Alias Mary Smith (1932)

US / 58 minutes / bw / Hoffberg
Dir: E. Mason Hopper
Pr: Ralph M. Like
Edward T. Lowe
Jules Cronjager
Blanche Mahaffey, John Darrow, Raymond Hatton, Edmund Breese, Myrtle Stedman, Gwen Lee, Henry B. Walthall, Alec B. Francis, Matthew Betz, Jack Grey, Ben Hall, Harry Strang.

Alias Mary Smith - 2 John Darrow gives very much his usual performance

John Darrow gives very much his usual performance as the cut-price romantic lead.

As Mary Smith (Mahaffey) comes out of Gene Morgan’s Club Pyramid one night, a hoodlum snatches her purse. Inebriated playboy Robert “Buddy” Hayes (Darrow), climbing from his car nearby, is able to catch the thief and bring him to the ground. After they’ve given evidence to the cops, Buddy takes her out to dinner and, the next time we see him, next morning, is sporting the black eye she gave him when he sprouted hands.

Alias Mary Smith - 1 Kearney interviews the dead man's butler (uncredited)

Kearney (Jack Grey) interviews the dead man’s butler (uncredited).

The morning papers are full of the murder of DA Marco Hahn. It proves that Mary Smith, who visited the dead man after smacking Buddy, is in reality Joan Wentworth, whose younger brother Claude, though innocent, was sent by Hahn to the chair a few years back for murder. Certain that her brother was framed by gangster Snowy Hoagland (Betz), the real killer, she has gotten close to Hoagland and has managed to purloin his “little red ‘pay off’ book”—the proof of his guilt. She’s been working with Hahn, who now agrees on the innocence of her brother.

Hoagland, who has now also killed the DA, has doctored a note she sent him to make it look like a threatening letter to Hahn and has left it on the dead man’s desk, after having first used alcohol to wash it clean of his fingerprints. Buddy, who’s helping out because by now enamored of Joan, points out the obvious discrepancy: Joan’s fingerprints, which should be all over the note, are conspicuous by their absence. Seemingly slow-witted Detective Dan Kearney (Grey) picks up on the point and has a forensics expert examine the letter. Hearing of Hoagland’s habit of twisting a lemon into his drink, the expert checks the letter under ultraviolet and reveals, sure enough, the hoodlum’s fingerprints, preserved by the citric acid despite the alcohol washing.

Alias Mary Smith - 4 Snowy Hoagland doesn't know what all the fuss is about

Snowy Hoagland (Matthew Betz) jus’ doesn’t know what all the fuss is about.

This is an offering of very great modesty. Darrow brings his usual style to his usual role of impetuous, slightly self-effacing uppercruster; heaven forfend he should do something unusual. He was perhaps a better-recognized name at the B-feature box office than Mahaffey (who’s more usually billed as Mehaffey), but there can’t have been much in it. There are the customary bits of comic relief, here supplied by persistent journalist Scoop Hawkins (Hatton) and his assistant/photographer, Oswald (Hall); scripter Lowe, in the height of wit, gave the latter a chaotic stammer. Much more fun is Lee as Joan’s sassy roomie Blossom Schultz; it’s the kind of role that might have been given to Joan Blondell had the movie had the budget. Walthall does a rather ponderous turn as Assistant DA Atwell; just a few years later he’d die of flu on the eve of playing the part of the High Lama in Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937); the role went to Sam Jaffe instead. Breese and Stedman play Buddy’s Wall Street financier father Stephen and his mother Ruth.

Alias Mary Smith - 3 Joan-Mary (l) and her sassy room-mate Blossom (r)

Joan/Mary (Blanche Mehaffey) and her sassy room-mate Blossom (Gwen Lee).

The credits are riddled with errors. As noted, Mehaffey’s name is spelled Mahaffey. Also the surname of DA Atwell (as given on the man’s door) becomes Attwell, while Snowy Hoagland (spelled thus in a newspaper) becomes Snowey.


On Alias Mary Smith


6 thoughts on “Alias Mary Smith (1932)

  1. “Darrow brings his usual style to his usual role of impetuous, slightly self-effacing uppercruster; heaven forfend he should do some unusual.”

    Yeah I hear ya John – a nice way to put it! Ha! i have not seen this shortie from 1932, but based on your lukewarm assessment am in no rush to change that. Nive little tidbit there about Walthall’s High Lama part going to Sam jaffe for LOST HORIZON. Terrific review!

    • Thanks for the kind words! Almost all of these obscure old movies are quite fun to watch, for one reason or another, but many, like this one, are as you suggest hardly worth going out of your way to see. That said, it’s a shame if they get forgotten about entirely, just vanish from cinema history — hence one of the reasons for this site.

      • In all my years of blogging John, I will say that there is no site to match yours as far as the exceeding number of films I have yet to see. NOIRISH is sobering for those of us who think we know it all. 🙂

        • I’ve been having the same reaction to the WitD romantic countdown!

          Which reminds me, I must get round to posting this week’s links here. I love Joel’s “video essay”!

  2. Pingback: July 2014’s classic crime in the blogosphere | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

  3. Pingback: Alias Mary Smith (1932) Review - Pre-Code.Com

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