On Chicago's South Side reporter Ed Ames finds the body of a dead girl. Her address book leads to a host of names of men frightened by her death but claiming never to have known her. Ames comes to know quite a lot, dangerously so.
Alan Ladd ... Ed Adams
Donna Reed ... Rosita Jean D'Ur
June Havoc ... Leona
Irene Hervey ... Belle Dorset
Arthur Kennedy ... Tommy Ditman
Berry Kroeger ... Solly Wellman
Harold Vermilyea ... Jack Anstruder
Shepperd Strudwick ... Edgar 'Blacky' Franchot
John Beal ... Paul Jean D'Ur
Tom Powers ... Glenn Howard
Gavin Muir ... G.G. Temple
Dave Willock ... Pig
Paul Lees ... Bat Bennett
Roy Roberts ... Jerry Cavanaugh
Howard Freeman ... Hotspur Shaner
Reporter Alan Ladd stumbles across a strange woman, dead of tuberculosis in a seedy Southside hotel. Her address book, however, hints at a wild and well-connected past. (The girl, with the improbable moniker of Rosita Jean D'Ur, is played in flashback by the improbable Donna Reed.) Ladd's quest, as any noir quest should, takes him up and down the intricate layers of Chicago society, through some of which his tour guide is society dame June Havoc, who plays it with panache. This downfall of a good kid with some bad breaks begins to obsess Ladd, and Chicago Deadline (it's been remarked) could almost have been a grittier Laura set not in high society but on cusp where shabby respectability meets the demimonde. But the cunning Vera Caspary (who wrote the novel Laura) is alas nowhere in evidence, so Chicago Deadline becomes almost an object lesson in Edmund Wilson's dictum that the heavy atmospherics in detective fiction are rarely justified by the conclusion. Nonetheless, for most of its running time, Chicago Deadline is a dark and haunting ride.
In a Laura type of minor film noir, director Lewis Allen fails to make his love sick hero who is mooning over a corpse into anything but a superhero figure. The film failed to make his cop character as inviting as Laura made Dana Andrews. Crusading reporter Ed Adams (Alan Ladd) wants to get the full story behind the TB death of a young attractive woman named Rosita Jean d'Ur found abandoned in a flophouse hotel. Ed steals Rosita's address book before the police arrive and goes through the list of names looking for information. Each person tells their story of Rosita in flashback. Some at first are reluctant to say they knew her.
Ed's newspaper assistant Pig (Willock) helps him track down the names of those in her address book, which are not alphabetized but placed in the order of when Rosita met them. From Rosita's brother Tommy (Kennedy), Ed learns she was from Amarillo, Texas, and moved to Chicago at a young age because she didn't like living on a ranch. Rosita married, but her husband was killed four years ago in an auto accident. Since then Rosita had taken odd jobs, and lived with her roommate Leona (Havoc) next door to a gangster named Blackie Franchot (Strudwick). Blackie fell in love with her and they developed a romantic friendship, but a wealthy corporation head, Temple (Muir), also fell in love with her. But Rosita rejected Temple and he hired his enforcer Solly Wellman (Kroeger) to work Blackie over and since she witnessed the beating -- she was to be bumped off. But the hit man felt sorry for her and hid her in the flophouse while telling Solly and Temple that she was dead.
The idealistic reporter stumbles onto a cesspool of city corruption involving racketeers and legit big business after Rosita's tragic life is published. After two murders and several attempts at blackmail, Ed guns down Solly in a showcar garage shootout. Ed then attends Rosita's funeral and tells her brother he will write the truth about her misfortune, while the brother assures Ed that he probably knew her better than anybody.
The film was enjoyable, but was ruined by too many clichés.