They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

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“This is the last time organ runs his fingers through my permanent wave.”

Once I heard this line I was convinced I had to write about this film. Released as I Became a Criminal in the United States They Made Me a Fugitive is Brazilian-born British director Alberto Cavalcanti’s (simply known as Cavalcanti) foray into noir, a genre usually associated with post-WWII American urban landscapes. The Brit-noir stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, an ex-RAF down on his luck. He finds himself caught in a criminal enterprise that leads to him being framed for a crime he did not commit.

For the most part They Made Me a Fugitive is a standard-issue crime drama, but here are a few reasons I enjoyed the film:

  • The setting (post-war London) rivals or surpasses any post-war urban decay as portrayed by its American counterparts – kind of makes sense, because noir thrives on the decayed and the decrepit. After being bombed to near oblivion, London is an ideal location.
  • Trevor Howard – yes that quintessential English gent – is reduced to a life of crime and on the lam. This is something worth staying in for (or at least enjoying as a late night cinematic treat).
  • One for the ladies – while Narcy (portrayed by Griffith Jones) is the head of the smuggling racket, the place they use as a front is a funeral home (aptly named Valhalla), run by Aggie (Mary Merrall), who is tough as nails.

This setting is just one of the several references in the film to the theme of death, a theme that reaches its climax on the rooftop of the aforementioned funeral home –

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You can catch this gem on Amazon Prime Video.

Fun fact: The script was written by playwright Noel Langley, one of the screenwriters of The Wizard of Oz. (Source: Wikipedia).