Reason #1 is that it’s never been a highly rated film — it’s basically regarded as a programmer and nowhere close to the level of Detour or They Live By Night or Gun Crazy. Reason #2 is Dennis O’Keefe, who plays the lead character, Joe Sullivan. O’Keefe was a decent actor but he simply didn’t have the X-factor — one look at the guy and you’re thinking “meh, second banana, doughy-faced, no snap.”
The most striking actors in Raw Deal are Claire Trevor and Raymond Burr.
John Alton‘s lensing achieved a certain elegance, for sure. The author of “Painting With Light” (’49), he believed that “studio lighting must always simulate natural light in texture and direction.” But he mostly shot programmers. Like O’Keefe, he was a respected second-tier guy. He worked steadily in the ’30s,’40s and ’50s (his last significant feature was Richard Brooks‘ Elmer Gantry) but he was a “house” cinematographer and not a name-brander.
When I think of Raw Deal, I think of the teaser-trailer for the 1986 Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. Opening copy crawl: “They gave Schwarzenegger a raw deal. (beat, beat) Nobody gives Schwarzenegger a raw deal.”
Lewis Beale says: “Last night my wife and I watched the 1948 Anthony Mann noir Raw Deal. Solid film, kind of over-heated plot, but what makes it more than worthwhile is the immaculate b&w cinematography by the great John Alton. Every frame of this film could be mounted and put in a museum.”
HE’s most beautiful b&w films (random order): Citizen Kane, Manhattan, The Silence, The Hustler, Out Of The Past, Hud, Cold War, Ida, Odd Man Out, Only Angels Have Wings, The Lighthouse, The Train, Wings of Desire, Schindler’s List, Wild Strawberries, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Grapes of Wrath, Ed Wood, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Big Heat, How Green Was My Valley, Rebecca, Psycho, Notorious, Stardust Memories, The White Ribbon, Hour of the Wolf, Raging Bull, The Elephant Man, Dr. Strangelove.