Produced by Jerry Wald
Screenplay by Delmer Daves
Story by David Goodis
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Edited by David Weisbart
Distributed by Warner Bros.
September 5, 1947 (US)
Country United States
Box office $3 million (US rentals)
Dark Passage (1947) is a Warner Bros. film noir directed by Delmer Daves and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The film is based on the novel of the same name by David Goodis. It was the third of four films real-life couple Bacall and Bogart made together.
The film is notable for employing cinematography that avoided showing the face of Bogart’s character, Vincent Parry, prior to the point in the story at which Vincent undergoes plastic surgery to change his appearance.
The majority of the pre-surgery scenes are shot from Vincent’s point of view. In those scenes shot from other perspectives, the camera is always positioned so that its field of view does not include his face. The story follows Vincent’s attempts to hide from the law and clear his name of murder.
Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage
Vincent Parry, a man convicted of killing his wife, has escaped from San Quentin prison by stowing away in a supply truck. He evades police and hitches a ride with a passing motorist named Baker. Parry’s odd clothes and a news report on the radio about an escaped convict make Baker suspicious. When questioned, Parry beats him unconscious. Irene Jansen, who had been painting nearby, picks up Parry and smuggles him past a police roadblock into San Francisco, offering him shelter in her apartment.
An acquaintance of Jansen, Madge, comes by Irene’s apartment. Parry, without opening the door, tells her to go away. Madge was a former romantic interest of Parry’s whom he had spurned. Out of spite she testified at his trial, providing a motive as to why he would have killed his wife. When she returns, Irene explains that she had followed Parry’s case with interest. Her own father had been falsely convicted of murder, and since then she has taken an interest in miscarriages of justice. She believes that Parry is innocent.
Parry leaves but is recognized by a cab driver, Sam. The man turns out to be sympathetic and gives Parry the name of a plastic surgeon who can change his appearance. Before the operation, Parry goes to the apartment of a friend, George Fellsinger, for help in proving his innocence and arranges to stay with him during the recuperation from surgery.
Dr. Coley performs the operation. Parry, unable to speak, his face wrapped in bandages, returns to George’s apartment only to find him murdered. He stumbles back to Irene’s house, collapsing at her doorstep. Irene nurses him back to health.
Madge and her ex-husband Bob, who is romantically interested in Irene, come by. Madge is worried that Parry will kill her for testifying against him and asks to stay with Irene for protection. Irene gets rid of Madge and deflects Bob by saying that she has already met someone to whom she is attracted, “Vincent Parry”. She feigns that she is lying, but actually she is telling the truth, as Parry hides in a bedroom. Bob takes Irene’s statement as a joke, but accepts that Irene is interested in another man.
As he recuperates, Parry learns that he is now wanted for the murder of his friend George, his fingerprints having been found on the murder weapon, George’s trumpet. After his bandages are removed, Parry reluctantly parts from Irene, declaring that she will be better off if she is not part of his life.
Parry decides to flee the city before trying to find out who really killed his wife. At a diner, an undercover policeman becomes suspicious because of Parry’s behavior. The policeman asks for identification, but Parry claims to have left it at his hotel. On the street, Parry darts in front of a moving car to escape.
At the hotel, Parry is surprised by Baker, who holds him at gunpoint. Baker has been following Parry since they first met. He now demands that Irene pay him $60,000 or he will turn Parry over to the law. Parry agrees, and Baker obliges him to drive the two of them to Irene’s apartment. Claiming to take a shortcut, Parry drives to a secluded spot underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. There he succeeds in disarming Baker and questions him, becoming convinced that Madge is behind the deaths of his wife and friend. The two men fight, and Baker falls to his death.
Parry goes to Madge’s apartment. Knowing that she doesn’t recognize him with his new face, he pretends to be a friend of Bob’s who is interested in courting her. Parry eventually reveals his true identity and accuses Madge of having killed both his wife and George. He shows her that he has all the evidence written down, and attempts to coerce her into making a confession. She points out that without her signature the accusations will then be worthless. While turning away from him, she accidentally falls through a window to her death.
Knowing he cannot prove his innocence, and that he will likely be accused of Madge’s murder as well, Parry has no choice but to flee. He intends to go to Mexico and then to South America. He phones Irene, revealing his plans; she says she will meet him there. The next time we see him, Parry is relaxing with a drink in a beach bar in Peru, when he sees Irene across the dance floor. They embrace.