Women from Headquarters (1950)

US / 47/60 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: George Blair Assoc Pr: Stephen Auer Scr: Gene Lewis Cine: John MacBurnie Cast: Virginia Huston, Robert Rockwell, Barbra Fuller, Norman Budd, Frances Charles, K. Elmo Lowe, Otto Waldis, Grandon Rhodes, Jack Kruschen, Bert Conway, Marlo Dwyer, Sid Marion, John DeSimone, Gil Herman, Leonard Penn.

A cross between an efficient little B-feature police procedural and a promotional/recruitment video (so to speak) for the LAPD and its supposedly woman-friendly policies.

Virginia Huston as Joyce.

Joyce Harper (Huston) has served her country overseas in uniform, but now she’s back and she just can’t hold down a steady job: “I came back to a world I didn’t fit into.” She rooms with Ruby Cain (Fuller), whom she’s looked after for the past decade or so, since Ruby was orphaned at age 12. Like any big sister, she’s aghast at the man the kid’s taken up with:

Joyce: “Wake up, Ruby. You’re just the glamorous little girl he likes to pet, spoil and fool around with. He gets a kick out of his shady pals sizing you up.”

Quite right too: the man in question, Max Taylor (Budd), is a drug pusher, working for nightclub boss Joe Calla (Waldis). And, when Joyce is recruited by Sergeant Ann Rogers (Charles) to join the LAPD, Max and Ruby elope—to Chicago, as we much later learn.

Barbra Fuller as Ruby and Norman Budd as Max.

Joyce proves to be a star cop, her name ever in the papers for her latest coup. Soon she’s recruited to become one of only three female officers in the Narcotics Division, where her star burns ever brighter. In the movie’s climactic scenes, she enlists the help of scumbag Max—now cooperating with the narcs for the sake of Ruby and their unborn child—to penetrate the drugs empire of kingpin Richard Cott (Rhodes).

Another strand of the plot involves Joyce’s engagement to fellow-officer Gates (Rockwell), who gave her a ticket on her first day on duty and his last day in uniform, and then discovered to his initial horror he’d been partnered with her.

Robert Rockwell as Gates.

The only copy of this movie that I’ve found is the version cut for TV, running just 47 minutes as opposed to the theatrical cut’s 60 minutes. The cutting has been very sensitively done, however, lacking the customary clumsy jumps of such enterprises; I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed this was so severely trimmed had I not been aware of it going in. One unfortunate consequence of the cutting is that Jack Kruschen’s small role has been written out completely: he played Sam Chase, Joe Calla’s bartender and confederate in murder.

Virginia Huston was not, as you might think, part of the Huston clan. She was born Virginia Houston, but dropped the “o” from her stage name seemingly with some intent to deceive. The high point of her screen career was probably her role as Ann Miller, Jeff’s wholesome girlfriend, in OUT OF THE PAST (1947; vt Build My Gallows High).

Frances Charles as Sergeant Ann Rogers.

George Blair made a number of unassuming minor noirish movies for Republic, among them END OF THE ROAD (1944), STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (1949)—which is perhaps the best-known—UNMASKED (1950) and WOMAN IN THE DARK (1952; vt Unclaimed Cargo). It’d be nice to report that Women from Headquarters ranked alongside those, but there’s a strong sense hanging about it that everyone involved—except, arguably, Barbra Fuller, who brings some vim to her portrayal of Ruby—is merely going through the motions for what was presumably a venture sponsored by the LAPD.

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