Hello Out There (1949)

US / 31 minutes / bw / Huntington Hartford Dir: James Whale Pr: Huntington Hartford Scr: George W. Tobin Story: Hello Out There! (1941 play, staged 1942) by William Saroyan Cine: Karl Struss Cast: Marjorie Steele, Harry Morgan, Lee Patrick, Ray Teal.

Created as a segment of a three-part anthology feature whose other two segments were later paired as the feature Face to Face (1953), Hello Out There is a fairly faithful—perhaps too faithful—adaptation of a William Saroyan one-act play. One odd change (aside from the removal of the exclamation mark from the title) is that the play’s Emily Smith becomes Ethel Smith in the movie.

An itinerant gambler, Photo-Finish (Morgan), is in jail in the small Texas town of Matador, falsely accused of having raped a married woman in the neighboring town of Wheeling. Everyone’s gone home from the jail except the cleaner Ethel Smith (Steele), who cooks for the prisoners whenever there are any. She arrives in response to his incessant calls of “Hello out there!” and an instant bond springs up between the two: “I’m kind of lonesome too,” she says. “Yeah, I’m almost as lonesome as a coyote myself.”

Harry Morgan as Photo-Finish.

Within minutes they’re planning a future life for themselves in San Francisco, where perhaps Photo-Finish’s extended run of rotten luck can end and they’ll find happiness. He explains his moniker:

“Well, every race I bet on turns out to be a photo-finish, and my horse never wins.”

Of course, for their plans to come to fruition, they must get Photo-Finish out of the jail before the anticipated lynch mob arrives . . .

Marjorie Steele as Ethel.

Ray Teal has a small role as Continue reading