That’s life. Whichever way you turn, fate sticks out a foot to trip you.
–Al Roberts, Detour
As I return to our TT feature, I decided to put the Tuesday spotlight on Ann Savage. More specifically, I want to look for a few moments at Ann Savage as Vera in Detour. Detour is one of those films from the 1940’s that the studios were cranking out weekly. I read some disparaging remarks about this movie more than once, one reviewer stating that all you could see of L.A. in the film was a ‘parking lot.’ One account said that the movie was shot in six days, but it was reported elsewhere that it took 14 days at a budget of $30,000. I didn’t bother to give sources, as it was impossible to know what’s truth, except that the movie had no huge budget and yet it has aged so very well.
The posed photo of Ann above is adorable, but how I remember her is like this, the hitchhiker from hell.
There is some debate about whether Vera is a femme fatale. She is not overly flirtatious and there is no sex implied. But the fast-talking hustler Vera is beautiful, mean, vicious, heartless, and manipulating. Next to Tom Neal as Al Roberts, she is strong as iron, Al being a pessimist, and a bit limp, is just a guy stuck in a situation he could not have predicted.
Detour was one of the films chosen to be restored by the Academy Film Archive and the Film Foundation earlier this year. Not bad for a previously rated ‘B’ film.
So what’s good about it? I’ll tell you my opinion, that if you look back at the popularity of movies from the 40’s – 70’s, it was all about the story. Characters. Faces. Storytelling at its best. Dialogue that will knock your socks off. If the words coming from the actors’ lips captivates you, who cares about fancy backgrounds? I heard somewhere that Ann Savage provided her own wardrobe. We can all cite more than one popular, expensively made film that was lacking in any real story.
Where were we, now? My time is short today–ah yes, Vera.
Life’s like a ball game. You gotta take a swing at whatever comes along before you wake up and find it’s the ninth inning.
Vera takes a bit more aggressive approach to life, and Al appears to be more fatalistic and on the defensive. I read somewhere that Vera is not a sympathetic character, because of her cruel blackmailing of Al. Perhaps they both are sympathetic, depending on your point of view. I always enjoyed those morally ambiguous stories about people down on their luck. You know the ones that first plant the thought in your mind that maybe it isn’t immoral to steal to eat. The lines get fuzzier when it comes down to using others to save yourself.
They don’t hook up as far as we can see, but the tension is great, and the setting is surely there for some intimate moments, but they tend to use this to banter and argue.
I’ll let you find out the ending for yourself. Detour is an easy film to find on streaming channels and YouTube. I’m looking forward to picking up a dvd of the restored version when it becomes available.
Am I a sadist for enjoying watching Al Roberts get beat up by life and a tough woman? Maybe, but it sure is delicious.
Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.
–Al Roberts, Detour