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Prof. Andrew Gentling, in Los Angeles to help found a new college, is inveigled by old flame Catherine Sykes into a midnight drive. Next day Catherine is missing, believed killed; friend Martha convinces Andrew that he's a prime suspect and should investigate before he's arrested. But this only puts Andrew in a more deadly kind of danger. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
In order to finance a new college, Professor Andrew Gentling (William Powell) and a pair of colleagues travel to Los Angeles to secure funding from curmudgeonly tycoon (Paul Harvey). Things go askew after Powell runs into his now married, former girlfriend (Shelly Winters) at his hotel bar. Powell, now happily married himself, reluctantly accepts an offer to go with Winters to a small get-together that evening to meet another old friend (Marsha Hunt). After dropping Winters off in front of her house later that night, Powell learns from a newspaper article the next morning that Winters has been reported missing and that foul play is suspected. Rather than reporting what he knows about the incident to the police, Powell, fearing losing financing for his new university from stuff-shirt benefactor Harvey, (who as a plot convenience hates any hint of scandal), decides to play detective and solve the disappearance himself.
'False Step' is part Hitchcock suspense thriller, part old school detective, a smattering of Powell's witty 'Thin Man' and topped off with a few dashes of 1930's screwball comedy. The casting and characters are also an unusual lot from Shelly Winters as the dapper Powell's floozy ex-girlfriend to James Gleason and Sheldon Leonard as a couple of wise cracking Runyonesque type cops. The results, like the styles, are mixed. The movie never really gets into a flow. Like a screwdriver in the bicycle spokes, what could have worked as a suspense mystery is thrown off the tracks by invasive injections of unneeded comedic relief. The script itself, in addition to lacking a cohesive direction, is just generally confusing as to the suspects' relationships and motivations. As such the urbane Powell is largely wasted as he steps through the disjointed scenes in a workman-like manner.
'Take One False Step' does have it's moments mainly due to Powell and cast mates who manage to pull it across the finish line. All-in-all it's a competent but forgettable film.
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