Directed By: Arthur J. Beckhard, Joseph Lee
Starring: Richard Coogan, Rosemary Pettit, Frank Albertson
Tag line: "GIRLS and GUNS... A Double-cross Backfired!"
Trivia: This film marked Steve McQueen's screen debut
Girl on the Run, a 1953 crime / mystery made on the cheap, might have slipped under my radar had it not been for one enticing bit of trivia: this movie marked the screen debut of a young actor named Steve McQueen. That’s right: future star of The Blob, The Great Escape, The Towering Inferno, and Bullitt… that Steve McQueen. Granted, it’s a small role, one he’s not even credited for, but come on… we’re talking Steve McQueen here! No way I was gonna pass up a chance to see his first moments on-screen. And if Girl on the Run actually turned out to be a good movie… well, that’d be a nice bonus.
While working to expose a vice ring operating out of a traveling carnival, reporter Bill Martin (Richard Coogan) learns his editor, George Marsh, has been murdered. To make matters worse, the police consider Martin himself the prime suspect in the killing, and are currently trying to determine his whereabouts. Aided by his girlfriend, Janet (Rosemary Pettit), Martin hides out at the carnival, hoping to prove Clay Reeves (Harry Bannister), a corrupt local politician, is behind both the vice operation and his editor’s murder. With the help of a woman named Lil (Edith King), who runs the carnival’s burlesque show, Janet goes undercover posing as a dancing girl, while Martin, doing his best to dodge the cops, snoops around looking for clues.
If the above synopsis seems ordinary to you, that’s because it is. In fact, Girl on the Run has absolutely nothing going for it. Not a single exchange between any two characters is interesting, not a single moment generates any excitement whatsoever. When we’re first introduced to our leads, Martin and Janet, they’re already on the run, and hiding out in a tent on the carnival grounds. Their entire conversation is bland (Martin tries to convince Janet to forget about him and save herself, with Janet refusing to go), and from that moment on, I had zero interest in learning anything more about them.
To put it simply, this is a bad movie: the acting is terrible, the pace is lethargic, and the story has no oomph. Hell, even the twist at the end is pathetic! As for Steve McQueen, if you blink, you’ll miss him; towards the start of the movie, he can be seen in the background, trying his hand at the carnival’s hammer game (he’s talking to his date, but we can’t hear him). It’s an inauspicious debut, to say the least, and the final nail in the coffin of Girl on the Run, a film that’s a disappointment in every possible way.