Cass Brown is about to marry for the second time; his first marriage, to Isabel, was annulled. But when he discovers that Isabel just had their baby, Cass kidnaps the infant to keep her ... See full summary »
Jimmy, the owner of a failed music shop, goes to work with his uncle, the owner of a food factory. Before he gets there, he befriends an Irish family who happens to be his uncle's worst ... See full summary »
When successful business man Lee Warren suspects his wife is having an affair, he sets out find her lover, kill him, and make it look like suicide. Complications set in, when he finds out ... See full summary »
A man on a fishing trip with three of his friends receives a blow to the head that makes him lose his memory. Three years later it all comes back to him, but on the day it does one of the men who was on the trip with him turns up dead.
When the daughter of Simon Crawford, a successful barrister, is killed in what seems to be a hit and run accident, and the police are unable to find the culprit, Crawford swears that he ... See full summary »
A private detective helps a prostitute being assaulted, and notices that she is wearing a very unique ring. She is later found murdered and there is no trace of the ring, which turns out to... See full summary »
Kathy leaves the newspaper business to marry homicide detective Bill but is frustrated by his lack of ambition and the banality of life in the suburbs. Her drive to advance Bill's career soon takes her down a dangerous path.
Some dastardly criminals have stolen some top secret plans and tattoo them on the back of a woman so she can sell them to the highest bidder in Lisbon. This woman plans to take the place of... See full summary »
Toni Gerard lands in New York with 38 cents to her name and is befriended by fortune teller Madame Zenobia and a neighboring shooting gallery owner. Toni is smitten with Brad, a lawyer/suitor to Jo, one of Zenobia's "clients." When Zenobia is slightly injured, Toni takes her place and uses her newly found influence to meet Brad and break up the budding romance between him and Jo. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Snappy, fun, warm, very well made, with a few creaks in the plot.
The Crystal Ball (1943)
Utterly fun, snappy, well written, smartly filmed, and all round entertaining. Yes. But also dependent on a plot device or two that push credulity. It's made to be a bit mad-cap, if not true screwball, and so it's easy to look the other way. If Paulette Goddard as the leading lady (ladies, in this case) is charming and friendly (and pretty, which is her main calling card to some), she is also a bit thin, and even comedies need complexity of character. Across from her is Ray Milland who has always been an odd leading man, likable and probably handsome to some, but lacking some kind of gravity or depth or charm to make him truly leading.
So this movie has it all and yet not quite all.
Goddard became famous when she got involved (literally) with Charlie Chaplin, and starred in his fabulous "Modern Times" in 1936. She was then set for all kinds of roles including comedy spots like playing opposite Bob Hope a couple times. I find her always fun, and maybe she's perfect for movies that have no pretensions, just as much as she seems to have none. Ginger Rogers was originally intended for this role in "The Crystal Ball" but the Goddard stepped in, and you can feel (maybe) the part fitting Rogers just as well or better.
Milland, a British (Welsh) actor who still hadn't found his stride in Hollywood, is almost working too hard here. At times he pours on the cheerful energy and you see his inner playfulness, but it comes off a little intentional. He isn't, maybe, actually playful on camera, always too self aware. He is, though, a decent substitute for Charles Boyer, who would have played the part with more mystery but maybe, judging from his other films of the time, less natural humor.
And then there is the story itself, a clever, marshmallow version of a Shakespearean identity switch. The main idea, that the same woman can put a veil over half her face and fool people who already know her, is one of the conceits of the movies (seen in masquerade balls most often) and I don't buy it. You won't either. Instead you have to just enjoy the idea and the fun to be had. The additional twists of an actual swindle involving the government and, briefly, a government agent is a bit much, too, but just go with the flow.
I'm being a bit critical all along because I really liked this film and found the weaknesses unfortunate. It has the bones and the great filming style of a great one. I'd watch it again, if that's some clue. William Bendix is fun, as always, and Cecil Kellaway, the man at the carnival booth, is pretty terrific.
Director Elliott Nugent is one of those workaday standard bearers who can pull a good crew together and he does well here (in the same way as he did in "The Cat and the Canary"). Cinematographer Leo Tover, though less known that some of the legends, has a whole slew of great movies to his name ("The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Heiress," "Dead Reckoning") and he deserves a lot of the credit for holding this all together and giving it ambiance. It's the small things like this that make this film look and feel even better than it is, all told. Give it a cheerful chance. It may surprise you.
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