vt It Happened in Hollywood
US / 69 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Christy Cabanne Assoc Pr: Cliff Reid Scr: Garrett Graham, John Twist Story: Thomas Dugan, Ray Mayer Cine: Jack MacKenzie Cast: Wallace Ford, Brian Donlevy, Phyllis Brooks, Erik Rhodes, Molly Lamont, Alan Hale, Addison Randall, Paul Stanton, Hattie McDaniel, Inez Courtney, Oscar Apfel, Frank Mills, Si Jenks.
“Broken Nose” Dawson (Donlevy) is a murderous gangster recognizable in at least fifty states because of the monstrous schnozzle referred to in his nickname. Accordingly, he gets plastic surgery from illicit physician Dr. H.J. Buler (Apfel) to straighten the nose. Afterwards, as protection, he gets his henchman Muggsie Brown (Mills) to murder the surgeon . . . then narks Muggsie out to the cops so he dies in the proverbial hail of bullets.
What Dawson doesn’t know is that Muggsie failed to eliminate the nurse who attended on his operation, Mary McCall (Lamont). This will have implications further down the line . . .
Armed (so to speak) with his new nose, Dawson heads (so to speak) out to Hollywood, where he talks his way into the Zenith Film Studios lot and gets a job on the new movie starring Sheila Barry (Brooks, channeling Bette Davis). It’s obvious he can’t act but, because he’s now posing as oleo millionaire Spencer Dutro III, everyone’s prepared to make allowances—especially studio publicist Joe Haynes (Ford), who reckons a bit of well directed sucking up will enable him to use Dutro’s millions to fulfill his dream of becoming a producer.
Alas for Dutro’s hopes, a while ago the Zenith Studios star Tex Williams (Randall) broke a leg in New York and fell in love with the nurse who tended him, none other than Mary McCall. Now on the lot to be with Tex, she of course recognizes the impostor for who he is. Joe doesn’t believe her at first, but then his feisty secretary Mamie (Courtney) learns that the real Spencer Dutro III is aged 67 . . .
This isn’t an undiscovered CASABLANCA (1942); rather, it’s a Monogram movie disguised as an RKO one—complete with Monogram stalwart Tim Dugan as one of the co-scripters. That might seem dismissive, but Another Face has really quite a lot to interest the viewer.
To start with, there’s the cast. Wallace Ford is an actor whose reputation has essentially evaporated over the decades, although clearly he was big at the time, but below his name in the credits are the impressive Brian Donlevy and Phyllis Brooks—not to mention Hattie McDaniel (not even credited!) as Sheila’s maid Nellie. Then there’s Molly Lamont—regarded in Noirish Towers as one of the hottest people ever to hit celluloid (political correctness go hang)—as Molly McCall; you may recall she was Cary Grant’s prim fiancée in The Awful Truth (1937).
There’s good support, too, from actors like Alan Hale as studio boss Charles L. Keller and Si Jenks as studio janitor Danny. A standout (uncredited, like McDaniel) is Inez Courtney as Mamie.
For much of its running time Another Face is essentially a comedy, even though people are getting killed. Donlevy, as would-be but talentless actor Dutro, reminded me—and I assume this was deliberate—of no one more than George Raft. His character doesn’t commit the sin of underestimating his genius:
Dutro: “I got plenty of dough. But I also got talent. And looks. So I don’t sit around wasting my time.”
Sheila: “That’s right. Waste other people’s.”
There are some other enjoyable lines in the screenplay. One that caught my attention was this:
Sheila: “Mother’s an old-fashioned person, Charlie. She takes weddings seriously.”
In the final ten minutes or so, however, Another Face morphs into a really quite tense piece of drama. There are still some humorous elements present, but the mask has been stripped away from Dawson and we’re given no option but to recognize him as the serious piece of evil he is. Good prevails in the end, as you’d expect, but only after a protracted uphill struggle.
Another Face turns up on TCM every now and then, and I’d say it’s definitely worth an hour or so of your time. Aside from anything else, Molly Lamont and Hattie McDaniel are each on their own worth the price of admission.