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Film / One Way Passage

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Nothing says romance like cigarettes.

One Way Passage is a 1932 Melodrama directed by Tay Garnett, starring William Powell and Kay Francis.

Dan Hardesty and Joan Ames (Powell and Francis) meet each other in a bar in Shanghai and are instantly smitten with each other. Happily, Dan and Joan find themselves boarding the same ship headed back to San Francisco, with a stop at Honolulu. Unhappily, both Dan and Joan have pretty big problems. Dan is an escaped murderer under sentence of death, and he is being taken back to San Francisco by a policeman, Steve Burke. Joan for her part is terminally ill; she won't last much longer after getting back to San Francisco, if she even makes it that long. Meanwhile, two of Dan's criminal acquaintances, Skippy the thief and "Barrel House" Betty the con artist are on board, and are willing to help Dan.


Cue tragic romance.

This had a remake in the forties, Till We Meet Again.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Contrived Coincidence: Not one but two of Dan's old criminal pals are on board the same boat from Shanghai to San Francisco.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: See Victorian Novel Disease below.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: A couple of rather impressive tracking shots for an era where cameras were usually stationary. The opening scene spends a full minute tracking down a bar before stopping at a bartender and staying on him for nearly another minute. The last scene tracks across the floor of a nightclub to another bar.
  • Fake Aristocrat: Barrel House Betty is passing herself off as "Countess Barilhaus" (get it?). She's a con artist who was looking to scam a British lord on the cruise, but she winds up falling for Steve and getting out of the life.
  • High-Class Glass: Sir Harold, the pigeon that Betty's targeting, wears one.
  • Let Off by the Detective: Steve isn't willing to do this for Dan, because it's a murder rap. But once he finds out what's happening between Dan and Joan he loses his taste for police work. He's also falling in love with Betty. So when he gets a telegram stating that "Countess Barilhaus" is a con artist that he should arrest, he throws it away—just as Betty is telling him the truth.
  • Maybe Ever After: Well, let's just hope that Steve and Betty got that chicken ranch.
  • Meet Cute: Dan spends an inordinate amount of time watching a complicated cocktail being prepared. Just as he's about to drink it, Joan bumps into him from behind. He turns to yell at her, and both are instantly enchanted.
  • New Year Has Come: See The Power of Love below.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If only Dan had told Joan the truth in Hawaii he could have skipped for Mexico. But she didn't want to talk about anything serious, so he winds up getting executed.
  • The Power of Love: Throughout the film, Dan and Joan have been making toasts, breaking the glasses, and lying the stems of the shattered glasses on top of each other, as a symbol of their love. Dan and Joan pledge to meet each other at the Agua Caliente restaurant on New Year's Eve. Then Dan is taken away to jail to be executed, and Joan faints, presumably dying. The last scene is at a bar on New Year's. A melancholy Skippy is drinking at the Agua Caliente bar, with neither Dan nor Joan in attendance. Suddenly a sound of breaking glass is heard. The last shot shows the stems of two shattered glasses, one lying on top of the other one.
  • Pretty in Mink: Joan is wealthy and wears a few furs, such as a white ermine coat in the remake.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Joan wears a couple of backless dresses when dancing with Dan.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: It is when Joan asks Dan for a cigarette, only for him to light one, give it to her, pull out another, and light it by touching it to the one between her lips.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: A death sentence and a terminal illness. Ouch.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: It seems Dan killed "the dirtiest heel that ever lived."
  • Victorian Novel Disease: In classic movie fashion, Joan has an unnamed illness that apparently could kill her at any moment, but still has her looking gorgeous, and for that matter vital, except for the occasional fainting spell. An offhand reference to a "sanitarium" implies tuberculosis, but she never coughs once.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Betty keeps the wad of cash that Skippy stole from Sir Harold.
  • Video Credits: At the beginning per the Warner Bros. style of the day.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Either by a date with the hangman or a fatal disease. The bittersweet ending has both Dan and Joan promising to make a New Year's Eve rendezvous that they know they won't be around for.