Rogues Gallery (1944)

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The sassy crime reporter, her sidekick photographer
. . . and murder! Have we been here before?
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vt Here We Go Again
US / 57 minutes / bw / American Productions, PRC Dir: Albert Herman Pr: Donald C. McKean, Albert Herman Scr: John T. Neville Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Frank Jenks, Robin Raymond, H.B. Warner, Ray Walker, Davison Clark, Bob Homans, Frank McGlynn, Pat Gleason, Edward Keane, Earle Dewey, Milton Kibbee, Gene Stutenoth, George Kirby, Norval Mitchell, John Valentine, Jack Raymond, Parker Gee.

Rogues Gallery - 0

One of the countless comedy mysteries that were churned out as B-movies in the 1930s and 1940s, this features a familiar pair of protagonists: the smartass reporter and her photographer sidekick.

Reporter Patsy Clark (Robin Raymond) and photographer Eddie Jones (Jenks)—not Eddie Parker, as sometimes listed—work for the Daily Express. Just to avoid confusion, this isn’t the London Daily Express but a newspaper—a newspaper seemingly somewhere in California, presumably not too far from the PRC lot. Their editor, Gentry (Keane), sends them out to cover the story of a new invention devised by one Professor Reynolds (Warner) under the auspices of the Emerson Foundation, whose head is John Foster (Clark). Even though Foster’s nephew Jimmie (Walker) is a journalist, Foster and his companions on the Emerson Foundation board don’t much hold with the breed, and so Foster’s butler Duckworth (Kirby) throws Patsy and Eddie out on their ears when they try to get in for an interview.

Rogues Gallery - 1 Patsy and Eddie try to put a bold face on their latest failure

Patsy (Robin Raymond) and Eddie (Frank Jenks) try to put a bold face on their latest failure. That thing on Patsy’s head is a hat, and it’s apparently glued there.

Their next attempt is to go to the Emerson Foundation labs hoping to interview Reynolds himself. Again they’re thrown out on their ears, this time by security guard Mike (Jack Raymond).

Rogues Gallery - 2 Editor Gentry is as always exasperated by the wisecracking pair

Editor Gentry (Edward Keane) is as always exasperated by the wisecracking pair.

After they’ve left, the lights suddenly go out in Reynolds’s lab upstairs and a behatted assailant slugs the old man over the head before stealing his blueprints. Mike raises the alarm and the cops converge. Alerted by the swarm of police cars, Patsy and Mike turn back and sneak into the building under cover of the general confusion.

In a darkened corridor the fleeing assailant collides with Eddie and drops the blueprints, which are picked up by Patsy. The pair decide to go to Foster’s home to see if they can trade the blueprints for an exclusive interview. First, though, they’ll show them to Patsy’s pal Joe Seawell (Mitchell), an electronics engineer, in hopes he can decipher them enough to determine what Reynolds’s invention actually is. En route, the mystery assailant tries to hold them up, but Eddie shocks him by letting off a flashbulb right in his face, and the intrepid duo make a getaway.

Rogues Gallery - 3 John Foster, Chair of the Emerson Foundation, is in no mood to kowtow to journalists

John Foster (Davison Clark), Chair of the Emerson Foundation, is in no mood to kowtow to journalists.

Rogues Gallery - 4 Jimmie Foster, John's journalist nephew, seems all too smooth for his own good

Jimmie Foster (Ray Walker), John Foster’s journalist nephew, seems all too smooth for his own good.

Seawell, after studying the blueprints, explains that Reynolds has developed a device that can pick up sounds from anywhere in the world without the need for radio, wires or anything else that might make the invention physically plausible. Much later in the movie, Reynolds will demonstrate the device for them, and indeed it’ll play a major role in capturing the mystery assailant, who by then will have become a double murderer. As Reynolds explains during his demonstration,

“We can’t tune in just anywhere . . . yet. But there is a wavelength for every locality in the world. Now, I could tune in on places that I’ve experimented with, mostly the homes and offices of the Foundation’s committeemen . . .”

Rogues Gallery - 7 Prof Reynolds, convinced that his invention will bring peace to the world

Professor Reynolds (H.B. Warner) is convinced that his invention will bring peace to the world.

Back to the “present”: Patsy and Eddie arrive at Foster’s home and this time get a more friendly reception. As the board members are posing for Eddie to take a group photograph, however, the lights go out, a shot rings likewise . . . and, when they get the lights back on it’s to discover that one of the board members, Eddie Griffith (Dewey), is dead on the veranda.

Homicide Lieutenant Daniel O’Day (Homans) hotfoots it to the scene, accompanied by Jimmie Foster, who was at Police HQ, and Detective Parker (Gee). A conversation the two have in the car supposedly gives us some in-depth understanding of the relationship between the lieutenant and Patsy:

O’Day: “Patsy. The way she digs up stuff, she must have a strain of bloodhound in her.”
Jimmie: “She ought to be a cop instead of a reporter.”
O’Day: “Any time she wants to be a cop, I’ve got a job for her.”

Rogues Gallery - 5 O'Day (right) tells Jimmie how he'd hire Patsy as a cop like a hot; in back is Detective Parker

O’Day (Bob Homans, right) tells Jimmie (Ray Walker) how he’d hire Patsy as a cop like a shot; in back is Detective Parker (Parker Gee).

The conversation’s strange in a number of ways. First, any progress that Patsy has so far made in the case seems to have been almost entirely fortuitous. Second, when O’Day arrives at the Foster house and discovers that Griffith’s corpse has mysteriously vanished (no one thought to stand guard over it), his immediate assumption is that Patsy is either an airhead who was mistaken about Griffith being dead (despite the several other witnesses) or is guilty of wasting police time. So one minute he has the highest opinion of her, the next he thinks she’s a fool or a twister. She has a response, though:

O’Day: “Look, sister, just because a man seems cold to the touch doesn’t mean that he’s dead.”
Patsy: “Listen, Danny. When I touch a man and he stays cold, then I know he’s dead.”

We soon discover that the corpse has been dumped in the back of Patsy and Eddie’s car. Natch, when they take it to the police house to show O’Day, it disappears again . . .

Rogues Gallery - 6 Patsy reacts to the discovery that there's a corpse in the back of her car

Patsy (Robin Raymond) reacts to the discovery that there’s a corpse in the back of her car.

There’s quite a lot more plot before the guilty party’s unmasked, enough plot that we’re never exactly bored. There are, too, some quite clever oneliners:

Jimmie: “Well, if it isn’t the bad penny.”
Eddie: “That’s tuppence, to you.”
Jimmie: “All right, two bad pennies.”

But there are also some major irritations, such as a slapstick gag about people being unable to whistle that goes on far too long. The biggest irritation, however, is the abrasiveness of the two central characters. Patsy, with her hard-edged bark and her determined, somewhat stupid irrepressibility, is so over-sassed that she inspires not so much helpless laughter as a powerful urge to wring her neck. Matters aren’t helped by her self-importantly mannered way of walking, like a puffed-up child in a parade, all rounded arms and effortful stride.

One can’t blame the actress for this—she was presumably directed to portray Patsy thus. At the same time, it’s worth noting that this PRC cheapie represents approximately the pinnacle of Robin Raymond’s screen career. She was in quite a number of movies and, later, TV shows, but usually well down the cast list. A number of the movies in which she appeared (not always credited) were of noirly interest:

  • JOHNNY EAGER (1942)
  • JOHNNY O’CLOCK (1947)
  • The WEB (1947)
  • The SNIPER (1952)
  • The GLASS WALL (1953)
  • BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956)

Jenks had a far more substantial movie career, albeit almost always in supporting roles as a comedic character actor. In Rogues Gallery he plays Eddie as a cross between a sort of cut-rate Bob Hope and the guy whom all the neighbors are shocked to discover is a pedophile. Among his credits of noirish interest (usually pretty borderline) are:

  • The DEVIL’S PARTY (1939)
  • The FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD (1944)
  • SHAKE HANDS WITH MURDER (1944)
  • The PHANTOM OF 42ND STREET (1945)
  • PHILO VANCE’S GAMBLE (1947)
  • PHILO VANCE’S SECRET MISSION (1947)
  • The HOUSTON STORY (1956)

Rogues Gallery (no apostrophe) doesn’t outstay its meager running time, and several of the quips and visual gags are genuinely funny—as when the stuffy English butler Duckworth gives Eddie the weakest of punches, almost a caress, that nonetheless sends the photographer flying across the room. It’s a bit of a judgment, though, that Duckworth is probably the movie’s most interesting character. Overall, then, a truly minor outing.

Rogues Gallery - 8 closer

 

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This is a contribution to the “Crimes of the Century meme run by Rich Westwood at his Past Offences blog. This month’s year is 1944.

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14 thoughts on “Rogues Gallery (1944)

  1. It sounds mildly entertaining but not essential (which is just as well as my ‘to watch’ list is huge!). Now that Wimbledon and the Euros have finished I might be able to watch a few movies again. 🙂

  2. Yes I’d perceive it as minor as well, but you have mounted a persuasive defense in a superlative essay that begs at least for a single viewing. Never easy to succeed with a comedy-mystery as the danger is always to overplay the hand.

    • I’m not sure, to be honest, that it begs for even that single viewing! I quite enjoy these crappy old comedy mysteries, however mediocre most of them might be, but this one’s a bit of a groaner.

  3. Pingback: ‘Stop reading NOW’: The #1944book reviews | Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

  4. Pingback: Crack-Up (1936) | Noirish

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