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Doris Kenyon, married to rich John Halliday, gets involved with Conrad Nagel
"The Man Called Back" (1932) is a solid nicely-photographed and well-directed melodrama. A bit slow to develop and relying on some far-fetched coincidences (plot legerdemain), it moves into a higher gear that holds one's attention and entertains. The story begins in a Malay island, to which both Conrad Nagel and Doris Kenyon have separately repaired in flight from personal problems in England. The background is native and exotic.
Nagel's a down-and-out doctor who lost a patient and a promising practice with rich clients because of drink. Kenyon is trying to get a respite from a bad marriage to the very wealthy and abusive John Halliday, who drinks, plays around and takes morphine. He also has a heart condition. The incompetent and humorous Reginald Owen, an osteopathic doctor, is treating Halliday under false pretenses.
Nagel treats Kenyon for a leg bone fracture and romance blossoms, but they separate when she takes the ship back to England. Later Nagel is called to the private steamer of Halliday to treat him, he being in the South Sea neighborhood with Owen and an exotic Malay mistress aboard. Nagel is taken back to England and set up in practice by Halliday. Ir is then that he discovers that Kenyon is Halliday's wife! This leads to a break between the two men.
Halliday has a heart attack and Kenyon prevails upon Nagel to come to his aid. This is somewhat past the halfway point, which now goes into a mystery and a trial of Kenyon for murder, the reason being that it is found that Halliday has been poisoned. Nagel knew this and issued a false death certificate averring heart attack as the cause of death. Alan Mowbray is the prosecuting attorney.
This story and the movie, the way that it is done, are what is called "pre-noir". The life and career of Robert K. Florey have now been explored at book length by Brian Taves in "Robert Florey, the French Expressionist". Expressionism is one of the influences upon film noir. Florey was a versatile director who would direct some very fine pictures, such as "The Face Behind the Mask" (1941), "The Beast with Five Fingers" (1946), and "The Crooked Way" (1949). His work on TV is extensive. If ever collected and re-released, it would make a great set.
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