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Ambush (1939)

Approved | | Crime, Drama | 20 January 1939 (USA)
Four bandits swoop down on a California bank and flee with $98,000, leaving a truck as the only clue to their identity. Jane Hartman, bank secretary, recognizes the truck as one on which ... See full summary »


Kurt Neumann


Laura Perelman (screenplay), S.J. Perelman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Gladys Swarthout ... Jane Hartman
Lloyd Nolan ... Tony Andrews
William Henry ... Charlie Hartman
William Frawley ... Inspector J.L. Weber
Ernest Truex ... Mr. Gibbs
Broderick Crawford ... Randall
Rufe Davis ... Centerville Sheriff
Richard Denning ... Police Garage Mechanic
John Hartley ... Sidney Blue
Antonio Moreno ... Captain Mike Gonzalez
Harry Fleischmann Harry Fleischmann ... Captain Bosen
Clem Bevans ... Pop Stebbins
Max Hoffman Jr. Max Hoffman Jr. ... Motorcycle Officer Sam Moore
Archie Twitchell ... Bank Teller
Jane Dewey Jane Dewey ... Mother at Restaurant


Four bandits swoop down on a California bank and flee with $98,000, leaving a truck as the only clue to their identity. Jane Hartman, bank secretary, recognizes the truck as one on which her brother Charles worked. Fleeing to her brother, she is trapped by the gang, composed of its master-mind, Gibbs, Sidney, a gunman, and Randall, a blackballed airplane pilot. Under threat of bodily harm to her brother, she lures truck-driver Tony Andrews to the hideout, and he is forced to help them in their escape attempt. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HOW DID HE GET AWAY WITH IT! (original poster - all caps) See more »


Crime | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

20 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cilada do Acaso See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Its initial television presentation took place in Chicago Wednesday 14 January 1959 on WBBM (Channel 2). Not exactly a frequent flyer, nearly a half year later, it was once again taken out of the vault and enjoyed its first airing in Omaha 2 June 1959 on KETV (Channel 7), and, another half year later, in Minneapolis 29 November 1959 on WTCN (Channel 11), in Milwaukee 5 December 1959 on WITI (Channel 6), in St. Louis 16 December 1959 on KMOX (Channel 4), in Detroit 10 January 1960 on WJBK (Channel 2), in Toledo 31 January 1960 on WTOL (Channel 11), and, finally, in New York City 20 July 1960 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »

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User Reviews

Interesting unusual failure

'Ambush' is a semi-noir with some very interesting credits. The script is by S.J. Perelman and his wife Laura, whose screenwriting careers are entirely associated with comedies, yet they acquit themselves respectably in this thick-ear drama which features an uneasy blend of comedy. Kurt Neumann was an extremely talented director who never acquired the commercial success (nor the critical attention) which he deserved. The leading lady in 'Ambush' is Gladys Swarthout, an opera star who here attempts a straightforward dramatic role in which she never sings a note. (And she does reasonably well.)

'Ambush' is similar in mood to the much better 'Jeopardy' (starring a much better actress, Barbara Stanwyck). Both films play out their stories from the premise of an ordinary person being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mr Gibbs is the mastermind of a gang of bank robbers in need of a getaway vehicle. They kidnap a secretary named Jane (Swarthout), whom they intend to use as a hostage. Then, in this film's least plausible sequence, they force her to hijack a lorry and its driver. The driver - a prole named Tony - is well-played by Lloyd Nolan, clearly pleased to be portraying an honest guy for once. Jane and Tony will be spending some time in forced togetherness, at gunpoint ... so it's obvious how they're going to end up.

The single biggest flaw in 'Ambush' is the casting of Ernest Truex in the key role as Gibbs, the 'brains' of the heist ring. I've never liked Truex in any of his film or television appearances. He always seems indecisive, evasive, often effeminate, with awkward little bits of physical business which I quite find alienating. Bluntly, Truex just doesn't have the chops to play a criminal mastermind ... even one whose plans go awry, as here.

There are some welcome appearances by supporting actors whom I associate with comedy far more than with noir or suspense. Broderick Crawford, William Frawley and Polly Moran are all good here. George Melford, more successful as a director than as an actor, acquits himself well as the president of the bank Truex robs. I recognise Rufe Davis from cheap westerns and 'Petticoat Junction' repeats; this is the first 'normal' film in which I've seen him, and he's quite good here in his bit part. The ending of 'Ambush' is obvious, but this is a creditable attempt to tell a story in an unusual way, with an unusual blend of comedy and suspense. It's not altogether successful, but I'll give it credit for trying. I'll rate 'Ambush' 7 points out of 10.

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