Phantoms, Inc. (1945)
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This is a violent and exciting film. Hopefully it also warned some would-be victims about this racket, though I tend to believe that folks wanting to believe will usually believe--no matter what evidence you show them. Regardless, it's well made and worth seeing.
*Arthur Shields is actually the brother of Barry Fitzgerald and you can see the similarity between them--if you know to look!
This particular episode dealt with the con-games of fake spiritualists. Arthur Shields sets up a scam in a small town, and with his assistants he fools people who come to him into believing he is able to communicate with the dead. As long as the money comes in he will produce fake results, but once the money dries up he slams the door.
Ann Shoemaker is married to Frank Reicher. Their son is a missing in action G.I. Shoemaker keeps going to Shields to try to keep in touch with the boy, whom she gets "messages" from through Shields, but always they fade out just before the end. So she comes back, spending more money and getting her hopes up higher and higher. Finally she has gone through the savings of herself and Reicher, and Shields slams the door on her. She tells Reicher and then walks in front of a car.
Shields at first does not concern himself, but he is warned that the police (Crane Whitley) are observing him. He begins to plan to flee, but his nervous behavior raises the suspicions of his assistant and partner (Harry Hayden - who usually appeared in Preston Sturges comedies like "Christmas In July" and "The Great McGinty"). He returns to his office and is confronted by Hayden whom he fights and shoots. But before he leaves he suddenly finds Reicher is there too, and ends up shooting him as well. By the time he has finished the second killing Whitley shows up with the police. We subsequently see that Shields was hanged for the double murder.
If you believe in such neatly packaged justice (for all except the unfortunate Reicher and Shoemaker) than you would swallow this. Somehow I just don't think successful grifters would collapse so easily (although occasionally they do - look at the celebrated "Yellow Kid" Weill, possibly America's most creative con-man, and (I believe) the model for Paul Newman's "Harry Gondorf" in THE STING - Weill did end up a prisoner, and a pauper, though he wrote an interesting book of memoirs.). But it is curious to see Shields in a lead role (usually he was one of John Ford's "family" of character actors, his best known important parts being the intolerant little village tyrant in HOW GREEN WAS OUR VALLEY and the Protestant minister in THE QUIET MAN). So I found the film, despite my misgivings about it's "justice triumphant" message, worth watching, and gave it a "6" out of "10".