With Edmond O'Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland (as Beverly Campbell), Lynn Baggett, William Ching, Henry Hart, Neville Brand
Directed by Rudolph Maté
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

    A classic film noir, D.O.A. has a very memorable opening (a man walks into a police station to report his own murder!) which sets up a fast-paced 83 minutes of one insignificant man's race against time and death.  Edmond O'Brien, an excellent character actor who never became a big star, has perhaps his best role as smalltime schlub Frank Bigelow, an accountant who goes on a businessman's holiday and winds up a dead man walking, thanks to a mysterious switched drink at a jazz club.  For the rest of the film, he runs around San Francisco trying to piece together who poisoned him and why.  The story can be hard to follow and piece together, but don't let that bother you; it's just a McGuffin.  What matters is that you are watching a man who could die at any moment, and O'Brien is perfect in the role.  His Bigelow is not particularly likable or unlikable, not particular handsome or ugly, not particularly anything, and that's what makes the film work.  He could be anybody you know, he could be you.  Also memorable is Neville Brand, in his first film role, as a sadistic tough guy who delights in the thought of getting to kill Bigelow ("I think I'll give it to you in the belly!").  There are few, if any laughs in this film; it is one of the bleakest, most fatalistic noirs ever made.  The dialog is sometimes sharp as a tack and sometimes corny, and some silly wolf whistle sound effects near the beginning of the film are completely out of place, but overall, this ranks among the best films noir of the late forties and early fifties. 5 ½- JB

Film Noir     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


    A true "everyman" of the cinema, Edmond O'Brien  (1915 - 1985) appeared in many classic films aside from D.O.A..  His first film role was as the poet Gringoire in the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara.  He can also be seen in such classics as The Killers, White Heat, The Girl Can't Help It, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Birdman of Alcatraz, The Longest Day,  Fantastic Voyage and The Wild Bunch.  Aside from Frank Bigelow in D.O.A., my favorite Edmond O'Brien performance is as sleazy Hollywood publicity man Oscar Muldoon in The Barefoot Contessa (1954) with Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner.  As can be seen by these credits, O'Brien spent much of his screen career supporting bigger stars, but what would bigger stars be without the support of such character actors as Edmond O'Brien?

    O'Brien also made multiple television appearances and was heard on the radio from 1950-52 in the program Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.


"I want to report a murder."
"Sit down. Where was this murder committed?"
"San Francisco, last night."
"Who was murdered?"
"I was."


Color Me Dead (1969) (with Tom Tryon)
D.O.A. (1988) (with Dennis Quaid)

Stuff You Gotta Watch
Copyright © 2008 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee