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Backfire (1950)

aka Backfire

Directed By: 
Details: 91 mins · English


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Small Nurse Julie Benson
Small Bob Corey
Small Steve Connolly
Small Ben Arno
Small Lysa Randolph
Small Capt. Garcia
No_movie_poster Mrs. Blayne
Small Solly Blayne
No_movie_poster Bonnie Willis (as Shela Stephens)
No_movie_poster Burns
Small Det. Sgt. Pluther
No_movie_poster Sybil
Small Lee Quong
Small Plainclothesman


No_movie_poster Larry Marcus Story
No_movie_poster Daniele Amfitheatrof Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Vincent Sherman Director
No_movie_poster Carl E. Guthrie Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Ivan Goff Screenplay
No_movie_poster Ben Roberts Screenplay
No_movie_poster Anthony Veiller Producer
No_movie_poster Thomas Reilly Editor


Bob Corey (Gordon MacRae) is an American soldier badly wounded at the end of World War II, and undergoing a number of surgical operations on his spine at a military hospital in California. He is tended by a nurse, Julie Benson (Virginia Mayo), and they have fallen in love. Corey's military pal, Steve Connolly (Edmond O'Brien), arrives in early November to discuss plans for the ranch they plan to purchase and operate together once Corey is out of the hospital. The two men pool their G.I. benefits (totaling $40,000) to do so.

Corey's final surgery is in mid-December, but Connolly does not appear at the hospital afterward to see his friend. By Christmas, Corey is still in recovery but Connolly still remains absent. One night, as Corey lies semi-conscious in bed after being administered a sleeping drug, a woman with an foreign accent (Viveca Lindfors) appears at Corey's bedside. She says Connolly has been in a horrible accident; his spine is shattered and he wants to die, but she has refused to help him commit suicide. The woman asks Corey what to do, and he advises her to do nothing to harm Steve, and just to wait. Corey slips into unconsciousness, and the woman disappears.

After New Year's, Corey is released from the hospital. He's immediately stopped by police detectives and then questioned by Captain Garcia (Ed Begley) of the Los Angeles Police, who tells him that Connolly is wanted for the murder of Solly Blayne (Richard Rober), a local high-stakes gambler and racketeer. Corey denies that Connolly would be mixed up in anything criminal. How could he be, if he were injured? Corey and Nurse Benson decide to talk to Mrs. Blayne (Frances Robinson). The film engages in a visual flashback, which depicts an unseen assassin gunning down Solly Blayne in his home one night. Window shades prevent Mrs. Blayne or the audience from seeing who committed the murder, who was outside the home. Mrs. Blayne calls for a doctor, but he arrives too late.

Corey learns from Garcia which hotel Connolly was staying in, and he lodges in Connolly's old room in an attempt to understand his friend's thinking and feelings. Corey encounters Sybil (Ida Moore), a gossipy old hotel maid, who says that Mr. Blayne often visited Connolly at the hotel. She also gives Corey a business card from a local funeral home. Corey visits the funeral home and discovers that another military friend, Ben Arno (Dane Clark), owns the mortuary. In another flashback, Arno describes how he went to a night of boxing matches where he saw Connolly fighting in the ring. Connolly lost his match (even though Arno does not believe he should have). Arno asks Connolly why he is boxing at his age, but Connolly refuses to explain why he is engaged in amateur boxing other than to say he needs money.

Corey returns to the hotel, where he is asked by the desk clerk to pay Connolly's hotel bill. Realizing Connolly made some local phone calls, Corey dials the numbers listed in the hotel records. A young woman answers the phone. Corey pretends to be Connolly and the voice on the phone unintentionally reveals Connolly had a girlfriend named Lysa Radoff. Corey asks for and is given the address of Radoff's rented home. Corey goes to Radoff's home, finds no one home, breaks in, and discovers that Radoff is the same woman who visited him in the hospital. One of Radoff's roommates, Bonnie Willis (Sheila MacRae, appearing here as "Sheila Stephens"), comes home. Corey pretends to be waiting for Radoff to arrive, and the chatty Willis provides him with the story of how Connolly and Radoff met.

In yet another flashback, the audience learns that Connolly was working for a local gambler named Lou Walsh. Walsh's girlfriend was Lysa Radoff. One night, Connolly went to a nightclub to pick up Radoff and bring her to a party Walsh was hosting. Willis went along with them to the party. The three went to a large apartment Walsh was using as a high-stakes gambling den. Walsh entertains his guests by having beautiful women act as call girls. Radoff is one of the call girls (although it is not clear that she is engaging in prostitution). Connolly is unlike the other men, who paw and manhandle the girls, and he and Radoff began falling in love. Pointedly, the flashback never shows Lou Walsh. However, Connolly is depicted meeting Solly Blayne, who is there gambling. Blayne offers Connolly a job as a highly paid gofer. The flashback ends. To escape further questioning, Corey runs out of the house while Willis is in the kitchen. Moments later, she is gunned down by an unseen assailant who fires through the window.

The next night, Garcia interrogates Corey and Nurse Benson and accuses them of interfering in the investigation and causing Willis' death. Garcia is alerted by telephone that a local Chinese man, Lee Quong (Leonard Strong), has been shot and is claiming he has information on Steve Connolly. Garcia, Corey, and Benson race to the hospital to interrogate Quong. In another flashback, Quong relates how he was the butler and cook at a magnificent nearby home which Walsh purchased as a gift for Radoff. Walsh installed Connolly in the house as her bodyguard. Unwittingly, he put the two lovers together, and their relationship intensified. In the flashback, Quong relates that he eavesdropped on Connolly and Radoff as they made plans to run away and get married. Connolly went to the garage and backed the car up the steeply inclined driveway. Unbeknownst to Connolly, Walsh came home early and overheard Connolly professing his love to Radoff. Walsh released the parking brake on the car, and it rolled down the driveway and injured Connolly — crushing several of the vertebrae in his back. The flashback ends. Quong says he was shot by Lou Walsh after Walsh realized Quong had seen him commit murder. Quong dies before he can reveal the address of the home.

Garcia now has evidence that Connolly was physically incapable of committing murder. Garcia tells the press that the murder weapon used to kill Solly Blayne was also used to kill Bonnie Willis. Acting on a hunch, Nurse Benson contacts Mrs. Blayne and asks her the name of the doctor she called the night her husband was murdered. Mrs. Blayne says it was Dr. Herbert Anstead. Benson (dressed in her nursing uniform) goes to Dr. Anstead's office later that night, pretending to be a nurse retrieving some files for the doctor. The janitor lets her in. She is unable to locate Connolly's medical file. Anstead (Mack Williams) himself arrives a few minutes later, and Nurse Benson hides. Anstead retrieve's Connolly's file from its hiding place, and attempts to destroy it. Nurse Benson prevents him from doing so, and tells him that Connolly was not in an accident but was a victim of attempted murder. Anstead forces Benson into a locked room. Using information obtained from Benson, Anstead calls Bob Corey to tell him where Connolly can be located, and Benson overhear the address. Just then, Lou Walsh (not shown on screen) enters the office and guns down Anstead. Walsh flees, and Nurse Benson is released minutes later by the janitor.

Corey rushes to the address Dr. Anstead gave him, which the audience realizes is the home Lou Walsh purchased for Lysa Radoff. Corey is intercepted inside the house by Ben Arno, who reveals that he is, in fact, the gambler Lou Walsh. Arno tells Corey that Connolly (a known small-time gambler) had lost money to Solly Blayne. To get the money back, Connolly agreed to box and throw the fight to get out of debt. Arno told Connolly that he led a double-life as the high-stakes gambler "Lou Walsh," and proposed using Connolly's $40,000 to cheat Blayne out of tens of thousands of dollars at gambling. Connolly agreed. In yet another flashback, Lysa Radoff realizes that the brakes on her car work just fine, and that Connolly's injuries were no accident but an attempt at murder. Radoff attempts to leave, but Walsk strangles her. The flashback ends. Arno tells Corey he did not want to martyr Connolly for fear of losing Radoff's love, so he staged the accident. But once Radoff knew the truth, he was forced to kill her. Arno, who is clearly psychotic, admits he began killing anyone who could connect Lysa to him or who knew about Connolly's accident. Corey (still weak from his back surgery) is knocked to the ground and Arno prepares to shoot him. As Arno is about to kill Corey, an injured Connolly (his body encased in braces and plaster) launches himself down the stairs and stops Arno. The police, summoned by Nurse Benson, arrive. Arno attempts to flee, but is killed.

After a jump cut, Connolly is shown leaving the military hospital many months later, his injuries repaired by military surgeons. Bob Corey and his new wife, Julie, arrive and take Steve to their ranch.