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US / 58 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Howard Bretherton Pr: Lindsley Parsons Scr: Edmund Kelso (i.e., Edmond Kelso) Cine: Fred Jackman Jr. Cast: Frankie Darro, Kay Sutton, Mantan Moreland, Vicki Lester (i.e., Vickie Lester), Richard Bond, Janet Shaw, Tristram Coffin, Willie Costello, Alfred Hall, Paul Maxey, Ralph Peters.
The sixth of the eight movies Darro and Moreland made together for Poverty Row studio Monogram; although the name and specifics of Darro’s character might change from one outing to the next, these movies essentially form a series of comedy thrillers/mysteries. They have minimal but not zero noir interest. The others, which I’ll get round to including here in Noirish in due course, were:
Irish Luck (1939)
Chasing Trouble (1940)
On the Spot (1940)
Laughing at Danger (1940)
Up in the Air (1940)
The Gang’s All Here (1941)
Let’s Go Collegiate (1941)
The Daily Star-Tribune—in the ample shape of reporter Pete (Maxey)—is on the necks of the cops because of the latter’s seeming inability to cope with the rising rates of gambling-related crime in the city. When gambler Hal Dayton (uncredited) is gunned down in the parking lot of the Carlton Arms apartment block, the witnesses are elevator boy Frankie O’Reilly (Darro) and his janitor pal Jeff Jefferson (Moreland). The crime’s investigated by Det.-Lt. Tom O’Reilly (Bond), Frankie’s elder brother, who has a thing going with the Arms’s receptionist, Margie Overton (Sutton).
When going through the Rogues’ Gallery at the precinct house, Frankie and Jeff recognize the man who shared the penthouse with Dayton, Dick Whitney (Coffin); in police records he’s named as Roger C. Whitman. The pair follow Whitney/Whitman to the Ringside Club, where he extracts from clubowner Johnnie Burke (Costello) the $60,000 in winnings that Burke owes the dead man. Before being himself murdered, Whitney/Whitman gives the money to Frankie and Jeff to pass on to Dayton’s sister Joyce (Shaw); but Whitney/Whitman’s sultry moll Sonya Varney (Lester) is forced by Burke to pretend to be Joyce . . .
Things go worse for our pals before their inevitable triumph over the bad guys. It’s all fairly amiable, alternating between amusing and tiresome. The racial stereotyping of Moreland’s character, portrayed as capable of being no more than a simpleton because black, grates more than a little; though on the plus side the relationship between Frankie and Jeff is depicted as a genuine friendship and Moreland’s always good value.