In 1941, before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ben Fallon (John Beal), radio reporter and commentator, constantly uncovers evidence of spy-ring sabotage to the discomfiture of the police and the government. Ben is interested in Lela Cramer (Margaret Hayes), amateur flyer working for the radio station Ben broadcasts for and, at the request of Grant Neally (Pierre Watkin), his boss, asks Lela to give a job to Frances Prescott (Florence Rice). After several U.S. ships are torpedoed by German submarines, a few miles out in the Atlantic close to New York City, Ben begins to suspect a station employee may be feeding information to the Nazi agents. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
The bridge shown on screen is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but the radio station Ben Fallon works for has call letters beginning with "W" -- which would indicate an East Coast or Midwest location, not San Francisco, California. See more »
This is Ben Fallon, your announcer. If we allow saboteurs to go unchallenged, then we must pay the price for complacency. There are enemies among us, and they must be found if we are to survive. Remember, enemy agents broke down the morale in Norway, Denmark, Belgium and France. Don't allow them to do that here. They're trying to soften us up so there won't be any fight left in us.
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John Beal stars with Mary Treen in this feature, "Stand By for Networks," a 1942 B movie. Beal plays a newscaster who calls 'em as he sees 'em -- except nobody likes what he's calling and what he's seeing.
Beal is Ben Fallon, and he's intrigued and bothered by attacks on American soil and begins to suspect treason. To Fallon, this is a call for Americans to get their heads out of the sand and to stop being isolationists. A friend has a list of suspected Nazi agents, which he manages to get to Ben (via Ben's secretary) before he's murdered. One of the people, Lela Cramer, works for the radio station.
Before any of this can be exposed, Ben is fired but mysteriously is still broadcasting inflammatory material. He isn't, nor can he find out where these broadcasts are coming from, but the voice sounds like his and it's apparent he's being set up. Not only that - he's lost all credibility. He keeps digging.
The message of not being complacent still rings true today, particularly after 9/11. Alas, it's a bad film - probably made fast and on the cheap with very little direction. First of all, the newscaster has a list of Nazi agents - I've carried tissue more carefully, but I wouldn't be walking around with a list like that. Why didn't he give it to the government? Second, I'm not sure a piece of tin is much help against a bullet - don't people shoot tin cans with bullets and aren't the cans damaged? And this was a pretty thin piece of tin. There are other things, but I won't go into them.
John Beal and Mary Treen, who plays his secretary, are both very lively and energetic, and Treen is very funny. The problem there is that they're in a different movie. Beal in fact seems like he's on stage. The others around him aren't putting forth much. This is the fault of the director.
All in all, not good. I met John Beal in the 1980s, a lovely man. When I see one of his films on TCM, I always watch them. He had a very prolific film, TV, and stage career despite starting out as a leading man in Hollywood and not quite making the grade. With films like this, I don't know how much of a chance he had.
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