Dying Evelyn Dow anguishes over her lost daughter, who disappeared as a child. Evelyn's husband Henry, hoping to make his wife's final days more bearable, asks waitress Sally Gates to pose as the daughter. Sally does so, but Mrs. Dow is so cheered by her "daughter's" return that she regains her health, leaving Sally stuck in her role. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
1935's "Alias Mary Dow" is a Universal soap opera starring Sally Eilers as Sally Gates, tough waitress and nightclub escort, who sees a way to get out of her impoverished circumstances by portraying the long lost daughter of a dying mother. It has been 18 years since the mysterious, and still unsolved, disappearance of 3 year old Mary Dow (Juanita Quigley), whose father, Henry (Henry O'Neill), offers Sally 100 dollars to pose as an adult Mary for his ailing wife, who has never gotten over losing her child. Once Evelyn Dow (Katharine Alexander) unexpectedly makes a full recovery, Sally is torn between continuing the charade for her faux but loving 'parents,' and returning to her old life. Things begin to improve after a lost bulldog brings her together with wealthy playboy Peter Marshall (Ray Milland, still billed as 'Raymond'), but old friends see a way to conduct a little blackmail, along with the actual kidnapper of the real Mary Dow (Addison Richards). The quick thinking Sally has to really sink her teeth into a dual role if she hopes to pull off a miracle against all odds. At Universal, German director Kurt Neumann's best known feature was 1933's "Secret of the Blue Room," and by the 50s would contribute several science fiction titles- 1950's "Rocketship X-M," 1956's "She Devil," 1957's "Kronos," and 1958's "The Fly," his greatest success, but only after his untimely death shortly after its premiere. The long forgotten Sally Eilers, remembered for the female lead in the 1931 Charlie Chan feature "The Black Camel," continued to work steadily until 1950, but never found a more impressive showcase for her underrated talents, while Ray Milland doesn't make his appearance until the second half of the film. It's surprising that Sally continues to hobnob with her worthless boyfriend (Chick Chandler) after ditching him early on for taking her for a sucker; no wonder her new identity proves to be more rewarding, both personally and emotionally. Addison Richards, usually cast in amiable roles (or murder victims) is truly despicable as the actual kidnapper, one of the Dow servants, who apparently murdered the child all those years ago. Those opening scenes feature little Juanita Quigley as the young Mary Dow, the tiny tot completely garbling every line, a simpering, cringe-worthy performance that robs the film of its greatest tragedy. Just a few months before, Universal seemed to be giving her a big buildup, billed as 'Baby Jane' in 1934's "The Man Who Reclaimed His Head," wisely giving up rather quickly, as she receives no on screen credit here (dare I say it, need one ask "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"). Also uncredited is Universal semi-regular John Carradine, sauntering across the dance floor as Griffe, an amiable drunk partnered with Sally at her usual nightclub (her friend Minnie says, "there she is, leadin' that giraffe around"), uttering two lines before Sally must abruptly end the fun to get down to serious business with the blackmailing kidnapper. Debuting at the studio with 1931's "Heaven on Earth" (followed by "The Invisible Man" and "The Black Cat"), and just one year before character stardom awaited in John Ford's "The Prisoner of Shark Island," the dapper, clean shaven Carradine wears a tuxedo, chews gum, and complains in an amusing Southern drawl when Sally (who twice refers to her escort as 'Tiny!') has to rush off: "aw, cain't we all dance some more?" (his other Universals that year were "Transient Lady," "Bride of Frankenstein," and "She Gets Her Man"). Later that year Carradine would again play a ballet master, complete with beard, in "Anything Goes" aka "Tops is the Limit," with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. "Alias Mary Dow" acquired a new title, "Lost Identity," for its 1948 rerelease through Realart Pictures Inc.
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