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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Of special interest in the credits is Vera Caspary, who wrote the story
"Suburbs" on which this film is based. She is more familiar as the
author of "Laura".
Laurel Avenue is a quiet little street that is a caulderon brimming with emotional stories. Herbert (Gene Raymond) is coming home drunk after a night on the town. He is in love with Ginger Blake (Frances Dee) but is under the thumb of an overbearing mother (Helen Ware), who of course doesn't think Ginger is good enough for her boy. Her daughter, Trudie (Lila Lee) is involved in some intrigue of her own. John (Clive Brook) and Elna (Adrianne Allen) are both struggling to cope with Elna's disintegrating mental condition. She is just as concerned as John, but is powerless to do anything about it. She was involved in a car accident and since then has suffered from fits of irrational jealousy.
At a bridge party Trudie brings out a compact similar to the one John had just given to Elna. She causes a scene and accuses John of having an affair with Trudie. Trudie plans to leave the street to give John and Elna some room to work out their problems but Elna has noticed that their house is being rented and fears the worst. Meanwhile Herbert has decided to defy his mother and proposes to Ginger. They plan to keep their marriage a secret until he is 21 as his mother says she will have any marriage annulled as he is not of age.
On June the 13th John arrives home from work to find Elna has taken her own life. Because he has picked up the gun and destroyed the suicide note, as it implicates Trudie, he is charged with murder. When the case goes to trial, everyone lies on the witness stand as they all have something to hide. Trudie is bought back from her retreat and turns everything on it's head. Herbert confesses to lying - then Grandpa, (Charles Grapewin) who has been a bemused observer of the street and its scandals takes the stand and renounces the street as being full of hippocrites.
This is a multi layered, really super film. Everyone excels at their roles - even Helen Jerome Eddy, in the smaller role of Ginger's protective older sister. Frances Dee gave another smashing performance as Ginger. She was so beautiful and talented.
Among the exceptionally strong cast Adrianne Allen really stood out for me as John's neurotic wife Elna. She really made the role 3 dimensional and made you understand that she knew she was unwell but it was a sickness she couldn't control. She didn't make many films which is a real shame. I couldn't find out much information about her except that she was married to Raymond Massey and her daughter is Anna Massey. She appeared in several original Broadway plays ("Cynara" (1932),"The Shining Hour" (1934)) and I also hope she did just as well on the West End.
What we have here is a virtually forgotten gem of a film. Several Paramount contract players mix in a blend of comedy and melodrama. Gene Raymond is in love with neighbor Frances Dee but his mother deems her unsuitable.Adrienne Allen is a former pianist who had an accident and nervous breakdown and is jealous of husband Clive Brooks' innocent friendship with Raymonds' sister Lila Lee. Charley Grapewin is Charlie Ruggles father who is at odds with daughter-in-law Mary Boland. The story is very cleverly put together as we are introduced to the neighbors and how they all affect each others lives. There is a murder trial and all of the witnesses have something to hide. The film is written very well and it all comes together very neatly. It is a shame this film hasn't been seen in recent years, I found it very enjoyable.Hopefully TCM will air it one day until then it will languish on the shelf.
This one would be well remembered and more often studied today if only
it had bigger stars in it. To all but the most seasoned early talkie
fan, virtually everyone in this film is a complete unknown. For
example, top billed is Clive Brook, who today is buried in obscurity.
The film concerns four households on the same street in a suburban town in 1932. Virtually everyone takes the train into work each day, thus showing us the beginnings of modern suburbia in which the place one works and the place one lives are separated by significant distance. These four households are intertwined through various relationships. One household consists of a hen-pecked husband (Charles Ruggles), his overbearing wife who is one of the last true believers in prohibition in its waning days, and the husband's dad who is an alcoholic and always in search of an odd dollar and an odd job in the neighborhood so he can go buy some more bootleg liquor. Another household consists of a young girl and her roommate who are just scraping by. One of these girls is in love with Herbert (Gene Raymond), who is in constant fear of his mother who thinks the girl is not good enough for her son and has threatened to annul any marriage that takes place between the two. Herbert is six months away from being 21 back when that was the age of majority. Herbert's sister Trudie has an innocent enough friendship going with lonely John Curry (Clive Brook). The reason John is lonely is that his wife has been an emotional wreck since the couple was involved in a serious automobile accident. The two have recovered physically, but the emotional scars are still there in the case of Mrs. Curry. Mrs. Curry's emotional state is only made worse by the fact that she believes that her husband is falling out of love with her and in love with Trudie.
All of these situations come together perfectly on the night of June 13 when one member of these four households is found shot to death and another member of one of these four households is falsely accused of murder. Collectively, there are several people on the street that could help to support the alibi of the accused, but they each are hiding something of a personal nature that they would have to publicly reveal if they came forward, plus none of the facts privy to each individual truly exonerates the accused, so they all remain silent. Or do they? This is a great little crime drama on top of being an engaging character study. I highly recommend it as - with the exception of the prohibition angle - it is not dated at all.
As stated on the website, Universal owns all the Paramount films made
between 1929-49, and like most of the others, this one presumably sits
on a shelf collecting dust. That's a shame, because this picture must
be one of Paramount's best features - even at the age of 80. I imagine
Universal feels it is too dated, but it is not. The ensemble cast are
today all forgotten, but they had relevance in 1932, and all turn in
outstanding performances. Starting with Charles Grapewin and all the
way down the credits to Arthur Hohl, acting is several cuts above the
If you read the summary or read through contributor's reviews, you think it plays like "Peyton Place" or a TV soap opera - but you'd be wrong. It is a character study set in a suburban neighborhood but with greater depth and plot development than either of the above. It is also a crime drama, and not really a mystery as shown on the title page. We are privy to the lives of nearly all of the characters, and this is accomplished in 76 minutes in a plot that is as absorbing and engrossing as well as concise.
Previous reviewers have rehashed the storyline, but you need to see it for yourself to get the full effect; It is way better than it sounds. Charles Grapewin and Mary Boland are outstanding, as is Arthur Hohl in a smaller role. "The Night Of June 13" is a sadly neglected gem from Paramount via Universal and which sits in a vault at Universal City.
Shown at Capitolfest, Rome N.Y., 8/12.
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