Toronto Film Society presented One Way Passage (1932) on Monday, December 8, 1975 in a double bill with Ball of Fire as part of the Season 28 Monday Evening Film Buff Series, Programme 2.
Production Company: Warner Brothers. Director: Tay Garnett. Original Story: Robert Lord. Screenplay: Wilson Mizner, Joseph Jackson and (uncredited) Tay Garnett. Photography: Robert Kurrle. Editor: Ralph Dawson. Supervisor: Hal Wallis. Filmed aboard the Pacific liner S.S. Calawaii. Theme: “Where Was I.” Remade as Till We Meet Again (1940).
Cast: William Powell (Dan Hardesty), Kay Francis (Joan Ames), Frank McHugh (Skippy), Aline MacMahon (Countess Barilhaus) [Barrel House Betty]), Warren Hymer (Steve Burke), Frederick Burton (Doctor), Douglas Gerrard (Sir Harold), Herbert Mundin (Steward), Roscoe Karns (Ship’s Bartender), Wilson Mizner [co-author of screenplay] (Singing Drunk), Heinie Conklin (Singer, If I Had My Way), Mike Donlin (Hong Kong Bartender), Dewey Robinson (Honolulu Contact), William Halligan (Agua Caliente Bartender), Stanley Fields (Captain), Willie Fung (Curio Dealer), Harry Seynour (Ship’s Officer), Ruth Hall, Allan Lane (Friends).
The “tearjerker” or “weeper” has long been a staple of popular movie fare. Recent successes such as Love Story and The Other Side of the Mountain emphasize a particular sub-genre–“doomed” love. Nowhere was this love more fated than in One Way Passage, where both the hero and heroine are condemned to death–he by execution and she by an incurable disease. Tay Garnett, the director, avoided the potential box-office disaster of stark tragedy by treating the story baily and interjecting several comedy sequences and visual gags into the movie. Garnett was further aided in his efforts to have the film’s style in direct counterpoint to the sombre tone of the basic plot by some scintillating dialogue written by Wilson Mizner (dialogue which no doubt helped Robert Lord win an Academy Award for Best Original story.)
Kay Francis was the queen of Warner Brothers’ emotional dramas during the early thirties. Her haunted eyes and dark beauty graced six features in three years with William Powell, tonight’s film being the last and best of the series. Powell needs no introduction to TFS members–having appeared in two of our past Summer Series films. Detectives are his most memorable characterizations, but he was also noted as a journalist and con man. Tay Garnett was an underrated professional whose films were always visually exciting.
Notes by Jaan Salk
October 2022 – April 2023