Note: Having done a lot of research for more recent Bob Bailey series, I decided it’d be worthwhile to review a couple of things I viewed starring Bob Bailey as part of the research.
No Escape is a 1953 film noir set in San Francisco. The theme of the film is that because of its geography, once the police get a bead on you and set up a dragnet, there’s no way out. The poor unfortunate sap who finds himself in this situation is John Howard Tracy, a talented piano player plagued by alcoholism. The girlfriend (Marjorie Steele) of a tough San Francisco cop (Sonny Tufts) is the prime suspect of a murder, and Tracy could provide key evidence that could implicate her. However, her boyfriend decides to frame Tracy, who has to find some way to prove his innocence while avoiding capture.
There’s a lot to like about this film, starting with Lew Ayres’s performance. Lew Ayres is perhaps most familiar as Dr. Kildare, the titular character of the television show, and he is a bit past his prime in that series. This film is nearly a decade earlier, and Ayres delivers a charismatic performance and creates an interesting character in Tracy. The art direction of the film is good, too. The music of the film is above average, and the use of some real location shots of San Francisco, while not exclusive to No Escape, enhance the pleasure of it considerably.
The plot is the weak spot. The mystery at the core of the story is predictable and the big surprise twist I’d figured out well in advance of the end. Still, it’s an enjoyable and diverting film even if it’s not a great one.
Bob Bailey’s Role
Bob Bailey’s role is credited as “Detective Bob,” and in the film he delivers functional dialogue. If some police officer needs to say something like, “Look, he’s over there,” this will be the type of line that Detective Bob will get. Bailey does what’s expected but there’s really no opportunity to do anything with the role.
The obvious reason for Bailey taking on this part is the money. He was about to step away from his starring role in Let George Do It to focus on screenwriting. The money he got for the film would make a good nest egg.
If the film served any purpose, it showed that Bailey could indeed play a detective. Despite the insistence by TV execs that Bailey didn’t look the part of George Valentine or Johnny Dollar, Bailey looks perfectly believable as Detective Bob. Then again, his problem was never reality, but Hollywood standards for what a private detective should look like.
Overall, the film is not a bad little noir to watch, and offering a chance to see Bob Bailey, even in a limited role, may be an added enticement.
Rating 3.5 out of 5 Stars
No Escape can be streamed for free by Amazon Prime subscribers.