Paulette Goddard’s on the run from gambling debt and from love.
Paulette Goddard plays a gambling addict who is taken advantage of by club owner Fred Clark, who fixes the game so that he wins a bet wherein Goddard’s promised to marry him if she can’t pay it off. She’s already spent her way through much of a handsome inheritance, has nothing left to back her check up and goes on the lam. Clark then hires determined detective Macdonald Carey to find and bring her back, and in the course of their chase across the country, as Goddard gambles and Carey searches for and finally apprehends her, they fall in love.
This 1948 movie starts out like a noir, then shifts into a comedy which might feel a little jarring at first but it really ends up working. Carey starts out as the stiff private eye, a bit of a know-it-all hounding Goddard and when she gives him the slip you might think, right along with her, that he’s kind of slow, but just wait. He soon softens up as the story has him grow attracted to her, and he only gets more charming as he nicely dodges and deflects her ceaseless attempts to frame him, have him arrested, trick him, strand him and run away from him. In those parts his steady and solid presence translated into saintly patience and restraint with this looney lady, though he does punch her, which is advice well-taken from a brutish trucker considering she almost has Carey arrested on a federal charge! His rather childish ploy of stepping over the state line before telling off the (wrong state’s) Sheriff is a fun thing to see from him too, after he’s presented himself as so tough.
It’s all fun and games until Goddard really does take things too far in her final try at escape. Racing away from the campsite Carey’s taken her to, she backs the car off a cliff, Carey ends up saving her from the burning vehicle and has his arms bandaged up as a result. Clark and company (which includes Charles McGraw by the way) finally catch up to the pair just as they’re planning their wedding, and since trust hasn’t quite been a highlight of their courtship thus far, they still have doubts about each other’s true intentions.
Goddard of course plays this type of thing well, the devilish and mischievous but still sympathetic character, and you even get to understand why she gambles. She’s also very quick and smart, instantly seeing when Carey has started falling for her. She’s amazingly creative in inventing impressive ways to get him in trouble, and when they almost work she has more than one moment of visible regret.
I used the word ‘fun’ a lot because that’s just what Hazard is, fun, cute and light all through, whether it’s a jail cell fight, Carey throwing punches with those bandages on, Goddard’s slapstick, Stanley Clements as an indignant bellhop or Maxie Rosenbloom as Goddard’s backfired hitchhiking attempt, plus great familiar faces Percy Helton and Frank Fenton. Thanks to Laura for helping me see this one.