When gangster's bullets put an end to the career of H.J. Barton, underworld gambling czar who masquerades as a respectable member of high society, his daughter Carol is left to bear the ... See full summary »
1937's "One Mile from Heaven" remains a curiously obscure child in the oeuvre of director Allan Dwan, surprising in that it appears to have been scripted with Shirley Temple in mind, and he had already helmed some of her best known vehicles. The little girl here is played by newcomer Joan Carol, in her screen debut, who plays another character named Sunny in her second film, "Walking Down Broadway," also starring Claire Trevor. Still two years away from Dallas in John Ford's "Stagecoach," Claire is a dedicated newshound, Tex Warren, who finds herself in an African American community that not only boasts tap dancing Officer Joe Dudley (Bill Robinson, always a joy to watch), but also a seamstress, Flora Jackson (Fredi Washington), whose young daughter Sunny is not black. The authorities set out to learn the truth behind this unusual situation, revealed in her paper by the diligent Tex, but things take a sour turn when convict Jim Tabor (Douglas Fowley) recognizes the child as his daughter, and is killed trying to escape. This leaves his cellmate Moxie (Ralf Harolde) free to try his hand at blackmail, with knowledge of Sunny's true mother, played by Sally Blane. Despite the added drama, this contrived subplot mercifully ends well before the film's climax, taking place in a private session with Judge Clarke (Howard C. Hickman), where fingerprints supply the evidence for his final decision. The finale isn't much of a surprise, but overall it's still a rare look at non stereotypical black people and their normal every day lives, with Bill Robinson a smiling cop safeguarding Sunny and Flora, and Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson almost unrecognizable as an objectionable, grey haired store owner. The most surprising face among the unbilled cast members is that of Lon Chaney, whose short stint at Fox yielded less than a dozen featured roles, mostly bits like the one seen here, though more noticeable than most. The sequence at Woodman's Hall (at the 44 minute mark), where policemen gather to entertain each other, finds Robinson again dancing to rapturous applause as Tex arrives, not allowed by Chaney to enter an all male establishment: "I'm sorry lady, you can't come in here, this is a stag" Claire: "oh well, is Officer Joe Dudley in there?" Lon: "is he there, listen to that!" Claire: "I must speak to him right away, it's very important" Lon: "all right, I'll tell him...Joe, there's a lady out front wants to see you...yeah, a white lady!" After the exchange, Chaney calls him back in: "come on Joe, they want some more!" Lon added 30 titles to his resume during those 2 1/2 years, but it remained the most forgettable stretch of his career.
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