize this much for a killer.
|"Do you like them? They don't reek of corpses, do they?"|