Guilty Hands (1931)

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”He’s just like an animal!”
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US / 69 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: W.S. Van Dyke Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Bayard Veiller Cine: Merritt B. Gerstad Cast: Lionel Barrymore, Kay Francis, Madge Evans, William Bakewell, C. Aubrey Smith, Polly Moran, Alan Mowbray, Forrester Harvey, Charles Crockett, Henry Barrows, Sam McDaniel, Blue Washington, Landers Stevens.

In the train on his way to a consultation with his wealthy client Gordon Rich (Mowbray) on the latter’s island estate, hotshot lawyer Richard Grant (Barrymore)—formerly New York’s DA but now in private practice—is goaded by a couple of fellow-passengers into the admission that, under certain circumstances, he believes murder can be justified.

Alan Mowbray as sleazebag Gordon Rich.

On arrival, he discovers that his adored daughter Barbara “Babs” (Evans) and her Aunt Maggie (Moran) have already been there a week. Two other things he discovers are that the middle-aged Rich has called him there to arrange for the dispersal of hush monies to his various past overly youthful mistresses—albeit not the sixteen-year-old who Continue reading

Isle of Missing Men (1942)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Monogram, Associated Artists Dir & Pr: Richard Oswald Scr: Richard Oswald, Robert Chapin, Edward Eliscu Story: White Lady (c1940 play) by Gina Kauss and Ladislaus Fodor (i.e., Gina Kaus and Ladislas Fodor) Cine: Paul Ivano Cast: John Howard, Helen Gilbert, Gilbert Roland, Alan Mowbray, Bradley Page, George Chandler, Ernie Adams, Geraldine Gray, Egon Brecher, Kitty O’Neil, Kenneth Duncan, Charles Williams, Dewey Robinson, Alex Havier, George Eldredge.

Isle of Missing Men - 0 opener

En route to Australia during the early years of WWII, the SS Bombay is to stop at the prison island of Caruba in order to let the prison’s governor, Merrill Hammond (Howard), disembark. Among the other passengers aboard are:

  • Sally (Gray) (of whom Merrill informs us, “She certainly keeps her chin up. You know, she was in Rangoon when the Japs bombed it flat”),
  • the writer Richard Heller (Brecher), a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s concentration camps to whom Merrill offers a home on the island, and
  • a mystery blonde bombshell, Diana Bryce (Gilbert), who is improbably persuaded by a smitten Merrill to stop off at Caruba for a week’s holiday before proceeding to Melbourne. “You want to lose a memory,” he diagnoses.

Isle of Missing Men - 1 Merrill offers Heller a home on Caruba

Merrill (John Howard) offers Heller (Egon Brecher) a home on Caruba.

That night the ship is attacked by a Japanese bomber but Continue reading

Merton of the Movies (1947)

US / 82 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: Robert Alton Pr: Albert Lewis Scr: George Wells, Lou Breslow Story: Merton of the Movies (1919) by Harry Leon Wilson, and Merton of the Movies (1922 play) by George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly Cine: Paul C. Vogel Cast: Red Skelton, Virginia O’Brien, Gloria Grahame, Leon Ames, Alan Mowbray, Charles D. Brown, Hugo Haas, Harry Hayden, Tom Trout, Douglas Fowley, Dick Wessel, Helen Eby-Rock.

This was the third movie version of Wilson’s novel and the hit Broadway play based on it. The earlier versions were Merton of the Movies (1924) dir James Cruze, with Glenn Hunter, Charles Sellon, Sadie Gordon and Gale Henry, and Make Me a Star (1932) dir William Beaudine, with Joan Blondell, Stuart Erwin, Zasu Pitts, Ben Turpin and Charles Sellon, the latter reprising his role as Pete Gashwiler. There was also a Kraft Theatre version: Merton of the Movies (1947 TVM) with Eddie Mayehoff and Patricia Englund. Cruze’s 1924 silent has been lost, and the same may be true of the TVM.

Merton of the Movies - Gloria Grahame

Beulah Baxter (Gloria Grahame), having just told the press she does all her own stunts, prepares to let stuntgirl Phyllis Montague (Virginia O’Brien) do the dangerous bit.

A satire of the movie business, this has no real noir relevance save for the presence in its cast of noir goddess Gloria Grahame (I’ve been working on a piece about Grahame for something else, which is what brought me to this movie), not to mention actor/producer/director Hugo Haas, whose enjoyably dire shoestring noirs have a minor cult following today. There are also some regular noir supports like Ames and Fowley.

It’s 1915 and Merton Gill (Skelton) is a cinema usher in Tinkerton, Kansas, and mad about the movies; his favorite stars are Lawrence “Larry” Rupert (Ames), famed for his detective roles, and the lovely Beulah Baxter (Grahame), famed for Continue reading