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C. Aubrey Smith
One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
1934's "Crime Without Passion" is a rarely seen independent written, produced, and directed by regular writing team Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur ("The Front Page"), which was followed by three more in a span of two years- "The Scoundrel," "Once in a Blue Moon," and "Soak the Rich" (Hecht directed three more without MacArthur, who never directed again). Shot on Long Island in May-June 1934, this was Claude Rains' first feature since the phenomenal success of his Hollywood debut "The Invisible Man," and the actual film debut of actress/dancer Margo, niece of Xavier Cugat, remembered as the wife of GREEN ACRES' Eddie Albert, and mother of Edward Lawrence Albert (who looked just like his beautiful mother). Top billed Rains excels as Lee Gentry, smug, self-satisfied defense attorney, cool under fire in the courtroom, dismissing his guilty clients as little more than insects, using women much the same way. On one hand is long suffering lover Carmen Brown (Margo), who simply cannot let go, while he has since fallen for Katy Costello, who would rather they part as friends (played by Whitney Bourne, also making her film debut, finishing with less than a dozen credits). The lustful Gentry schemes to rid himself of Carmen, first falsely accusing her of seeing an old flame (Stanley Ridges), then confronting her in her apartment (with a loaded gun). Things go badly as he unintentionally shoots her, then must build an alibi for himself, desperately trying to maintain his composure with his own neck in the hangman's noose. A welcome last gasp of pre-code paranoia, a fascinating study of a most unlikable lead character; Claude Rains continued his newfound stardom in "The Man Who Reclaimed His Head," "Mystery of Edwin Drood," and "The Clairvoyant." Surprise cameos from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur as reporters interviewing Gentry 10 minutes in, even more surprising cameos from their respective wives 48 minutes in, Fanny Brice and Helen Hayes, seen by the camera panning through a hotel lobby. Another feature debut is that of Paula Trueman, a ubiquitous presence playing elderly eccentrics in the 70s and 80s, looking very much like Fanny Brice's 'Baby Snooks' in her scene stealing role as Buster Malloy, Carmen's stage partner, who inadvertently aids the despised Gentry with his meticulously plotted alibi.
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