D.O.A. 1949 | Crime Drama Film-Noir | Full Movie with Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler

Frank Bigelow, told he’s been poisoned and has only a few days to live, tries to find out who killed him and why.

D.O.A. is a 1950 American film noir directed by Rudolph Maté, starring Edmond O’Brien and Pamela Britton. It is considered a classic of the genre. A fatally poisoned man tries to find out who has poisoned him and why. It was the film debuts of Beverly Garland (as Beverly Campbell) and Laurette Luez.

Leo C. Popkin produced D.O.A. for his short-lived Cardinal Pictures. Due to a filing error, the copyright to the film was not renewed on time, causing it to fall into the public domain: it was subsequently remade as Color Me Dead (1969), D.O.A. (1988), and Dead On Arrival (2017).


An opening sequence features Frank Bigelow walking through the long hallway of a police station to report his own murder. From here to the end, the story is told in flashback. Bigelow is a hard-driving accountant and notary public in Banning, California, who decides to escape for a fun vacation in San Francisco. At the hotel, he is invited to join a group of conventioneers for a night out. He ends up at a nightclub where, unnoticed, a stranger swaps his drink for another one. The next morning, he feels extremely ill. Doctors determine that he swallowed a poison, “luminous toxin,” for which there is no antidote.

With only days to live, Bigelow embarks on a desperate search to discover the motive for his poisoning. A call to his secretary Paula provides a possible lead: a Eugene Philips has been urgently trying to contact him. Bigelow travels to Philips’ import-export company, meeting Halliday, the company comptroller, who says that Philips has committed suicide.

Bigelow locates Eugene Philips’ widow and brother Stanley Philips. Months earlier, Eugene had purchased iridium, a “luminous toxin”, which had been stolen by a criminal named Majak. The seller was a George Reynolds (aka Raymond Rakubian), Majak’s nephew. As a result of this illegal sale/purchase transaction, Eugene Philips faced criminal charges.

The bill of sale would have cleared Eugene, but has gone missing—and that document had been notarized by Bigelow himself. He learns that Reynolds/Rakubian is now dead. He realizes that someone seems intent on eliminating all evidence of this sale.

That someone turns out, in a plot twist, to be Halliday. Stanley Phillips—who has now been poisoned—reveals that Eugene discovered that his wife and Halliday were having an affair. Mrs. Philips affirms that during a confrontation that turned violent, Halliday threw Eugene over a balcony. To make it look like suicide, the pair insisted that Eugene had killed himself over his legal troubles. When they discovered that there was exonerating evidence of his innocence in the notarized iridium bill of sale, Halliday began disposing of anyone knowing about the document, and that led to Bigelow.

In the final scene, Bigelow tracks Halliday to the Philips company and finds him wearing the same distinctive coat and scarf as the man who switched the drinks. Halliday draws a gun and fires first, but Bigelow fatally shoots him.

Bigelow finishes telling his story and dies. The police detective taking down the report instructs that his file be marked “dead on arrival.”


Edmond O’Brien as Frank Bigelow
Luther Adler as Majak
William Ching as Halliday
Beverly Garland (credited Beverly Campbell) as Miss Foster
Laurette Luez as Marla Rakubian
Pamela Britton as Paula Gibson
Lynn Baggett as Mrs. Phillips
Henry Hart as Stanley Phillips
Neville Brand as Chester
Virginia Lee as Jeannie

Additional cast members:

Jess Kirkpatrick as Sam
Cay Forrester as Sue
Frank Jaquet as Dr. Matson
Lawrence Dobkin as Dr. Schaefer
Frank Gerstle as Dr. MacDonald
Carol Hughes as Kitty
Frank Cady as Eddie the bartender in Banning (uncredited)
Michael Ross as Dave the bartender in San Francisco
Donna Sanborn as the nurse


Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 88% based on reviews from 25 critics.

The New York Times, in its May 1950 review, described it as a “fairly obvious and plodding recital, involving crime, passion, stolen iridium, gangland beatings and one man’s innocent bewilderment upon being caught up in a web of circumstance that marks him for death”. O’Brien’s performance had a “good deal of drive”, while Britton adds a “pleasant touch of blonde attractiveness”.

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