A detective who has "four hours to kill" before delivering his prisoner, an escaped killer, spends the time in the lobby of a Broadway theater where a musical is playing. The film focuses ...
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A detective who has "four hours to kill" before delivering his prisoner, an escaped killer, spends the time in the lobby of a Broadway theater where a musical is playing. The film focuses on the relationship between the two men, and also between various characters in the theater audience, staff and cast. Written by
Observing the fates of several diverse characters in the lobby of a theatre while a musical is being performed, Four Hours to Kill is pretty obviously a lower-budget imitation of Grand Hotel. But I'll take it over its more opulent cousin any day. Paramount's dramas were always edgier and more eccentric than MGM's, and still pack surprises for modern viewers. Mitchell Leisen directs with his usual aplomb, but it's really writer Norman Krasna who is ultimately responsible for the picture's success. It's marvellous to see how he interweaves the various story lines and sneaks in new plot revelations every few minutes as the tales intersect with each other. At the same time, he fills in the edges with neat comic vignettes.
There's plenty of pre-code material on hand one of the major plot points deals with abortion and blackmail (alluded to obliquely, but it's quite obvious nonetheless), which contrasts nicely with the comedy-relief thread of Roscoe Karns's nervous expectant father. Young Ray Milland plays a caddish gigolo whose acquisitive plotting is inadvertently revealed to his married lover, and the most sympathetic character is an outright murderer on his way to the gallows. The latter is played by Richard Barthelmess in his usual insular, haunted style, which is a perfect fit. Fans of "It's a Wonderful Life" will chuckle when Henry Travers insists "Don't You Believe in Miracles?" at one point.
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