Pitfall (1948)

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John "Johnny" Forbes (Dick Powell) is a middle-class husband and father who is tired of his boring routine, working for the Olympic Mutual Insurance Company in Los Angeles. Private investigator and former policeman J. B. "Mac" MacDonald (Raymond Burr) reports that Bill Smiley, an embezzler who had been bonded by Olympic Mutual, caught and sent to prison, had given expensive presents to his girlfriend, model Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott).

Mac wants to stay on the case, admitting he is attracted to Mona, but Forbes decides to try to retrieve the gifts himself. He ends up spending the day with the sultry blond on her speedboat, appropriately named "Tempest," and a romance begins brewing, the physical consummation of which is not directly depicted, but implied; for example, by the briefcase Johnny leaves behind in Mona's apartment, which Mona, upon finding it, handles with evident fondness. His wife Sue (Jane Wyatt) has no idea what is going on; Mac, however, does. One night, he beats Johnny up and tells him to stay away from Mona. When Mona hears that Johnny is "sick", she goes to visit him and discovers that he is married. She calls off the affair, unwilling to break up Johnny's family.

Mac keeps stalking her, both at her workplace and at home, so Mona finally tells him bluntly that she does not like him. He goes to see Smiley in prison and informs him what is going on. Mona finds out Smiley's release date the day before he is to be released. When Smiley gives her a hostile reception, she turns to Johnny. Johnny pays back Mac for the beating he received earlier with one of his own for Mac.

When Smiley is freed, Mona tracks him down and discovers that he has been drinking, and that Mac has given him a gun. When Smiley rejects her plea to move to another city and start a new life together, she phones Johnny to warn him. Smiley goes to Johnny's house that night. Johnny drives him away at gunpoint, but when Smiley returns and breaks in, Johnny shoots him dead, letting the police think Smiley was just a burglar.

Mac feels he has eliminated both his rivals and expects Mona to go away with him. She shoots him instead and is taken into custody. Johnny gives a full confession, first to his wife, then to the district attorney, over Sue's objections. The DA reluctantly pronounces that Johnny is safe because it was justifiable homicide. Sue gives him a second chance, though she is not sure their marriage will ever be the same. The charge against Mona will depend on whether Mac will live or die.


Dick Powell as John Forbes
Lizabeth Scott as Mona Stevens
Jane Wyatt as Sue Forbes
Raymond Burr as MacDonald
John Litel as District Attorney
Byron Barr as Bill Smiley
Jimmy Hunt as Tommy Forbes
Ann Doran as Maggie
Selmer Jackson as Ed Brawley
Margaret Wells as Terry
Dick Wessel as Desk Sergeant
Eddie Borden as Prison Visitor
Ben Erway as Doctor
Don Haggerty as District Attorney's Man

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