Ellie Andrews (June Allyson) is the daughter of a wealthy Texas cattleman, A. A. Andrews (Charles Bickford).When Ellie goes against her father’s wishes by marrying the gold-digging Ballarino (Jacques Scott), Mr. Andrews goes to great lengths to secure an annulment, hatching a plot to have his own daughter kidnapped.
Trapped on her dad’s yacht but unwilling to comply with his annulment scheme, Ellie takes a dive overboard and heads to Houston, where Ballarino is waiting for her. On the bus she meets Peter Warne (Jack Lemmon), a quick-witted reporter who has recently lost his job.
Peter sees an opportunity to get the scoop of a lifetime and win his job back; Ellie sees an opportunity to use Peter to get to Houston, after her suitcase is stolen and she’s left with nothing but a measly six bucks. Screwball hijinks ensue as the pair makes the trek to Texas.
Dick Powell produced and directed You Can’t Run Away From It, a musical re-make of It Happened One Night. The film features lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
I didn’t expect You Can’t Run Away From It to be as good as It Happened One Night, and I think that expectation would be unfair for any viewer to hold. This was never meant to be a masterpiece; it was an easy money-maker for the studio, capitalizing on some intellectual property they already owned. As a light ’50s musical considered without comparison to its predecessor, You Can’t Run Away From It is a fine time-passer.
June Allyson isn’t a perfect fit for her character. She has the snark and the attitude required of the role, but is less elegant and cultured than she should be, having traveled the world and received an overseas education on her wealthy father’s dime. Though I wouldn’t say Allyson does a poor job in the role, she could have brought a bit more sophistication to the character.
Jack Lemmon, on the other hand, is wonderful in his role. He’s full of charisma and has no trouble filling the shoes of his outspoken journalist character, which is not dissimilar from many of his other comedy characters. Together, Allyson and Lemmon share some very amusing scenes.
An inconsistent pace makes the film feel longer than it should, but the script these two stars have to work with includes some very funny dialogue, which they carry off successfully. “Happy nightmare,” Allyson tells Lemmon in one scene, when they’re forced to pose as husband and wife and share a cabin for the night.
You Can’t Run Away From It won’t be found on any “Best ’50s Musicals” lists, but as stated above, it’s not a bad way to pass the time. The film will be of particular interest to Dick Powell fans, since he only directed a handful of films (five theatrical features and one TV movie, to be specific). The score: 2/5