Day 13 of Noirvember: Webb Garwood in The Prowler (1951)

Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on another cop who’s not exactly on the up and up – Webb Garwood in The Prowler (1951).

Something’s not right about this guy, amirite?


Beat cop Webb Garwood (Van Heflin) investigates the report of a prowler at the home of Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes). Although Susan is very married to a local late-night radio personality, she and Webb are soon embroiled in a passionate affair. When her hubby grows suspicious, Susan wants to break off the relationship, but Webb isn’t quite ready to say farewell to his lady love – and he’ll stop at nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – to get what he wants.


Webb is one of two cops who show up at Susan’s home to investigate the suspected prowler. Webb is the first one to enter the house, and he strolls inside like he owns the place. While his partner is getting details from Susan, Webb is examining a framed photograph of Susan that he sees on a nearby table. He then saunters outside to look around, and suggests to Susan with a smirk that she might be imagining things. But when he leaves, he can’t get her off his mind. “That is quite a dish,” he tells his partner. “I wonder what her angle is. Is she married?” Later that night, Webb shows up at Susan’s house alone – he was just passing by, he explains. Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” Susan is serving Webb milk and cookies, he’s kicking back in an easy chair, and they’re swapping stories after discovering that they both hail from Indiana. And this time when he leaves, he tells her that he’ll drop by from time to time to check on her. “After all, we Hoosiers have to stick together,” he says. And, boy, do they!


He’s a creep from way back. There’s something about him, from the very first time you lay eyes on him, that raises a pretty hefty crimson flag. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it doesn’t take long for that uneasy feeling to grow. Webb isn’t a likable character; he’s a cynic with a chip on his shoulder – kind of asshole adjacent, if you know what I mean – but he’s fascinating. You wonder sometimes what on earth Susan sees in him, but you also can’t take your eyes off him yourself.


“So I’m no good! Well, I’m no worse than anybody else! You work in a store, you knock down on the cash register. A big boss, the income tax. Ward heeler, you sell votes. A lawyer, take bribes. I was a cop. I used a gun. But whatever I did, I did for you.”


Emmet Evan Heflin, Jr., was born on December 13, 1910, in Walters, Oklahoma. When he was in elementary school, his parents separated and his mother moved to Long Beach, California, taking Van and his baby sister, Frances (who would later find fame as Mona Kane on TV’s All My Children). In California, Heflin developed a lifelong fascination with the ocean; after his graduation from high school, he landed a job on a tramp steamer headed for England and he worked as a seaman for the next several years. He then enrolled at the University of Oklahoma (following the wishes of his now-reunited parents), but heeded “the call of the running tide” in his sophomore year, signing on with a cargo boat headed for New York. The path Heflin took from being a seaman to an actor is a bit murky, with several theories involved, but there’s no doubt that he made his Broadway debut in the late 1920s in Mr. Moneypenny. When the production turned out to be a flop, he returned to the sea yet again, then went back to the University of Oklahoma, graduated in 1931, and decided to give acting another try. He spent the next several years in stock and various theater companies, and finally got his big break when he was cast opposite Ina Claire in the Broadway production of End of Summer. His performance earned him good reviews and attracted the attention of screen actress Katharine Hepburn, who got her home studio, RKO, to sign Heflin for her new picture, A Woman Rebels (1936). It was Heflin’s feature film debut. A few years later, he would earn an Academy Award for his performance in his first film noir, Johnny Eager (1942). For more on Heflin’s award-winning role, click here.

And join me in the shadows tomorrow for Day 14 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 13, 2021.

6 Responses to “Day 13 of Noirvember: Webb Garwood in The Prowler (1951)”

  1. Instincts should be followed when someone seems “off.” Too often, we guilt ourselves into giving the benefit of the doubt or, as you mentioned, there is a fascination with the “quirky” personality that will lead one astray. Or does the admirer relate in some way? Nothing is straightforward in the noir world.

    • It’s so interesting to watch how Susan is sucked in by Webb’s personality — how he managed to overcome that encounter where she was so offended that she slapped his face, and her being so convinced that he’d deliberately killed her husband that she called him a murderer in public. It was as if she knew all along that he was bad, but she just didn’t want to see or believe it.

  2. Webb Garwood wants life to be easy. He doesn’t want to work , he’s entitled, and he’s full of self-pity. Hefty crimson flag, indeed!

  3. I’ve had this one on my mind lately 🙂 so well said, everything about this creep. This movie is so fascinating to me, and it’s climbed up my fave noirs list every time I watch. Love the acting

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