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In a nutshell, Lew Ayers is a newspaperman who tries to scoop all
others in his field. Gail Patrick as Meg (nick-named NutMeg in this
film) is wonderful as a daughter out to avenge a wrong done to her
father. Gail Patrick is a much under-rated actress, and one wonders why
she didn't get better roles in big budget A-movies. If you really like
Patrick, I recommend that you see: "Quiet Please, Murder", which is a
far superior B-movie mystery than is this film.
This neat little suspense yarn is quite atmospheric, with courtroom dramatics, fast gunplay, and a tight little mystery that can only be solved by a picture photographed by one of the newspapermen present when a high-priced criminal lawyer falls over dead. Of course, the picture disappears. Did the killer take it? Only one way to find out!
Lew Ayres and Gail Patrick both give good performances, and the two of
them plus a fast-paced story make this an enjoyable B-feature. The
crime/mystery story is often implausible, but it provides some
interesting developments and it creates some good action.
Ayres and Patrick were both pretty talented performers, and their roles offer each of them some good material. Ayres plays an easygoing news photographer who gets involved in a murder case, in which Patrick's strong-minded character plays an uncertain role. It's good to see Patrick get a more prominent role than usual, even in a low-budget feature, and her elegance fits in well.
The story uses a number of offbeat details to keep things moving, and this helps to hold your interest in the story as well as in masking some of the low production values. This is not bad at all for a movie of its kind, and it provides an hour or so of good light entertainment.
I wound up with this movie on one of those dubious £3.99 four-packs
full of 'films you've never heard of'. And, well, on a slow Sunday, I
treated myself to the experience...
And, frankly, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Snappy banter plus strong performance from the leads made up for a transparent plot and lackluster 'action' sequences.
Gangsters, reporters, dames in distress (and even a particularly dismal 'car chase scene') - all the traditional trappings of the 'noir' genre, but given a slightly humorous edge by Ayres' enjoyable performance as a wise-cracking reporter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When gangster kingpin Nate Girard gets off the hook at his trial for
murder, his high-priced shyster lawyer throws a party to
celebrate...and the guests are the reporters and news photographers who
covered the trial. What a bunch...cigar chewers, bumbling shutter
clickers and wise alecks. Yeah, and Kent Murdoch (Lew Ayres) was there,
ace photographer always with an angle and a wise crack, fast with his
words, especially "Now listen, baby..." when he's with a good-looking
dame. He's a decent guy. There's I. B. McGoogin (Paul Stewart), fast-
talking, wisecracking news reporter who always winds up one step behind
Murdock. But one guest doesn't fit in...a beautiful raven-haired dame
named Meg Archer (Gail Patrick). She comes across as so aristocratic
that we can't be sure if it's ice water in her veins or just the slow
syrup of delayed gratification.
And wouldn't you know it, murder shows up, too. Right in the middle of the party, when the flashbulbs are popping, a guy also gets popped. Not Nate, but his lawyer. And who immediately disappears? Yep, Meg vanishes even faster than a pair of straight dice at a crap game. She winds up at Kent's apartment with a story and a plea for help. It's not long before someone realizes that a picture Kent took at the party just might show the murderer, that Kent's former girlfriend wants some money, that Nate Girard is willing to pay big for what he says he has to have, that the cops think Nate is in the middle, that Meg has some sort of side deal, that Kent will go all out to help Meg, that...a lot keeps moving around in this mystery played with a light touch. Murder with Pictures is just what it is, a 69-minute programmer with a few good points, a plot that gets too complicated for its own good, and a production that never received the studio love that might have made it better.
Among those good points is seeing Lew Ayres, who played the naive, sincere gun fodder in All Quiet on the Western Front, turn in a wise guy performance by channeling Chester Morris. He handles the role with some style. Ayres was a reliable, likable lead actor whose strong suit was decency. He became a pacifist after making All Quiet. With the Doctor Kildare series that started in 1938, Lew Ayres found himself a matinée idol. When Pearl Harbor was attacked and Ayres was drafted, he declared himself a conscientious objector. He was crucified in the press and his career vanished. He finally was granted his earlier request to join the Army Medical Corps. He served under fire in the Pacific and in New Guinea. After the war, when it became known he had served as a combat medic, he gradually began to get film offers but for seldom more than character roles. Ayres received an Oscar nomination for best actor for the doctor in Johnny Belinda. Just like Dr. Kildare, Ayres was a decent guy with the backbone to stand firm for his beliefs.
Murder With Pictures finds Lew Ayres and Paul Kelly as a pair of breezy
reporters who are tracking the same story, namely the acquittal of
murder by gangster Onslow Stevens. It seems as though a key witness
Gail Patrick is located and arrives too late to testify. Stevens is
giving a bash and he invites the press to the party.
Where his high priced defense attorney Ernest Cossart is shot to death after apparently recognizing someone in the room. Suspicion falls on Patrick, but Ayres shields her and starts his own investigation with Kelly dogging his every move. A couple of murders later and it's all solved.
Ayres gives a nice account of himself in a film which if done at Warner Brothers would have starred James Cagney with Kelly in the Pat O'Brien part. The how is not terribly original, this particular murder gambit was used before and after still it is done with style. As for the motives, Murder With Pictures is a story of greed and revenge.
One cliché seems to be present a lot in these kind of films. The cops are always wrong and the hero always sorts it out. I've seen it in God knows how many films, but in real life I've seen it to be true. Not that the police are dumb, but what people have a problem being is flexible. More than cops will get wedded to a certain notion and then just won't change no matter how the facts are explained to them. In solving cases that's a natural barrier. In my former job with New York State Crime Victims Board I've seen it happen more than once.
It was also nice to see Gail Patrick for once not playing the second lead or the other woman. Murder With Pictures is a nice, fast moving and entertaining film and it's a pity it seems to have dropped into obscurity. The fact that it also has dropped into the public domain may gain it new viewers and fans who've not seen it as of yet.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It probably took me about an hour longer to watch this film than it's
stated run time of sixty nine minutes; I just had to keep re-winding to
pick up details and dialog that blew by too quickly to catch the first
time around. Like the patter in my summary line above, or the clunky
line from the police chief confronting a room full of reporters
following Redfield's murder - "I'm going to put the guilty person in
the chair if I have to build an electrical grandstand". An electrical
grandstand? Just check your mental imagery of that one!
I've seen Lew Ayres a couple of times now, but not in a picture like this. He had sort of a Jack Lemmon quality both in appearance and attitude. Of course Lemmon came by much later, so I guess you could say that Jack had a Lew Ayres-like quality coming out of "Murder With Pictures". Anyway, you get my drift.
Well you better pay close attention, or you're going to miss details in the most unlikely of spots. Like Kent Murdock taking a shower with his pants on. Maybe the film makers knew that Meg Archer (Gail Patrick) would climb in there with him, but as a character in the story, he wouldn't have. Murdock's also shown wearing suspenders under his bathrobe without a shirt on. Does anyone get dressed like that? Just wondering.
This one is my favorite though - at the newspaper photo shop department, when Meg comes looking for Murdock, she drops a key, presumably from Murdock's apartment. It was for Room 318, but in more than one shot, Murdock's apartment door clearly showed he lived in 315.
Well, as in a lot of mystery pictures of the era, you have a bunch of credibility defying stuff, and this one has a boat load. I don't know how someone could shoot a guy in a room full of people and not know from what general direction the gunshot, excuse me, camera shot came from. It might have been silent in the picture, but you know that doesn't quite work. I'm sure it was necessary for all that intrigue over the missing negative, but still. I guess that's why I keep coming back for these programmers from the Thirties and Forties, just to see all the goofy stuff they tried to pass on movie goers of the era.
Part of the Treeline/Reel Media 50-Movie Mystery Classics Collection from 2003, the sound quality is a little shaky, which probably explains why we NEVER see this one on Turner Classic Movies. Director Charles Barton had helped on a couple of silent movies, but had only been directing for 2 years when he did "Murder with Pictures". Given some quick one- liners by the writers, Lew Ayres stars as photographer Kent Murdock, trying to navigate around everyone involved with the trial he is covering. The part is quite generic, and anyone, like Bogey or William Powell could have played it. Co-stars Gail Patrick and Paul Kelly. Pretty short, at 69 minutes, it was probably considered quality at the time, since Edith Head did the costumes. Lots of cops- and- gangster type threats, guesses, and intrigue, and the bodies start piling up. Lots of car chases and the usual murder mystery antics, but pretty good. Liked Ayres better in "Holiday", which he would make two years later with K Hepburn and C Grant.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This begins when a gangster is acquitted for murder. As the reporters
struggle to get pictures, a man named Murdoch gets one and is
introduced to a mysterious young lady. Later at a party for the
acquittal, where the press was invited, a murder occurs and sets in
motion a chase to find out who done it. There are twists and
complications and lots of silliness-in particular the result of a
bubble dancer "engaged" to our hero.
Confusing to start but neat once it gets going making it a nifty little mystery. To be certain you'll never figure out the details, there is a big exposition scene where it's all explained, but other wise its great film.
Once it gets going this is a super little nights enjoyment.... especially if the you can pair it with another really good film
This is a B-movie from Paramount. How it has lapsed into the public
domain, I have no idea--but regardless it's available for download from
the link on its IMDb page.
The film stars a young Lew Ayers as a smart-mouthed newspaper photographer (as bit of a cliché). When a murder occurs, a lady who is the police suspect (Gail Patrick) asks Ayers to hide her. This is one of the oldest and worst clichés of murder mystery films as in real life no one would shelter a murder suspect no questions asked! And, if they were dumb enough to do this, then the murder suspect would most likely kill them for their trouble! But, in B-movie fashion, you know she CAN'T be the killer. The rest of the film, Ayers investigates and proves that the handsome hero is ALWAYS smarter than the stupid cops (yet another familiar cliché)--led by Joe Sawyer as the investigator (a rather familiar role for him). And how does he intend to do this? Yep, one of the oldest plot ideas--with a supposed photo that will prove who the murderer is! As you can tell from my description, the film abounds with clichés--the sort that fans of classic films will quickly recognize. Because of this, the film is not exactly original act. However, the acting and overall polish of the movie are nice--making it at least a tolerable time-passer.
While there are enjoyable parts to this film, they have most to do with the wisecracking performances. There is just too much suspension of disbelief to work very well. The characters seem bound and determined to fit into the plot, even if the plot is particularly strained. The byplay between the stripper who has a contract to marry him, doesn't play very well, in my opinion. I know what comic relief is, but I really can't take anything seriously once she shows up. This is about murder, and yet there is little care taken to protect those who are victimized. Cameras come into play frequently and the provide us with the clues we need. There is so much evidence and such carelessness by the authorities that it really detracts. I may be taking this too seriously, however; it's not much of a heavyweight film. The conclusion left me utterly cold.
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