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You Can't Run Away From It

You Can't Run Away From It(1956)


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teaser You Can't Run Away From It (1956)

Dick Powell had a long career in Hollywood thanks to his ability to adapt. In the 1940s, he successfully changed his image from a musical-comedy star to movie tough guy. In the early 1950s he made another transition, from actor to director with his first feature, the thriller Split Second (1953). Three years later he directed his wife of 11 years for the first time. June Allyson was nearly 40 but still maintained her popular image as the sweet girl next door. Her picture before this, The Opposite Sex (1955), was a musical remake of an MGM comedy classic, The Women (1939), with Allyson in the Norma Shearer role. It had taken a critical beating for being far inferior to the original, but that didn't discourage Allyson from trying again. Columbia Pictures decided to dust off its Depression Era hit It Happened One Night (1934) - the first movie to sweep the Oscars in the top four categories of Picture, Actor, Actress & Director. They added some musical numbers and remade it as You Can't Run Away from It (1956), with Allyson taking on the role first created by Claudette Colbert.

It helped that Allyson had as her co-star one of the hottest young actors around - Jack Lemmon. The actor, who was eight years her junior, had just won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for Mister Roberts (1955) and scored in the musical-comedy My Sister Eileen (1955). Lemmon was cast in the role originated by Clark Gable, as a newspaper reporter who spots a career-making story in a runaway heiress, only to find himself falling in love with her. Lemmon was nervous about stepping into the shoes of "The King." The young actor was already apprehensive about having won the Oscar® so early in his film career and felt sure "there must be a bomb around the corner...too much build-up for a fast let-down." You Can't Run Away from It replicated virtually every scene from It Happened One Night, including the famous disrobing moment that had famously caused sales of undershirts to plummet when it was revealed that Gable didn't wear one. In an interview given at the time of the film's production, Lemmon noted, "Remember I am where Clark Gable took off his shirt and you could hear girls squeal from Maine to California. Well, I wonder what'll happen when I take my shirt off. I don't think it'll impress anybody much. They'll just see a skinny guy with his ribs sticking out. No Clark Gable, just me." As it turned out, he had nothing to worry about. Although reviewers compared You Can't Run Away from It unfavorably with its source, critics and audiences alike were enthusiastic about Lemmon and wanted to see more of him. Even Frank Capra, director of the original, broke his rule about visiting the set of a remake of one of his films to see the rising star at work. Capra considered Lemmon "one of our greatest actors" who had yet to show his full potential. The director had every intention of casting the actor in a future project, but it was never to be.

Allyson also had high praise for her co-star, noting in her autobiography that he was the actor who made her laugh the most. She also later described him as "one of the most professional people I've ever worked with....The nicest thing, I think, while we worked on that film, was the way he always showed respect for everyone else there. He would never expect anyone to do anything he was not prepared to do himself. And Dick loved him. They got on very well indeed."

Actually, Powell was reportedly very worried about the possibility of a romance sparking between his wife and her co-star. The couple had been separated not long before when Allyson fell for co-star Alan Ladd during production on The McConnell Story (1955). Some have noted that this may be why in the full ninety-six minutes of the Lemmon-Allyson movie, the romantic leads never kiss once.

Allyson was no stranger to remakes. In 1948 she appeared in the sixth American version of The Three Musketeers and followed that with Little Women (1949), playing the role Katharine Hepburn originated in the first American sound version in 1933. Following You Can't Run Away from It, she was directed by Douglas Sirk in Interlude (1957), stepping into Irene Dunne's shoes from the original, When Tomorrow Comes (1939). Then it was on to the remake of My Man Godfrey (1957), co-starring with David Niven in the roles created by Carole Lombard and William Powell in 1936. Almost every version was considered well below the originals, and after one more picture in 1959 (A Stranger in My Arms), she did not appear on movie screens again until the murder-mystery They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), playing completely against type as a [SPOILER ALERT] killer lesbian, albeit with her trademark lisp and hairstyle still intact.

Director: Dick Powell
Producer: Dick Powell
Screenplay: Claude Binyon, Robert Riskin, from Riskin's screenplay for It Happened One Night, based on the story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: Robert Peterson
Original Music: George Duning
Cast: June Allyson (Ellie Andrews), Jack Lemmon (Peter Warne), Charles Bickford (A.A. Andrews), Jim Backus (Danker), Stubby Kaye (Fred Toten).

by Rob Nixon

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