Day Thirteen of Noirvember: Savage Detour

Detour (1945) is 68 minutes of cracking good lines, an edge-of-your-seat plot, and a perfect noir ending.

And then there’s Ann Savage.

In the film, Savage plays Vera, a hitch-hiker picked up on the side of the road by Al Roberts (Tom Neal), who’s on his way from New York to California to meet up with his lady love. Roberts himself started his journey with his thumb out, but lucked out when he landed a ride with Charles Haskell (Edmund MacDonald), who was not only going his way, but also treated Roberts to a tasty meal. Unfortunately for Haskell, he wound up dead and Roberts ended up behind the wheel of Haskell’s car – and enter Vera. Thinking that he was doing the hitch-hiking woman a kindness, Roberts got a whole lot more than he bargained for.

Ann Savage magnificently brought to life what one character termed as “the most dangerous animal in the world,” spitting and snarling her lines like she was part jungle cat. Both Savage and the film earned good reviews upon the film’s release, and its stature has only grown in the years since.

Savage with co-star Tom Neal in a publicity photo for Detour.

Savage, who termed Detour “a real quickie,” said that she didn’t realize until 1983 what a following Detour had developed. She recalled that, in plugging a UCLA retrospective of director Edgar Ulmer’s films, a film columnist for the L.A. Times called her “one of the toughest dames in all of film noir.” Upon hearing about the event, Savage attended, sitting in the back row with plans to sneak out at the end, but she was recognized by a member of the audience.

“I was greeted very warmly and went down and sat in on the round table discussion of Detour,” Savage told author Doug McClelland. “That was when I realized that things were happening with this little film I’d made almost four decades ago.”

Savage was born Bernice Maxine Lyon in Columbia, South Carolina, on February 19, 1921. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a child and Bernice fell in love with the movies. “On Saturdays, I would go to two different movie theaters,” she recalled, “seeing everything they had in the first, then going to the second, until my mother got off work.” As a teen, she enrolled as a student in Max Reinhardt’s School of the Theatre (“I worked in the office for my tuition,” Savage said in a cable television interview.)

Savage in her Columbia days.Vera who?

She changed her name to Ann Savage and her performance in a Reinhardt school production of Golden Boy attracted the attention of local scouts; she was offered screen tests by two studios – 20th Century Fox and Columbia. “I was reminded [that] Fox had too many blondes, so I accepted Columbia’s offer,” Savage said. There, she spent the next two years in a series of mostly “B” pictures, but her experience at the studio wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “Someone told me that it had been a toss-up whether [actress] Marguerite Chapman or I would get the big build-up there and they decided on Marguerite,” Savage recalled. “I was let go.”

But Columbia’s loss was our gain – after being dropped by the studio, Savage signed a two-picture deal with Producers Releasing Corporation. Detour was one of the scripts she was given – and the rest is film noir history.

If you’ve never seen Ann Savage in Detour, make it your business to see it – you won’t be sorry. I promise.

Join me tomorrow for Day Fourteen of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 13, 2018.

11 Responses to “Day Thirteen of Noirvember: Savage Detour”

  1. She did a terrific job in this. One of the most unforgettable Noir women.

  2. I keep seeing and hearing about Detour all over the web, but strangely enough, I’ve never actually seen it. I know, you’re about to kill me lol I think the next time I go to my local library, I’m going to see if they have it on the shelf.

  3. Ann gives an extremely “savage” performance! (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!)

  4. “Detour” is proof of the old adage: No good deed goes unpunished.

    Ann Savage is pitch-perfect in this film. I’m glad she got to see the kind of following it had, decades later.

    • Me, too. It must have been so awesome for her. I think that often of the stars who come to TCMFF — how wonderful it must be to see how loved and appreciated they still are.

  5. […] Day Thirteen: Savage Detour […]

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