Less than a classic but more than a curio, John Garfield’s last vehicle marks the disintegration of Hollywood’s old left and—released in mid 1951, some two and a half years before The Wild One roared onto the scene—it prophesies the antiheroic youth cinema that sprouted in the mid ’50s and reached fruition a dozen years later.
Garfield plays a confused, impulsive punk who wakes up hollering, kills a cop in a botched robbery, runs into a neighborhood swimming pool, where he picks up a naive Tenement Rose (Shelley Winters). Then, like some wounded dog, he holes up in her family’s apartment, holding them hostage for several days before dying miserably in the gutter.
Produced by its star, He Ran All the Way was written and directed by a quartet of Hollywood reds. The director, John Berry, left the country after finishing the movie, as did one of the credited screenwriters, Hugo Butler. The other writer, Guy Endore, was blacklisted; Dalton Trumbo, for whom Butler and Endore apparently fronted, had already served jail time. Garfield, harassed in the press and soon hauled before HUAC, was struck down by a heart attack less than a year after the movie opened. Nearly 40 (and at least a decade too old for the part), he suffers with frightening intensity. His performance “is full of startling glints from start to end,” Bosley Crowther noted in The New York Times. Garfield “makes a most odd and troubled creature, unused to the normal flow of life, unable to perceive the moral standards of decent people.”
Although equaling the young Brando in his dangerous sexual magnetism, Garfield makes no attempt to woo the audience. His torment barely seems like acting; the paranoia he projects on-screen was totally justified.