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Interesting that the two players who hold viewer's attention are
Dorothy Bartlam and the delightful Kay Hammond as Kay, a straight
shooting cockney chorus girl who by telling it like it is, really propels
the narrative. Dorothy Bartlam soon faded unfortunately and Kay had
to wait until she wowed audiences in "Blithe Spirit" in 1945.
By the time Madeleine Carroll makes her appearance as the petulant Gwenda, Bartlam as Vera has been able to establish rapport with the audience as the devoted wife and in a very sweet opening scene (with an adorable Freddie Bartholomew pretending to be a minister), it shows that she and Larry have been childhood sweethearts. Enter the alluring Gwenda, a self centred actress who is just coming down from an affair with rake Ronnie (a young Roland Culver) - she finds herself interested in Larry (a very boring Carl Harbord) and he is all too easily persuaded into an affair. She knows he is married but doesn't care and selfishly feels she deserves some happiness - even though Kay has no sympathy with her. It's hard to have sympathy with Larry either, due to Harbord's rather wooden acting and the ending shows Vera commanding centre stage. Things come to a head when a romantic letter meant only for Larry is accidentally seen by Vera. She doesn't reveal she has seen it but sets up a meeting with Gwenda who actually thinks she is going on a rendevous with Larry. Vera reveals herself as a caring wife who is willing to sacrifice her own happiness so that Larry will be content and things can stay as they are. Gwenda realises her self centredness and the ending finds her struggling to put on a glad face as she prepared for her stage appearance!!
Merle Oberon appears in a bit part as a flower seller in a night club.
Across to Singapore (1928)
Joan Crawford looked stunning in this pretty conventional romantic drama
but her life at this time was anything but smooth sailing. She had just
finished the abortive "Rose Marie" where the disintergration of James
Murray's career due to alcoholism was a lesson that she would remember
all her life. As well as that she had met and was having a giddy romance
with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. - she wanted to improve herself culturally and
Doug made it look so effortless. The culture she was absorbing made her
rebel against the romantic programmers she was being given and even
though her co-stars were the top male stars of the studio, the movies
were not among their better efforts.
This was yet another version of Ben Ames William's "All the Brothers Were Valiant" (he also helped with the script). Joel Shore (played by an almost radiant Ramon Novarro) dreams of the sea and heroic adventures which he shares with beauteous Priscilla (it's wonderful to see a lovely Joan Crawford, just before her breakthrough role in "Our Dancing Daughters") . He is treated like a kid by his older, more robust brothers who are having a rare reunion when each of their boats dock at the same time. Blustering Mark (Ernest Torrance) decides he wants to marry Priscilla and seeing this is in 1857 - the only person who has to consent is her father, poor Priscilla is as shocked as anyone when they stand up in church to announce it!!! Meanwhile Joel, having proved himself in a bar room brawl, has earned his place on the "Nathan Ross" but all is not well on board. Mark realises that he doesn't have Priscilla's love and goes to pieces, the other brother Noah (played by Dan Wolheim, brother of Louis) is swept overboard in a gale and when Mark impulsively makes Joel First Mate, a few of the crew plan a mutiny in Singapore. Next thing, the "Nathan Ross" is returning to port with Mark and Noah marked as "drowned" and Joel in irons because, according to the assumed captain (Mason), he cowardly deserted his brother.
The scenes of the gale are highly dramatic and the ship is magnificent but even though there is a stunning battle on board ship with Novarro chased onto the yardarm as he and the villain fight to the death, the last third of the movie strains credibility. Joel knows Mark is alive somewhere in a Singapore port and, along with an unwilling Priscilla, steals the boat in order to bring Mark back.....
MGM realised they had a screen idol in Ramon Novarro and when most stars at the time were fearing the mike, Novarro, who had kept up his singing tuition throughout the 1920s, was given a new lease of career in the talkers as MGM promoted him in a series of light operettas designed to give him appeal as a Latin Lover singer.
Also in the movie, a beautiful Anna May Wong as a Singapore bar girl - she makes the most of her screen time, you won't forget her!!
Street Corner (1953)
"Cops in Skirts"!!
Muriel Box was just about the only regular woman director in British movies
in the 1950s and she earned her place the hard way - through being a
continuity girl, a screenwriter and as co-producer . With "Street Corner" -
it was conceived as an answer to "The Blue Lamp" and, again, using a
documentary effect, highlighted the part played by women in the police
force and if this movie is anything to go by, they sure had a long way to go
before they were to be treated as being equal to the same assignments as
men!! Anything to do with screaming babies and fractious children - send
for a "cop in a skirt"!!!
Comprised of several vignettes as well as a "blue lamp" style plot line involving beautiful Peggy Cummins, as a young married mother (at 18 very young) who after being picked up on a shop lifting charge, finds her life going down the gurgler and longs for excitement!! Enter Terence Morgan as Ray, blind Freddie could tell he is up to no good, he is positively a bundle of nerves!! Soon Ray and Bridget (Cummins) are flitting from flat to flat and while "The Blue Lamp" culminated at a densely packed greyhound race, this finishes in a desperate chase across some London bomb sites!!
Among other story lines - there is an exciting opening in which a woman dives off a bridge to rescue a drowning child, she (Eleanor Summerfield) isn't a police woman but her story involves being AWOL from the Army and even bigamy!! If this was an American movie this story would be the "gag" one but in this tasteful film she is given sympathy and respect. Ronald Howard plays the husband she deserts for!!
Another story has to do with child neglect, with a thrilling scene as a brave WPC Susan (Anne Crawford) risks her life to save a small child who wanders onto a window ledge. Investigating the incident brings the young police woman into a world where children are seen as burdens but the movie offers no judgements - the police look at the people's lives, often working back breaking jobs to pay the rent of hovels and see that they are doing all in their power. Susan especially, who lost her husband and child in a car accident and sometimes feels compelled to give it all up and adopt one of the children that she sees all too regularly in a pretty depressing side of her job. Rosamund Johns is as usual excellent in her role as the overseeing Sergeant but stylish Barbara Murray shines in her role as the eager young cadet!!
Agree with another reviewer, it was fascinating to see how housing estates were originally designed to be modernistic and appealing but as "Violent Playground" showed only 6 years later, they soon became a hotbed for overcrowding and crime. A quite funny episode showing how hard the police tried to convince the public that they were on their side. A little boy wanders into the station with his best "lost and afraid" expression and after being showered with chocolates and cream buns an exasperated mother gives the desk sergeant a dressing down - "you police, when a kid gets hungry, he always knows he can pop into the local nick and get a good feed of lollies and sticky buns"!! lol Also Dora Bryan as a prostitute complaining she draws the line at being nicked by a "cop in skirts" as she has her self respect to think of!!
Along Came a Spider (1970)
Roller Coaster Plot!!!
Really liked this movie a lot but what a roller coaster story line!!
Renowned physics professor Dr. Martin Becker (Ed Nelson) is feeling
on top of the world - he has the Nobel Prize for an atomic energy
project he has been credited with formulating within his grasp and
he has fallen in love with a mysterious raven haired beauty Ann Banning
(luscious Susanne Pleshette) who accidentally on purpose wanders into
his lecture. But everything is smoke and mirrors - in reality Ann is the
widow of a technician who had been working alongside Becker on the
same project but was killed during a workplace experiment gone wrong!!
Ann believes there is a more sinister answer!!
For the first half hour you would be forgiven for thinking this is just going to be another mushy romantic telemovie - walks on the beach, cheesy 70s elevator music, fun times at restaurants and Ann starts to think maybe Martin is a nice guy after all!! Maybe she has let her thirst for vengeance take too much control!! Until a chance conversation - Ann is very curious about the original team Martin worked with. Most people would have been suspicious at her interest but Martin's over inflated ego sees nothing wrong. She probes him about a particular scientist who was killed and Martin's response about him being a hack, how he was really a glorified technician who's death was no great loss, chills her. From that moment Ann's purpose never varies and she disappears!! Becker is now plunged into a nightmare trial in which the only way out is guilty!!
Of course it's completely far fetched and becomes more so as the film progresses. Ann is in the master class of leaving subtle clues that implicate Becker in a horrendous crime. Then comes the letter......
Wouldn't be a 1970 movie without a flaky neighbour but telemovie stalwart, Brooke Bundy, makes Adrienne a bit different - yes, she has her hippie moments, including studying down at the beach but she is the movie's voice of reason and although she is a sage advisor when Ann presents herself bruised and battered, there is also a "Rosemary's Baby" moment with "we are all your friends here, you need to go for a little holiday somewhere - with Martin"!!!! Another refugee from teleland - Andrew Prine as Adrienne's "fuzz" boyfriend. His sensible, measured character probably did a lot for police public relations at this time when the "fuzz" wasn't thought too kindly of by the anti establishment!! Richard Anderson has a small role as the prosecuting attorney!!
No Marriage Ties (1933)
Elizabeth Allan, a pretty British actress who on coming to America proved the
perfect Dickens heroine in "David Copperfield" and "A Tale of Two Cities" -
but when the promised roles in "The Citadel" and "Goodbye Mr. Chips"
didn't eventuate she successfully sued MGM and returned to Britain. Before
all these vapid Victorian girls she made a striking impression in "No Marriage
Ties" - she is Peggy Williams, a struggling artist who volanteers to take
inebriated reporter Bruce Foster (Richard Dix) home and at the same time
give herself a bed for the night. Supposedly sent to report the Dempsey/
Tunney fight, Foster's no show draws a tirade from frustrated editor (David
Landau) and even though he swears off the booze, the next night sees him
back in his bar-room haunts espousing poetical quotations, which happened
to draw Peggy to him in the first place. This time his flowery eloquence hits
the right notes when he comes up with a few workable slogans for a new
brand of toothpaste that harassed ad man Perkins (Alan Dinehart) is tearing
his hair out over!!
This was part of the movie that one of the reviewers felt was missing some footage but I think it was pretty seamless - Foster's ready wit and glibness at the bar was exactly what Perkins needed to put his company on the map. By now Foster, still drinking, has an over inflated ego - he has the smug pleasure of telling his old newspaper boss Zimmer, once head of the prestigious "Reflector" now in charge of the yellow rag "The Gossip" exactly what he can do with his business. Alan Dinehart, always tremendous, now matches Dix in dynamism. He holds the floor with a rivetting speech that voices his horror as he sees his once reputable agency turned into a money making machine where ethics are out the window. There would have been a great opportunity to delve into Foster's shady advertising practises, promoting companies who are doctoring their products etc. Instead the movie goes down the romance path. Accepting Perkin's resignation, Foster targets Adrienne Deanes (Doris Kenyon) a cosmetic queen who is also a lonely and vulnerable woman who believes in Foster's glibness.
Definitely shocking climax brings Foster to his senses and Dix also delivers a vibrant speech on suddenly realising he has spent most of the movie acting like a twit!! Acting honours fall to the ladies - Elizabeth Allan has much sensitivity in her style as does Doris Kenyon who only has a few scenes but shows that beneath her business like exterior she is an innocent who, because she has never allowed herself to fall in love before still retains those fairy tale dreams which are soon to be shattered!!
Party Husband (1931)
Along Modern Lines
After being a top star for Warners First National all through the 1920s, once the talkies came along the studio thought they could fob Dorothy Mackaill off with any old role. She knew she had a hit with "The Office Wife" but Warners immediately gave her a very so so role in "The Great Divide" so she rebelled and was in the middle of breaking her contract when "The Office Wife" was released to rapturous reviews. After that Dorothy was back in favour and "Bright Lights" and "Party Husband" were the results of her determination.
Similar in plot to "Illict" (another James Rennie movie of the same year) "Party Husband" asked that burning question - Is it possible to marry but retain your freedom!! The answer was No!! This is a very snappy movie with some interesting pre-code situations. Sensual Dorothy Mackaill and a pretty plodding James Rennie (husband of Dorothy Gish) play newlyweds, Laura and Jay, who believe that they can live their life along modern lines. She is later lectured by pal Kate (Dorothy Peterson) to hold onto her man. Peterson, a really under-rated actress I feel, gets a rare chance at a prominent role. Her Kate is the most complex character - she adores Laura as a best friend but is secretly in love with Jay and when she sees the marriage start to come unstuck she goes in for the kill!!
For starters Jay finds Laura a job when she finds home life boring. It is with a publisher and her boss is the office wolf (Don Cook - yes I know that's hard to believe!!) - and before you know it, working back till midnight is the norm but it is all very innocent!! Jay is having his own adventures with Mrs. Canfield, an author who has a weekly radio program extolling the virtues of home and fireside but whose own home is littered with "ashtrays and tiger skin rugs"!! And as played by Mary Doran who steals the movie in my opinion, she just sparkles and no man could resist her!! Things start to get out of hand with misunderstandings on both sides - as played by Cook, Horace Purcell may have had an office reputation but he quickly becomes sincere. In the midst of a pretty paint-by-numbers storyline there is a nice dramatic touch as Jay follows Laura onto a night boat but then feels she is just not worth it. There is a camera pan of him standing on the dimly lit docks in the rain, a nice cinematic touch. And just to remind you that it is definitely a pre-code - when Laura confesses that nothing happened with Purcell, Jay admits that things weren't so innocent with him and he did spend the night with Kate. Kate is revealed as the nicest person in the movie - she only pursues Jay when she sees him left high and dry and her main aim is to get his life back in order, getting him sober etc.
So I agree with the other reviews, the ending is a bit of a wash out with the wise and knowing mother (Helen Ware) giving a finger wagging lecture to the shame faced pair. If only they could have worked out a compromise on their own it would have kept alive the "we moderns" idea!! Also of interest is Joe Donahue, the year before, partnering Marilyn Miller in some intricate dances in "Sunny", now relegated to a couple of scenes as the lively best man at the wedding reception!!
Love at First Sight
When Anthony Asquith directed his first film "Shooting Stars", a topical murder mystery set amid the trappings of a film studio his co-director was the experienced A.V. Bramble but for his next one he was on his own. "Underground and "A Cottage on Dartmoor" were dazzling movies, the latter almost topping Hitchcock in it's moody and evocative images of a disturbed loner. "Underground" was a stylish thriller and it was clear that Asquith had an awareness of the art of cinema that seemed to elude his more established contemporaries.
With this movie, as well as "Cottage" Asquith attempted to delve into the personalities and psychological problems of everyday people. The first title tells us that the story is set in the "Underground" where ordinary workaday people with names such as Nell, Bill, Bert and Kate meet. The establishing scenes with the mighty escalators taking centre stage hurtle the cinema audience into the hustle and bustle of the busy London metropolis. Bert has a lot in common with Asquith's moody barber from "Cottage" - he meets Nell on the train and for him it is love at first sight. For Nell though, she isn't impressed by his aggressive tactics but he becomes fixated on her. He finds the store where she works behind the scarf counter and finds her friendly but it is only for show - the store manager has his eye on her and she wants to show she is charming to all customers!!
By the time of this incident Nell has met Bill, a station attendant who has returned a glove that she dropped on the escalator - the attraction is mutual and they are now planning their future. Meanwhile there is Kate, a seamstress who was Bert's old girlfriend and can't get over him. Norah Baring makes the most of her part - playing Kate walking a tight line between happiness and hysteria, she is tremendous. After a bar room brawl, the realism has to be seen to be believed, you feel you are a front seat onlooker - Bert finds out about Bill and Nell and returns home furious, to find Kate begging to be taken back. He promises marriage if she will promise something in return......
So many magnificent scenes - the wondrous Underground where, amazingly with the sheer volume of people carried on the escalators every day, a little human drama of boy meets girl is carried out. Scenes on the train and also when Nell re-enacts her unwanted meeting with Bert and the novel way she gets rid of him. The walk of Bill and Nell through the park with the stately elms making the two lovers look insignificant in the scheme of things. Norah Baring's scene where she is pushed over the edge, Bill has done a runner and she is alone making sure everything is just so,(moving flower pots to the centre of the saucers etc). Then there is the power station where Bert works. He is planning to throw the whole Underground into chaos. The shots and location shooting of the mighty Power Station are very reminiscent of the German Expressionism still very much in vogue - cranes in silhouette, stark shots of buildings, the roof chase between Bert and Bill, Kate, stumbling over the debris to her fate...
Elissa Landi was so stunning as Nell but her British career didn't go anywhere and she eventually went to Hollywood. Cyril McLauglin (Bert) was the younger brother of Victor and while Bert dominated the scenes he was a part of, he also went to Hollywood where he found himself mostly in uncredited bits. Brian Aherne (Bill) was the acting success story of the group. Persevering in British movies until 1934, he then moved to Hollywood where he starred with some of the top actresses of the day. Norah Baring (Kate) gave magnetic performances in both this movie and "A Cottage on Dartmoor" but unfortunately her career never really got off the ground and was over by 1934.
Highly, Highly Recommended.
Outside the Law (1930)
When Thieves Fall Out!!
The first outing for this movie was in 1920 - it was a Universal Jewel which meant it was a top production for it's star player Priscilla Dean, a very up and coming player in Lon Chaney and their top director Tod Browning who, like Frank Capra later on at Columbia, his innovative movies were putting Universal on the map. Fast forward ten years and with talkies Browning was losing his magic touch. I so wanted to like this movie but by this time Mary Nolan's severe personal problems were fast eroding Universal's confidence in her, what with the lurid headlines and the on set diva behaviour. I always felt Nolan had a lot of acting talent but it was obvious she needed a director who was going to channel her emotions - something that Browning, in 1930, was unable to do. Bringing up all her emotions for the tough girl part of Connie's personality, she had no believability when the vulnerability had to surface at the end. Watching, you realise what a terrific actress Priscilla Dean had been.
The earlier movie had featured Lon Chaney as Cobra and his appearances were superb but now the spot light was on Edward G. Robinson (even though Nolan's name preceded his in the credits) and because he was still finding his movie feet, the part became conventional. Only Owen Moore bought naturalism to his part as "Fingers", the crook with a conscience. Robinson plays Cobra who is double crossed in a bank hold up - his two partners "Fingers" and "Connie" disappear with the cash. The problem with the movie then is that Robinson drops out of sight as the plot concentrates on the other two who hide out in an apartment. "Fingers" then finds himself under the spell of a little boy who lives in an adjoining apartment little realising that his father is the local policeman!! Mary Nolan's emotions were given no reign, there was even an horribly racist scene where she and Robinson were getting pretty cosy and then his mother enters and she realises Cobra has Oriental blood - her highly emotive acting (as well as dowsing herself with water so she won't be contaminated) is pretty terrible to watch. But just when you think it is all about Mary, "Fingers" does a character change from a wanting to go straight and settle down type of guy to "let's take the money and run"!! It's all a bit much and Browning handles the climax far less smoothly than he did in the original. The original featured an exciting gun battle between the three protagonists but in this one, probably because of the restrictions of the microphone - Cobra comes to the flat, is knocked unconscious by "Fingers" who then spends the rest of the film trying to save the life of the little boy's father!!
This movie would have greatly benefited by giving Robinson a more prominent part!!
Atlantic Adventure (1935)
Fresh and Fast Paced!!
Nancy Carroll may have regarded this movie as just a quickie but the reviews from Variety and New York Daily News were very positive. Not exactly a pairing to conjure up screw ball comedy, Nancy and Lloyd Nolan, who had been performing in a road show production of "The Front Page", proved an inspired team. You've seen it all before - a go-getter reporter whose "a story at any price" style means his frustrated girl always seems to finish the evening up on her lonesome - but the story is fast paced and it just seems very fresh because maybe in 1935 it was!!
When Helen goes to the ship's pier for yet another reconciliation, she is mistaken for a mobster's moll and given money and a passport with the promise of more information when she is given the "ice"!! Once the boat sails (Helen and Dan are too busy quarrelling to notice!!), it seems there are more crooks on board than passengers. There are Mr. and Mrs. Van Dieman, the real jewel thieves, then there is Frank Julian (Arthur Hohl) who is planning a switcheroo and hopes to slip the "ice" to his moll (Dan has convinced Helen to play along). Also along are a quaint pair - a doddering wheel chair bound gent and his very polite carer who are soon revealed as an escaped killer (John Wray) and his accomplice Spike (and you know anywhere Dwight Frye is, the mood is creepy and sinister)!!
Now Mitt Coaster is the scoop Dan is hell bent on getting and as the Atlantic adventure gets going, all crooks join ranks as Spike overhears the diamond plans and decides he wants a bit of ice for himself.
No self respecting reporter in 1930s movies is a "jimmy Malone" so Dan has a photographer pal, Snapper, played by the once legendary comic Harry Langdon. He obviously never regained his former glory but by the mid 1930s he was finding work in shorts and playing second stringers like Snapper.
I obviously enjoyed it a lot more than other reviewers, I thought Nolan was not abrasive and surely it would be impossible not to like Nancy in everything she does!!
Little Miss Nobody (1936)
Jane Combines Pathos With Hijinks!!
When Fox was looking around for a little girl to play the bratty nemesis to Shirley Temple's little "Miss Sweetness" in "Bright Eyes", they hit the jackpot with Jane Withers, a multi talented little girl who at eight had already had her own radio program in Atlanta. Critics loved her awful Joy and the feeling was that she stole the movie from Shirley. Fox signed her to a long term contract but far from being another Shirley Temple she was really a successor to Mitzi Green who by now had outgrown her "the kid you want to spank" type of roles. She became very popular, especially with cinema managers who welcomed her films which they knew would play to standing room only audiences who couldn't get enough of her "real little girl" performances.
In this movie Jane combines pathos with hi-jinks, as Judy Devlin, the naughtiest but funnest kid at the Sunshine Orphanage. She and Mary are fast friends and sensitive Mary dreams of the day when both of them will be adopted. When Judy is hiding in the basement from another prank gone wrong, she overhears a conversation when a gentleman (Ralph Morgan) visits the home looking for the daughter he has never seen. All he has to identify her is an unusual crest and Judy recognises it when she searched among the articles found in her own box. She is caught tampering with the boxes, with the result that Mary is thought to be the rightful daughter - which Judy had planned all along!!
Judy finds another home as well - the State Reform School!! but in a scene straight out of "The Poor Little Rich Girl" of the same year Judy gives the matron (coincidentally with the same Sara Haden from the Temple movie) the slip and heads off on another adventure!! This one involves moody Harry Carey as a pet shop owner who wants to take a stand against the head of a criminal protection racket but is afraid because of his shady past. Thomas Jackson who had a patent on all those slow talking menacing detectives, appears here as a slow talking criminal, Dutch, who sees a chance for a big haul when he realises Judy's friend Mary lives in the biggest house in town!!
A very entertaining movie which has Jane performing a pretty forgettable number, "Then Came the Indians" - obviously inserted because what would a Jane Wither's movie be without a snappy song!!
Stormy Crossing (1958)
In Too Deep!!
A very interesting thriller set amidst the back drop of a swimming challenge across the English Channel. John Ireland proved that unlike a lot of his American compatriots he fitted in quite well with the understated British acting style - he plays Griff, an experienced swimmer attempting to keep his more laid back brother Danny (Sheldon Lawrence) on track to compete his Channel crossing. Also coming to the quiet Dover inn with plenty of fan fare is Kitty (Joy Webster) a model and amateur swimmer who, when she gets friendly with Danny, expresses her doubts and fears about her swim.
The movie establishes the plot with some interesting information - Ireland's character sounds as though he really knows what he's talking about, giving Danny tips to help him with his concentration and psychological feelings to get him through his swim. Agree with the other reviewer, the seaside setting with the mournful birds and the fog give a gloomy atmosphere to the mystery to come.
Danny is confidant that he will add Kitty to his list of conquests and convinces her to make the swim with him as her swimming partner but Kitty is already involved with her boss and yes, it's Derek Bond, so you know how it's all going to end!! And Kitty has just had a blazing row with him along the lines of "if you don't tell your wife - I will"!!! So when the swim is underway and a motor boat appears just ahead of her, you are in no doubt that foul play is on the cards and who the perpetrator is!! The big mystery (with his airtight alibi) is how was it done!! And hanging around the inn is not a smart move, for Danny is telling everyone that it was murder!!!
A big plus for the movie is Maureen Connell, she plays attractive hotel manager Shelley Baxter who becomes convinced (unlike local police) that Danny is on to something. In a key and pretty exciting scene Shelley goes searching for a missing bracelet charm - even though just a cheap trinket, Kitty indicated it meant a lot to her and Shelley is convinced she knows who has the missing piece.
Tempean Films were noted for their quality and for making their brisk thrillers very fast paced and looking a lot more expensively produced than they actually were. Starting in the early 1950s with "Black Out" and "No Trace", by the time "Black Tide" came along, Baker and Berman could see the writing on the wall and the future in television and went on to produce "Gideon's Way" and "The Saint".
Girl in the News (1940)
Emlyn Williams Grabs Your Attention!!
Initially this movie was set to star Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, fresh from their success in "A Lady Vanishes" but something happened and Barry Barnes turns up as the earnest young lawyer who has a belief in the young nurse - he's okay but lacks Redgrave's charisma.
After being cleared of a murder charge Nurse Graham (Lockwood) is confidant that her acquittal will be able to secure her another nursing post - but people remember the old saying "where there's smoke, there's fire"!! One day she finds a mysterious package, it is a "help wanted" section of a newspaper with a "nurse required" ad circled (that she didn't even question who would have sent it was a major hole in the story but oh well...). And since Emlyn Williams, who specialized in sinister spivs had already made an appearance at her trial, it had his handy work all over it!! Ann applies but sick of rejection uses the name Ann Lovell: she is given the job with no references and, surprise, surprise, Williams plays Tracy, the supercilious butler and also, no surprises, you know exactly where the movie is heading!!
Tracy is involved with Mrs. Bentley (Margaretta Scott) whose invalid husband takes to Ann (even changing his will!!). Although he doesn't realise it, he is not long for this world and the dynamic duo think that by hiring Ann, whose nursing career is already in tatters, they have found the perfect "patsy" for their scheme. The murder seems foolproof and once again Ann is on trial for her life - all seems lost, people have heard "I didn't know he'd changed his will" all before!! - until Stephen comes up with an ingenious twist - but will it work!!
Not really a work to hold up to Reed's best ie "The Fallen Idol" but despite some plot holes it runs smoothly, thanks to a solid cast. Margaret Lockwood is perfect as Ann, not really grasping what is happening to her but for me it is Emlyn Williams as the nasty Tracy who rivets the viewers attention!!
Those Who Dance (1930)
William "Stage" Boyd Looks a Born and Bred Tough!!
William "Stage" Boyd's main claim to fame was that he was often mistaken for the other William Boyd (of Hopalong Cassidy) fame) who for a while went by the name of Bill Boyd just to avoid confusion. Early in the 1930s "Stage" made front page news for a alcohol and drug arrest - the only problem was that the paper had put in the wrong actor's photo and it almost derailed Hoppy's career!! After that bad boy William inserted the "Stage" into the middle of his name to avoid confusion, however by 1935 he was already dead of alcohol and drug abuse. In his day "Stage" was a dependable character actor more at home as a mobster or crook!!
An excellent psychological gangster yarn, it may not have had a lot of "shoot 'em up" action as talkie films in 1930 were still finding their feet, so it concentrated on the "molls" and Betty Compson had a role that ranked with her best. She plays Kitty, the kicked around and beaten up girl of thuggish mobster "Diamond Jim" (Boyd) who carries around hatred and resentment of him that is instrumental in bringing the crime boss down.
Lila Lee is another player who gets a role she can really get her teeth into, she plays Nora who is desperate to clear her impulsive brother's name - he is on death row on a "cop killing" rap!! She believes Jim when he says he is working night and day, leaning on his pals in high places to exonerate her brother but after a particularly brutal beating Kitty has some news for Norah!! Jim has no intention of going into bat for Tim, not only is Jim the actual murderer but it is his crooked cop pal who has framed young Tim and allowed Jim to walk free!!
Because it is a pre-code and a very daring one at that there is no attempt to pretty up the surroundings. After accusing Norah of being a "professional virgin", Kitty suggests they work together to bring Jim down. Norah meanwhile has gone to the police - enter Dan Hogan (stalwart silent actor Monte Blue), the policeman brother of the young cop killed during the robbery. He goes undercover as Norah's new boyfriend, "Scar" Turner, a Detroit thug and in blatantly realistic fashion he moves in with her, into the digs she has just started to share with Jim and Kitty. Lila Lee was an actress who really earned her stripes in the early talkie days (in 1929 she was in 9 movies, 1930 - 6, 1932 - 9) but it then suddenly all went wrong. "Those Who Dance" proved she was a very fine actress and could tackle more than flapper parts!!
The rest of the movie is a terrifically exciting cat and mouse game with "Scar" even bugging Jim and Kitty's room, Jim getting increasingly suspicious and Kitty, after discovering "Scar's" ruse, barely holding it together!! The film climaxes at a gangster's ball, the notes "Scar" has been tossing out the window to his colleagues - of course the one that really counts gets swept down a drain!! So that leaves "Scar" and Norah going to the dance without the police presence that they expect!!
Cornelius Keefe who only a couple of years before had been Lila's love interest in "The Adorable Cheat" soon descended to uncredited roles - he was the young policeman whose killing sparks the story and as Lila's kid brother Tim who was missing for most of the movie - William Janney was a young actor who competently played kid brothers and young leads until the mid thirties!!
Husband's Holiday (1931)
Standing By Her Man!!
It's a shock to see Vivienne Osbourne in the role of the steadfast wife - she of the venal dance hall girl of "Two Seconds", the insane murderess of "Supernatural" but she plays Mary superbly. Mary, who seems to have it all but who already knows -long before her meddling mother, Elizabeth Patterson, hot foots it over to her house with some gossip about George!! He has been having an affair and it has reached breaking point!! Family members take sides - but most are surprised to find Mary is taking the civilized course, giving George complete access to the children, to come and go as he pleases but refusing to give him a divorce!!
George seems very comfortable with this arrangement and Clive Brook has a role that fits him like a comfy slipper but his mistress is made of sterner stuff!! Juliette Compton gives a compelling performance as the all too human mistress, in fact she almost steals the movie from Osbourne, almost but not quite!! She desperately wants marriage but George is getting too much his own way!! A friend (beautiful Adrienne Ames) advises her to pull the old "I'm going to have a baby" standyby and in desperation Christine does - when she has a showdown with Mary!! Osbourne opens up with a big emotional scene which surprises everyone, especially Mary's younger sister Cecily (Dorothy Tree) who then breaks down with her own secret: she is also in the grip of an affair with a married man!!
With a name like "Husband's Holiday" I thought it would be an inconsequential comedy but it was an emotional drama really held together by Vivienne Osbourne and Juliette Compton. A jam packed cast also features Charlie Ruggles playing his usual self, Leni Stengel playing against type (she usually plays "good friend" lol) as his shrewish wife. Charles Winniger as Mary's father who has never been able to live down his own indiscretion and playing the two tots are cutie-pie Dickie Moore and darling Marilyn Knowlden. In an uncredited party girl role is lovely Noel Francis!!
The Blue Eagle (1926)
Janet Gaynor is Fetching in an Early Role
Janet Gaynor had already appeared in several two reel comedies and again as an extra in a few Laura La Plante films before she caught the eye of Winfield Sheehan, Vice President in charge of production at Fox studios. Always on the look out for talent and seeing a lot of potential in Janet, he signed her to a $100 weekly contract. During the time he remained at Fox, he saw to it that not only did Janet have the best dressing room on the lot but she always had fresh flowers daily. She was show cased in this run of the mill buddy movie - not only did she have Fox's prestigious director John Ford at the helm and also Fox's top male star, George O'Brien but she looked very fetching in her trademark tam-o-shanter!!
Starting off as a Ford he-man actioner with two gobs, both from rival street gangs but, at sea, the stoker room too small a place to hold them!! There is a "grudge" boxing match where George O'Brien really lives up to his nickname "The Torso" but there is then some missing footage of an obvious battle and a burial at sea. It then removes to civvy street and after a welcome home dance in which sweet Janet Gaynor is introduced as Rosie Cooper, a charmer who is holding both boys at arms length, the main theme is introduced - Drugs!!!
George has returned home to find his brother "Limpy" (Phillip Ford) looking dragged down and vows to help him but when a young mother is found dead in her tenement room, drugs are the killer and Father Joe (Robert Edeson) enlists the aid of both George and his rival Tim to fight the scourge using a secret weapon!! The secret weapon is gun powder and it is used to blow up a submarine with "enough dope on board to destroy 1,000s of lives"!! - according to the James Bond like finale!! George, witnessing his brother "Limpy" drowning when the sub, where he has fled to for safety, refuses to open the hatch to let him in. And surprise, surprise!! there is another fight scene where George is asked, yet again, to remove his shirt and get sweaty all for the sake of female fans who had paid to see "The Torso" and would not be denied!!
According to "The Fox Girls", "The Blue Eagle" is 6200' long which makes it longer than "Sunrise" (at 6080') so there is a sizable chunk missing. Definitely at the beginning there is a naval battle where Dizzy is killed and buried at sea - missing!! And I would say that most of Margaret Livingston's footage is also gone, because given high billing, she is introduced only at the end. She is Dizzy's widow and Father Joe has convinced her to be a mother to the dead woman's child but posters and lobby card's of the day give her another role. She is portrayed on the posters as a vamp - a role that Livingston perfected in "Sunrise". Part way through the movie, Rosie flounces off in a huff, maybe that's where Livingston comes in as a femme fatale - who knows??
As Tim, William Russell who had been a western star from the earliest days, unfortunately died from pneumonia in 1929. Phillip Ford (Limpy) made a name for himself as a director, this was his last movie as an actor!!
The Trial of Vivienne Ware (1932)
Lilian Bond is Sassy and Sexy!!
While Joan Bennett may have played the title role (Richard Watts Jr. called her a "pretty if unexciting heroine") there were so many stars determined to have their moment in the sun that Joan was almost left behind - but not quite!! You know it's a pre-code with wisecracks like - "I thought my sugar daddy was going to take me to Paris - well he did want to show me where he was wounded in the war and no it wasn't there!!"
Apart from the establishing shot of hot shot lawyer John Sullivan eagerly running from the ship to renew his friendship with the beautiful Vivienne only to find she is engaged to seedy ladies man Damon Fenwick (Jameson Thomas), this fast paced movie takes place in the court room. Court room dramas were still a staple of the early 1930s and both Alan Dinehart and Don Cook were given the roles of a lifetime. Dinehart was the prosecutor who made mincemeat of the witnesses with his penetrating questions, and if you've only seen Cook as a moody love interest, he proves he has energy and personality as he outdoes Perry Mason with his "I object on the grounds that it is incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial"!!etc.
And where would a movie trial be without snappy radio commentary - Skeets Gallagher delivers the sensation while Zasu Pitts offers a woman's angle, describing Vivienne's hats, gowns and make-up - in fact Pitts gets an exclusive interview with the condemned girl but she doesn't give Vivienne a chance to talk - it's all about Gladys (Pitts) and her Virginian childhood!! She does come up trumps when describing Vivienne's fetching ensemble!! The film really belongs to Lilian Bond and she sparkles as Dolores Devine, the other woman!! She is sassy, sexy and hysterical by turns. Dolores was the woman Damon couldn't give up, the one (in a very pre-code scene) whom Vivienne found lounging in a pair of barely there pajamas, at Damon's apartment early one morning!!
Suddenly there is a sensational development - Skeets comments on "a woman scorned" and stand by for the reading of a sensational love letter!! It's almost as though Fox scoured Hollywood in it's effort to find so many wonderful character actors and then given them each a role they would be proud to have on their resumes!! Apart from those mentioned, there is Herbert Mundin, Maude Eburne, Noel Madison, Edwin Maxwell, Ethel Wales and Dale Fuller!!
Modest quota quickies often played in independent halls as a main feature provided there was enough appeal to capture an audience - and this little murder mystery from the tiny Southall studio seemed to tick all the boxes!! Not only were there a few sightings of some BBC radio personalities at the start (with a starry eyed fan sighing "isn't he handsome") but "20 Questions" was a very popular quiz program in it's day and the movie even featured a few of the original contestants although only Jeanne De Casalis received "guest artiste" credit!!
Rona Anderson had been part of Rank's young ladies "charm school" but for some reason she just didn't stand out. She soon found herself trapped in Bs even though she once said "second features were not a good look - it looked like you hadn't quite made it"!! She was a lovely addition to any movie and her brisk resourcefulness usually gave more depth to the part than was often there. Here she played Mary vying for the big scoop with fellow reporter from a rival paper Robert Beatty and with all the chauvinistic wisecracks typical of the early 1950s.
Both she and Bob happen to be in the audience of "20 Questions" when a question is sent in by a listener (an unusual occurrence) - the team get a lot of fun with linking Rikitikitavi to a mongoose!! Next morning an avid listener of the program awakes to find her husband dead - his name is Riki Tavi and a stuffed mongoose they bought back from India has pride of place on the mantle. After another murder the intrepid pair find that India is the link - and the connection is a trial where a violent man was sentenced to life for killing an Indian servant. He is now back in Britain under an assumed name and thirsting for revenge from all the people who put him behind bars!!
There are boundless clues but no one seems interested - an Indian manservant Mahoomed Ali mentions a strange man who feeds the pigeons in the park but only viewers will link the clues, the cast are all too busy pointing an accusatory finger at Ali, even though he spends the movie scared witless that he is going to be the next victim!!
Clifford Evans turns up in a pivotal role - he seems the only cast member who had seen better movie days (a leading role in "Love on the Dole" (1941)) but by the 1950s was firmly ensconced in the Bs!!
Paul Fejo and His Wondrous Camera Are the Real Stars!!
Had to pinch myself to see if I wasn't dreaming - just a mighty opening - Broadway, that monolithic monster chewing up all the hopes and dreams while daring the dreamers to come on in!! It was Universal's big special production of the year and Laemmle Jr. spent over a million to bring Phillip Dunning's and George Abbott's hit drama to the silver screen. Laemmle commissioned a huge Art Deco night club set, 70 feet high and a city block wide which replaced the small, intimate cabaret of the play. Paul Fejo is the real star - he designed a crane to give the camera fluidity of movement and travel from every angle.
The musical numbers are secondary to the story and while, with countless imitations, it is as familiar as an old shoe, back in 1929 it was fresh and exciting. Even in 1929 the imitators started in with movies like "Broadway Babies" and "Broadway Hoofer" but as one contemporary commentator said "all they could steal were stones from the mountain, the mountain itself remained"!!
Mordaunt Hall may have declared that Lee Tracy was a far better Roy Lane but Glenn Tryon was pretty good and he was comfortable with dialogue. He played Lane, a song and dance man in the Paradise Club who leads the chorus girls through their paces while waiting for a lucky break that is going to propel him and his partner Billie Moore to the big time - or at least "Chambersburg and Pottsville"!! "Hitting the Ceiling" and "Broadway" are the show stopping tunes but the real action takes place behind the scenes. Sweet Billie (Merna Kennedy, fresh from Chaplin's "The Circus") - she does tend to slow the story down a bit with her mushy "you wouldn't kid me would you" and "I'm for you , you know I am"!! She is being romanced by slick bootlegger Steve Crandall. As played by Robert Ellis he seems to have genuine feelings for her, calling her "little fella" and "I'd murder for you" but with his gang he is all business and it is the murder of Scar Edwards (Leslie Fenton), shot in the back that brings about his downfall.
Thomas Jackson who repeated his role as the laconic detective Dan McCorn was singled out for high praise. His distinctive, dead pan delivery soon had him typecast as a stone faced law man in films such as "Little Caesar" etc. Evelyn Brent was also given good notices and for me she gave one of the best performances. She was Pearl, a tough chorine who has a good reason for wanting Crandall bought to justice.
So different from a lot of the early talkies - actors play and recite their dialogue as though they mean it and the slang and the wisecracks must have enthralled movie goers at the time. "Weisenheimer", "swell fella", "four flusher", "if a Jane I'd pinned all my hopes on was going to Hell" and as one chorus cutie wisecracks when told to put on a happy face for the customers "smile at 'em? - we can hardly keep from laughing at 'em". And in cutting pre-code put down "If I've ever seen a professional virgin, she's it"!!!
Without Warning! (1952)
Baby Face Killer of Blondes!!
This movie was a major find for me - the fifties ushered in a more realistic noir genre (thanks to "He Walks By Night", "Dragnet" etc) zeroing in on loners, killers whose motivations were never fully explained, helped enormously by outside location shootings and casting unknown actors. Adam Williams is perfect casting as the fresh faced boyish loner, he is just appealing enough for it to be understandable why lonely women were taken with his charms.
Carl Martin is a gardener whose creepy personality was enough for his blonde wife to look elsewhere. Toward the end he tries to justify his behaviour on his wife's abandonment but from the start, with his barely concealed gun it is so obvious that he enjoys killing. As the film opens, the police are baffled by yet another "blonde killing" but this time they have a clue - the killer left a calling card in a piece from a blue coat and as the forensics guy says, an expensive one!! Martin is always one jump ahead of the police - they have been combing men's clothing repair shops but Martin realises this is just what they expect him to do and burns it!!
The pacing and editing keep you on the edge of your seat - usually with the expectation of violence that is always implied but never seen. As when a beautiful blonde gives him the "come on" in the bar, they get to talking in her car, the next scene shows her obviously dead. What follows is a really cracker of suspense - Carl and his "date" parked under a bridge are noticed by a passing policeman, he tries to drive off but the car becomes bogged in the dust - even that doesn't arouse the cop's suspicions. When the policeman wants to take a closer look at the girl who Carl says is just drunk, that precipitates a mammoth chase on foot along with gun play through unfinished freeways, zig zagging around the Produce Market where the killer thinks that by his fancy footwork with changing taxis, he has given them the slip!!
As well as trying to track through a murderer's mind there is also a routine police investigation going on - from the discovery of the murder weapon being a pair of secateurs, it is concluded that they are looking for a gardener. Carl has already lined up his next victim - she is the daughter of the man where Carl buys his gardening supplies. Initially turned off because she is married, he can't resist his compulsions which end in a shoot out, outside Martin's ramshackle house amidst a poor Mexican hillside settlement, soon to be demolished for Dodgers Stadium.
This definitely should be ranked along with "The Sniper" as one of the early 1950s best "unknown noirs"!!
Thelma Todd is Terrific in a Rare Leading Role!!
Lyle Talbot came to Hollywood after having his own stock company to answer the "we need good stage actors" call and happened to catch the eye of William Wellman who immediately started using him. This film wasn't Wellman directed (it was a Phil Rosen picture) but it did have ravishing Thelma Todd in a rare main role, in fact the title role!!
Even though Dr. Cromwell (Talbot) is acquitted of a malpractice suit, his reputation is in tatters with only the gawkers and gossip mongers willing to wait in his clinic all day just for a chance to view him. When a pushy reporter posing as a patient gets Cromwell to open up his heart he feels betrayed and is only too willing when an aviator buddy convinces him to fly to places unknown.
Cromwell is the only person to walk away from the crash and into a small Yukon outpost where he tries to keep his identity a secret - in fact the beautiful Klondike (Todd) gives him the idea by commenting that he couldn't be that "killer doctor"!! And how have they been able to get all the up to date mainland news?? That is all through Jim Armstrong (Jason Robards) who before he was stricken down with an unknown disease (the same one that Cromwell had operated on that caused him all that trouble) he was an engineering wizard who has built radios in every room. His father (good old Henry B. Walthall) guesses Cromwell's true identity and begs him to operate on Jim, saying he will accept any outcome.
There has to be a villain and the splendid Jason Robards is a great one - initially hiding his surliness under his affliction, he can't hide his "megalomaniac" nature when the operation is a success - but is it?? Jim realises that if he shows how well he is he will lose Klondike, so he decides to stick to his wheelchair (and only walk at night). The thrilling ending features Cromwell, minutes from death at the hands of maniacal Jim - will he be saved with only the radio sound waves to help him???
Priscilla Dean who was a huge star in the teens and twenties - she was Universal's biggest female star until the arrival of Laura La Plante - she played the feisty reporter!!
The Night Won't Talk (1952)
Chelsea Model Murdered!!!
....scream the headlines - there seemed to be something about murder movies set in the glamorous world of upmarket Chelsea which attracted movie goers like a magnet. Maybe it was a case of murder and death could also come to the rich and famous as well as the poor and underprivileged!!
With the dynamic duo of Brock Williams (script) and Daniel Birt (direction) behind the scenes, this was an intelligent though actionless talkie thriller and left the viewer in no doubt as to the perpetrator. Stella Smith, a Chelsea artist's model is found murdered and the three likely suspects sure are jittery!! They are Kenneth Wills, who had last used Stella as a model just a few hours before, Martin Soames, secretary of the Portrait Painters Club and whom the police dub a highly unlikeable character and Clayton Hawkes. Hawkes is the most intriguing character, he was engaged to the beautiful Hazel - until Stella came along. He and Stella also had a blazing row at the local artist's café only the night before and Hawkes also suffers from that malady so beloved of crime writers - the "occasional blackout syndrome"!! He's suffering from that this morning and Hazel volunteers to help him through but someone else also offers their services!! She is exotic artist Theodora Castle (Hy Hazell) who seems to be the only calm voice of reason when everyone around her is losing their heads!! - but is she??
Hy Hazell stands out as a very solid performer (maybe because she is the only one who doesn't act like she has something to hide). Her real name was Hyacinth (believe it or not) and she was mainly a musical star who was billed as Britain's answer to Betty Grable until the lean 1950s found her doing time in those dreaded quickies!! Mary Germain played Hazel (not very imaginative) and was a Sally Grey lookalike. She was only 18 and gave a good performance but her career was sparse and she soon disappeared from the screen. At only just over 50 minutes there is not a lot of time for characterization - Stella has been busy and the police find she has married and divorced the creepy Soames in her dim, dark past but even though the police are initially interested, Soames doesn't rate a second glance!!
East Side - West Side (1923)
When East Meets West!!!
Lovely Eileen Percy started in films while still a teen as a very sweet leading lady in a few Douglas Fairbanks' movies. She later left films to marry Harry Ruby of Kalmar and Ruby song writing fame and was portrayed in the "Three Little Words" film biography by beautiful Arlene Dahl. Her co-star Kenneth Harlan was a popular leading man of the day who found his biggest success in the films he co-starred in with his then wife Marie Prevost, including "The Beautiful and Damned".
This movie was based on an unproduced play by actor Henry Hull, who would be forever known for the movie "The Werewolf of London" (1935). This was also one of the early directorial credits of Irving Cummings. A similar styled story to "Our Blushing Brides" - three girls sharing a tenement flat. Sickly Kit (Maxine Elliot Hicks) who looks on with envy at Eunice who is soon to move out to a Park Avenue penthouse, courtesy of an ardent stockbroker lover and Lory who tries to keep her home life and soul harmonious. Soon her West Side and the East Side of the pampered Van Norman family is going to meet thanks to Dr. Shepley (Charles Mailes). He thinks the Van Norman family lives in an ivory tower of fad diets, nerves and extravagant lifestyles with Duncan's (Harlan) out of touch essay on poverty being the last straw!! He organises for Lory to come in as the family secretary - "this girl has seen poverty you can't find in books"!! he tells a skeptical Duncan. Meanwhile even though Kit envies Eunice her "fringe benefits" Lory informs her that Eunice was only there this morning to borrow $5 - with her charge accounts and inventoried jewellry she is not allowed cash, not the way Lory would want to live. Kit also has her dreams in the form of a cherished letter from a far away uncle promising riches when his ship comes in!!
This is a nice little romance - Kenneth Harlan is always dependable but apart from him and Percy none of the cast caused any ripples. Hicks played a real child in a couple of Mary Pickford films ("Poor Little Rich Girl"). Lucille Hutton who played gad-about Eunice (she disappeared after her interesting first scene - I kept expecting her to come back into it) and Betty May who played Duncan's frivolous sister - both were actress ships who passed in the night!!
Leap Year (1924)
Not as Funny as Arbuckle's Shorts
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle had once been one of the screen's premier comedians and he and Mabel Normand had proved so lucrative in their pairings for Paramount that in 1918 the studio offered him a $3 million dollar contract to make 18 movies over 3 years. But the 1921 Labour Day scandal which resulted in the death of starlet Virginia Rappe and the trials which managed to keep Arbuckle's name connected with some salacious headlines for over 6 months destroyed his career. Even though the last trial completely exonerated him and the jury took the unprecedented step of composing a remorseful apology with each member embracing him and shaking his hand, there were moves afoot to prevent him from ever appearing on the screen again. Most of his movies due for release were destroyed or conveniently disappeared. "Leap Year", one of the very few to survive was eventually released in Europe in 1924 after Paramount forbade it U.S. release because of the scandal.
With the resurfacing of "Leap Year", it shows how prestigious Arbuckle's films were - directed by James Cruze and photographed by Karl Brown, ace cameraman for D.W. Griffith. I'm also wondering if Mary Thurman was the first actress to wear her hair in a bob on film - she plays the nurse, Miss Brown of Stanley's gouty old uncle (Lucian Littlefield) and is described as having a "sanitary haircut"!! She is fired early on but not before Stanley vows to her that he is not fickle in his affections!!
The thing I love about Arbuckle's comedy, he is not a "look at me, I'm a funny fat man" comic - in fact from the start he refused to do comedy that took advantage of his size. There are a few scenes in this movie that show his balletic grace, one at the start when he dances a solo tango to show he is just over the moon about Miss Brown's love....but then he arrives at Catalina Island and he finds he is fighting dames off with a stick - a golf club actually!! In view of the looming scandal and the seedy gossip making front page news in many papers, this plot featuring Roscoe as an unwilling girl magnet may not have been in the best taste!! The plot line for the first half hour just seems to be a handle to introduce a bevy of girls. There is fickle Molly (Gertrude Short) who sees in Stanley the real man she had been searching for!! Her fiancé is not amused! Then there is Lois (Helen Hammond), a gold digger who desperately wants to get her hands on his bank book!! She is down with her sugar daddy - but daddy's wife pays a surprise visit so Fatty is asked to escort her about so wifey won't get jealous. She wastes no time in proposing and in the effort to escape he swims out to a moored boat where he meets - bored Mrs. Rutherford who claims her husband doesn't understand her and that Stanley has swum all the way across the bay to propose!! The film ends when all the ladies converge onto his uncle's stately home and it soon resorts into a Benny Hill style chase!!
For me the movie was not particularly funny only in a broad slapstick way. And if this Paramount feature was typical of Arbuckle's output, I think his style was soon to be out moded as the 1920s went on. Certainly he was not a patch on the Big 3 - Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd as far as comic talent went!!
Journal of a Crime (1934)
Chatterton Excels in Psychological Study.
When Ruth Chatterton saw the money Paramount was spending on publicity trying to establish Marlene Dietrich, she could see her studio days were numbered - after all, she was Queen of the Lot!! So when Warners offered her a contract, she listened, hoping her pictures would be an improvement but they weren't. In fact "Journal of a Crime" may well have been her best - it showed she was capable of any diverse role the studio threw at her.
Chatterton gives a simply grand performance as Francoise, a real psychological study of a woman trying to retain her youth, anything that will restore the love that her husband once gave her. First seen shrouded in shadows in the theatre alley, she wants to see first hand if the rumours regarding Paul and his mistress, Odette (the beautiful Claire Dodd) are true. She also witnesses the ultimatum that Odette gives Paul - if he is not willing to ask for a divorce, their affair is over!! This maybe one of the few sympathetic roles Claire Dodd was given - her Odette just wants some legitimacy from Paul (Adolph Menjou) who comes across as a weakling.
It is Ruth's movie all the way - when Odette is killed by an "unknown assailant" the police quickly capture Costelli (Noel Madison) who is found hiding out in the theatre wings after having held up a bank in another part of town. Only Francoise knows the truth and Paul, who finds her gun in a bucket backstage. It is Paul who keeps the journal, the diary where he pours forth all his pent up and bitter feelings toward his wife. And because Chatterton has so much warmth, feeling and emotion as she valiantly strives to put a brave face on every day, trying to find the strength to decide what to do - Menjou is suave but cold and you wonder why Ruth has the strong love for him that she does. She has a meeting with Costelli who warns her not to confess, that he has killed before and is happy to take his medicine. But this was 1934 with films readying themselves for the introduction of the Breen code - no man, woman or child could get away with anything, especially murder but even this film's conclusion will take incredibility to new heights!!
Douglass Dumbrille plays a warm and charming Chief of Police, the sort of partner Francoise deserved and Walter Pidgeon had a bit role as "a singer"!!
Black Tuesday (1954)
....that's the way this movie hits you!! For all people who think that Edward G. Robinson's 1950s movies were only rehashes of his earlier hits - then they just haven't seen this film!! Robinson has an explosive performance in him as the brutal Vince Cannelli (the way Little Caesar may have ended up if he had lived)!!! And something you don't see every day - Jean Parker (she of the sentimental "Little Women" and "Sequoia") playing Cannelli's hardened gun moll and the one who masterminds the last minute escape!!
Like caged animals, the prisoners pace their cells to the singing lament of "Black Tuesday". Vicious thug Cannelli is due to be executed that morning, along with another prisoner (Peter Graves) who has $200,000 hidden away in a fool proof hiding place!! But Cannelli is not looking nervous - his girl has hatched an escape plan which includes kidnapping the daughter of one of the guards over seeing the execution so he has no choice but to fall in with the plan. Which also includes taking Manning along as Cannelli hopes to get his hands on that hidden loot. One by one people are appalled by Vince's psychotic behaviour - leaving most of the people who helped him escape by the side of the road with only a lonely gun to help them in a shootout to the death when they are captured by police!! By the time they arrive at the hideout, the kidnapped daughter finds her father has already been killed and when Cannelli springs the old "if you don't give us our demands, a person is going to be killed every half hour"!! - from what the movie has revealed, you know he is not joking!! Problems start when Manning is shot and when forced to leave his sick bed to retrieve the money from a safety deposit box, leaves his calling card - a bloody finger print on the desk!! The finale features a blazing shoot out between the police and the gangsters, with innocent people fleeing flying bullets (not always successfully) - almost out bigging "The Big House"!!