The film noir Desperate is the focus of this chapter and was a career turning point for Anthony Mann, who co-wrote the story upon which it was based. The chapter utilizes research conducted at UCLA pertaining to the writing and production of this thriller about gangsters pursuing an innocent workingman whom they forced to participate in a failed robbery that led to a policeman’s death. A comparative study of the original Mann film treatment “Flight,” and the screenplays adapted from it, is made. Through access to the RKO studio papers, a breakdown of Desperate’s production history, including censorship battles with the Production Code Administration over levels of violence in the script, sheds light on the director’s work methods. Frame captures are used to study several showcase sequences, including the tense and ultimately violent final confrontation between the hero and villain, which demonstrate a director in full command of the medium.
Keywords: RKO, censorship, film treatment, robbery, violence